Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I think....

...I want to remember all that I can about my experience. I remember bits and pieces, but if I get it all down in writing, I think it'll all come back to me. I'm doing this for me, I'm sorry if anyone finds this boring.

I remember...December of 2006, unfortunately I can't remember the exact day, I packed my stuff from my parent's house in Joliet, and was ready to go back to my apartment in Chicago. Chris was driving Meg and I back, and on the way we stopped to go sledding. We have always loved sledding, and usually go at least once each winter. We went to Dellwood Park, in Lockport. It was dark out. I was wearing Chris's snowsuit, and the boots my grandma got me for Christmas the previous year. I remember seeing the 'no sledding' signs everywhere, should of listened, right? Well, it was cold, and the snow had iced over. We had four sleds with us. I was scared, but went down the hill. The first time I went down I swore I broke my hand. I was crying, and if you don't know this, I am a HUGE cry-baby, and usually exaggerate pain. Chris and Meg told me I was fine, and quickly realized that my hand was totally fine. I was ok, but way shaken from the fall. They kept going down the hill, they were having so much fun. I was sitting up top, not too close to the STEEP edge, watching, freezing. They said, "Kate, just go down, but don't let go of your sled this time! Stop being a baby..." (Or something of that nature...). I muscled up the courage, jumped on the red sled, with these cheap black handles. I just kept thinking, don't let go Kate, just don't. The hill was slick, basically ice, and very steep. I remember going down thinking "ok, it's fun...", and then I hit a bump. From there, I don't remember what happened. All I remember was opening up my eyes laying back down at the bottom of the hill. I couldn't even move. I couldn't talk, I was so scared. Chris and Meg were still at the top. I yelled up that I couldn't move very well. I was able to move my arms and legs, but it hurt SO BAD. I was basically scream/crying. This horrid, annoying sound. They came down on these shoddy steps built into the hill, which were barely showing from the snow. They're looking down at me, bird's eye, and I tell them something is seriously wrong. They didn't really believe me at first, and I don't blame them. I always exaggerate. They convinced me to walk up the hill on those barely there steps, and somehow I made it. I got into the Rendezvous passenger's seat and couldn't sit up straight. I had to recline the seat totally. I told them I need to go to the ER. We left. We got to Joliet quickly, and I said I need to go to St. Joe's right now. I told them not to tell my mom, she would FREAK out. I knew I hurt myself, but I thought that the doctor could magically crack my back, and I'd be fine. I waited in this stinking nasty ER waiting room for what seemed like hours. I was still in my snow gear, sweating, and basically laying face down on the floor, because I couldn't sit any other way. They FINALLY got me into this curtain-off'd area, and on a table. I was screaming from the pain, still, and this shortish guy came in and told me was going to give me a shot for the pain.

I am terrified of shots, like most of us, right? He said give it 5 minutes, and it should feel better. Crazy me honestly thought he meant he was going to leave this giant needle in my leg for five minutes, which caused me to become even more hysterical. Chris calmed me down, explaining to me what the man really meant, and I took the shot. I felt immediate relief, but not total. I got some x-rays, got wheeled around in this hospital bed, and was brought back to the little curtain room to watch some bad tv. I remember seeing my mom there, Meg had told her. She was basically freaking out. I was semi-sedated from the drugs, but still mad that someone told her. I didn't want her to freak out, and I thought I'd be out of the hospital that night. I really did. By 12 am I told Chris to leave. He had finals the next morning, very early. My mom stayed all night, and around 3am, I was brought to an actual room. That's when I knew I wasn't leaving anytime soon. This is where I can't quite remember when or how I was told about my back. But, I was told that I had a compression fracture in my T11 vertebrae. It should normally be shaped like a cube, but mine was shaped like a wedge. It was just about in the very middle of my back. I don't really remember the next day, only having my mom, Bess, and Chris at my side. I shared a room with this girl who seemed to be my age. I felt bad because she had no visitors. We shared magazines.

I remember getting wheeled around for a million tests. I had to get an xray for my back, and I couldn't walk. The xray lady was very mean, and she made me get up and hold this giant film window against my chest. I could barely hold it, let alone hold myself up. I don't know why they never helped me...I remember the MRI. I've never had one before this. I've had CT scans, but MRI's are in a smaller tube. Even if you're not claustrophobic, you will be during this. The nurse put a towel over my eyes so I couldn't see how tiny of a space I was in. Of course, the towel fell off, and my arms were strapped down. Not like I could even lift them up to fix the towel, but it was not fun. The machine was VERY loud, and took forever. I also couldn't move, but was laying in a position that was very painful. I got wheeled around a million more times, for many more tests.

So many people sent flowers, and mugs, and cards. My mom brought me every magazine that was out. Chris brought me the best tofurkey sandwich ever. It was kind of nice, but got very boring, very fast. The tv sucked also.

My mom new all the nurses there, so they got me moved into my own private room, with apparently, a nice view. It was huge. We could fit so many people in there. I remember being on a morphine drip, and it made me feel really sick. The nurses were so sweet. The next day, hour, whatever it was, is a totally blur. I remember a doctor coming in asking me how long I had had this lump in my neck. I didn't know I had one. Then another doctor came in and told me he was going to take a biopsy of the lump in my neck. He was going to do it bedside, with me awake. I had never had surgery, and said "hell no. Bring me to an OR, and sedate me if you're going to cut out part of my neck!!". He talked me into letting him do it bedside. I guess it wasn't a complicated procedure. I think my mom almost passed out. He put a nice little curtain up in front of my face so I didn't have to see any blood. I got some stitches, and was fine. Now, all the while, I am missing school. I was in the fall semester at Columbia, trying to finish my projects and presentations up for finals the very next week. I still had no doubt that I'd be back in time to finish them, but that quickly changed. My family tells me what happened, but I don't remember any of it. I remember being woken up by a woman doctor who I had only met twice. It was 5 am (ish). She told me that I most like have Hodgkins Lymphoma, and I need to see an oncologist. I said, "what's an oncologist, they work on your feet?". I didn't know, maybe because it was 5am. She said something blah blah blah cancer blah blah blah, and I broke down. Around 6 I immediately called Chris. His dad answered, asked how I was, and I just started crying. Chris came to the phone, I don't remember what either of us said, but I just remember feeling scared.

I don't remember much else. I remember my family all being very sad, and seeing their sadness made me even more scared. It was 100% confirmed that I did have lymphoma, with many tumors in my chest and neck. I had no symptoms.

I remember texting my roommate, telling her to tell my teacher that I couldn't make it to class the next day. I remember people crying, and I remember the food. I was on so many diet restrictions because of tests, but I'd still order the hospital "room service" for my sisters and Chris. They kept bringing us food, thought I was crazy also for ordering so much. Chris brought a portable dvd player and we watched something. I don't remember. Friday night, ( I was admitted Sunday night), tons of friends came to see me. It was weird, they all came at once. It was awesome. They hung out, brought me flowers, smiles, food, games, magazines, so much. It was good to see them. I remember my mom tried to comb my hair for me because I couldn't move to do it myself. It was bad, all ratty from laying down for a week. My sister brought me my pillow. I remember Meg went to sit on the ledge near the window, and accidentally knocked over a Mug of Flowers and broke the mug. I remember falling asleep while they were still there, I think. I had my back surgery the next morning. I was scared, but realized I should get over that quickly. I was wheeled into this FREEZING waiting room. The nurses bundled me in a million warmed up blankets. It was awesome. I remember going into the OR, I remember them putting the mask on me. I remember waking up in the elevator being wheeled by 3 young kids. I started talking gibberish. I got back to my room, saw Chris and my mom, and I think I fell asleep. When I woke up I felt amazing. My back hurt, but nothing compared to the previous pain. They performed a kyphoplasty on me. Normally it's a procedure done on the elderly, due to bone breakage from osteoporosis. It was either that, not knowing long term side effects, or wear a back brace for 6 months and be bed-ridden. Obviously I chose the surgery.

I got to go home that day. It was awesome. I still didn't know what to expect in the next few days, but I was focused on going home, seeing my dog, checking my email, and watching some good tv.

My mom got me this wedge pillow, I couldn't lay on my back, and still cannot to this day. My grandparents came over that day, and I was so happy to see them. I was so tired. Chris brought over tons of movies, (he worked at Blockbuster then, :) ).

On Monday I had to meet with a surgeon who was going to put my port in. It's a silicone piece implanted near my shoulder, with a catheter connected to my aorta. I didn't understand it. I went to Silver Cross for that. Chris brought me, and he got to wait in the little room with me while I was prepped. I liked that hospital better then St. Joe's. The nurse who was helping me was getting married the following weekend. I remember feeling a bit jealous, wishing I were her. They brought me in, and apparently when I was done, and still a bit drugged up, I was telling the nurses that my boyfriend was going to get me mint chocolate chip ice cream that night. They found him, and told him he better take me out for ice cream. It was funny. On the way home he did. It was freezing out, and I could barely move my arm to eat it, but it was soooo good.

I think I'll stop for now...


  1. kate...

    holy shit.

    curious, am i the columbia teacher that you reference?
    I completely trashed my back october first, 2004. trashed. completely. trashed. bulging lumber discs......... all of them......... ALL of them.

    I have never experienced pain like that, and never care to again.

    looking fwd to your next installment......

  2. It was Pete for my Tech Ill. class, I hadn't met you yet. This is in fall of 06, and I had my first class with you in spring of 07, so you'll be mentioned shortly.... :) I didn't know you hurt your back so bad! It's no fun...you don't realize HOW important your back is til you really screw it up! I feel your pain!