No Choice But Hope

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July 7, 2015 - Sheboygan, Wisconsin

It all began in April 1996. I woke up feeling sick one morning and ran to the bathroom to throw up, the only problem was that I hadn't eaten yet so I had nothing to throw up. I often found myself sitting in front of the toilet, my throat burning from the dry heaves. Once that was over I would get ready for school thinking that I was just sick and it would pass, but then I started to throw up every morning and I knew something was up. By June I started to get migraines. When I told my mom she just told me to take a Tylenol and lie down, at the time neither of us knew it was more than a headache. Not much after that my vision was impaired, I began to see doubles and everything was blurry. During the school year my sister and I played in the orchestra, so that summer we decided to take lessons to improve for the next year. Reading the sheet music proved to be the hardest part, the notes were so blurry that even squinting didn't help. Once we got home I told my mom and she made an appointment for me with the eye doctor. I went to the eye doctor in July and she performed the usual tests, looking at a chart consisting of numbers and letters through different lenses. My eyes were dilated and that's when she noticed something; my optic nerves were inflamed. The doctor then wrote a prescription and my mom and I headed to the optical center in the mall. We dropped off the prescription and looked at some frames while we waited, apparently when we were at the eye doctor my mother was told to take me to the pediatrician. Once again my mom made the appointment and the next day we went to St.Nicholas for my check up. The doctor did a standard check up; he listened to my heart, checked my blood pressure and reflexes, etc. Unfortunately for me when he hit my knee to find the reflexes in my legs I didn't kick back. He knew it was a bad sign and wanted me to go through an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which was in a truck outside of the hospital. I really didn't know what was going on, I just wanted to go home. The 4th of July had approached, and I couldn't wait for the festivities, starting with the parade. I was enjoying the parade with my family when suddenly my parents told me we would have to leave for Milwaukee after it was over. I was a little angry that we would miss frying out and hanging out with friends, I just hoped we would be back in time for the fireworks. Once we got to the hospital we were directed to Clinic H where my parents and I were told to wait in a room for the doctor while the other's waited outside. A few minutes later the doctor came in and went straight to the point and explained what was going to happen. I never had surgery before so that didn't scare me, but what made me cry was the thought of losing my hair. That night I stayed at the hospital resting up for my first surgery the next day. Early that morning morning, while I was still in bed, I was wheeled down to a waiting area where I saw other families waiting for their child to go to surgery. I laid there as my parents talked to me, comforted me. The next thin I knew I was being rolled into the surgery room. A woman came to my side, the anesthesiologist, she put a mask over my face and asked me to count down from ten. I distinctly remember her asking me if I saw something flying, my answer was slurred, I couldn't even understand what I was saying. Within seconds I was out like a light. That surgery was to to put in a shunt which I later learned was to help the flow of spinal fluid from my brain to my spine which was blocked by the tumor. When I woke up I was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), I was obviously cranky and in pain. I asked the nurse what was in between my legs that caused me even more pain and she told me it was a catheter. I immediately asked if she could take it out, she had no problem with that. I then got scared and asked where my family was, the nurse told me they were there before but because I had been asleep for so long they went to lunch. After a while the nurses thought I was ready to leave, and I was brought to a small room where the only thing you could see out the window was the building next door. A nurse had come in to put an iv in my arm and all I could do was lie there and watch tv. By the 8th I got to go home for the day and when I got there I plopped down on the chair and I remember looking around thinking everything in the house looked weird (because I was in the hospital for so long). I remember looking in the mirror, I was so skinny, I lost 30 pounds because I wasn't eating. The next day I had to go back to the hospital and found out I had another surgery coming up, this surgery was to remove the tumor. After some time to heal, the doctor wanted to take the tape off my wound. I remember thinking it would be just fine until he ripped the first tape off and it hurt like hell, not only because my head was sore but also because it tore out my hair. He continued to tear the rest off, and my mom had to close the door so no one could hear me scream. To make long things short I had 8 surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. I was 12 years old when that all happened, and I am now 31, I am a survivor.