Continued from “My Cancer Story": Bombs Over September (Part II of II)
Read "My Cancer Story" from the beginning: The Golden Age (Part I of III)
I am king of these parts. All the doctors and nurses tell me how healthy I look. It’s been 28 months since my original cancer diagnosis, and 16 months since I became cancer-free. This is actually more of a social visit than anything. I haven’t seen these friends of mine since the summer, about six months ago. They ask about my first semester at UVA. They know I’m here simply to follow the protocol. I defeated cancer with such relative ease, it’s expected that I’ll remain healthy forever. I feel as strong as I’ve been since before it all started when I was 16.
The most common blood test changed everything—the CBC, or complete blood count. It showed that my bone marrow was dying without me even knowing it. No clue, no idea, never crossed my mind, impossible. IMPOSSIBLE. My nurse practitioner said it could’ve been a fluke and wanted to redo the test, but I was already mentally preparing myself for battle with my second severe illness. I was the self-proclaimed Greatest Cancer Patient Ever and I had to live up to my reputation.
I hadn't had to share much bad news during my first cancer because others did that for me. But this second time I told my family and several friends. I told my roommate I wouldn’t make it back to school for a week or two. I’ll never forget the message my good friend, Infinicuralier, left on my answering machine after he heard the news. He couldn't believe it, and offered to help in whatever way he could, his voice shaking throughout. People close to me probably felt similar helplessness and disbelief.
My doctors rushed to diagnose me, even bringing me back just three days later for a bone marrow biopsy. This showed nothing, so they repeated it a week later. After the second inconclusive biopsy they referred me to Johns Hopkins.
I returned to school in between hospital visits. Unlike in high school where almost everybody knew of my cancer, I hadn’t told many people in college. The “no complaining” rule that governed my life prohibited me from sharing. I told my roommate and two or three others, and only after they asked about my scar. I always wondered who they told, who else knew.
That rule held me back from gaining personal relationships, maturing and assimilating into college. At times I’ve thought it held me back in life. But more importantly, the rule—not talking about cancer and never complaining about anything—was part of why I felt so unique, special, strong, and anything else that created the Superman cancerslayer that I was. If I were to abolish the rule then I'd also be letting go of that force within me. It wasn’t even a choice, meaning I wasn’t aware life existed outside the rule. If you thought there was something in you that made you better than every other human on the planet, would you be willing to let that go?
Since I still wasn’t at school by semester's start, I knew all my hall mates must’ve asked my roommate and found out about my old cancer, my new problem, everything. I was so nervous the first time back that I stopped before reaching campus to calm myself. The thought of being looked at once again as the sick kid made me want to puke.
Keep reading: Again (Part II of III)