I woke up to the annoying sound of my alarm clock thinking. Thinking about the rest of my life. Where I was here I was going to end up in this world. Sometimes I also think about how I will die. Hopefully, I will just die peacefully. All my friends call me a worry-wart. Even my dad. I’ve been worried ever since mom left. But personally, I think it’s not always bad to worry. But I’m too tired to worry about those things now. I get dressed in school clothes, like any other normal day, and head downstairs. I go downstairs into my kitchen and as usual, my dad is already up. I go over to him, kiss him on the cheek, and sit down next to him.
“Good morning, sweetheart.” he said in his deep, tired voice.
“Good morning, daddy.” I said.
It seems like we go through the same routine every day. Sometimes I wish we could break that routine, but it seems so stuck that if it was messed up, the order of the universe would be also. Then I go to the fridge, take out the Chinese food leftovers, stick them in microwave, and go plop down in front of the TV. I always get a little bit of TV in right before I have to leave for school. Whatever’s on, that’s what I watch. Today, it seems like the only thing on is the Today Show.
My dad always says that you should treat every day like it’s your last. Sometimes I would disagree with that statement, considering I would not spend my last day in middle school. So, I get ready for school, and try to forget that I’m going to it. Then I kiss my dad goodbye, walk out the front door, and head to school. I run up to Alyssa’s house, waiting for her so we can walk together.
“Hey Alyssa!” I yelled.
“Hey Steph!” she said.
I have always been ashamed of my real name, Stephanie, so everyone calls me Steph. And whenever I say I hate my name, people always say it’s pretty. But that’s what everyone says, and I promise you some of them are just saying it. My mom used to always say it was her favorite name, but that’s because I was her only child. But then again, she also told me she loved me, but then she left Dad and me. So it’s just us. And I like it that way. So we are walking to school, and we seem to have these long awkward silences between conversations. Now I’m worried about her, because this is totally unlike Alyssa.
“So.......” I say to break the silence.
“So what?!” she yells at me like she’s mad at me. I don’t know if she’s joking, or if she’s serious. I can’t stop thinking about what will happen with this bump. But right now, I’m not allowing myself to think like that.
We get to school and she finally says, “Just kidding!” We always play these little “just kidding” jokes, but today it was actually believable.
“I was about to ask, but then I thought you’d be joking.” We get to school and we go our separate ways. I go upstairs to my locker, number 329. I open it, and for the first time today, I looked at the back of my hand and I see a small bump. I’m not thinking much about it, but I’ll tell me dad after school. For now, I’ll just go to class and worry about it later.
During class I could not stop poking the bump, but when I did poke it, it hurt. My science teacher noticed that I was writing with my left hand, even though I’m a righty.
“Why are you writing with your left hand?” he asked.
“‘Cause it hurts to use my right hand because of the big blister on it.”
“Show it to me.” his voice sounded strict and worried. I took it out from in my sweatshirt sleeve, and by now it had gotten bigger. Not very much bigger, but bigger. It had also gotten red. It hurt even just to look at it. It wasn’t small enough to be a blister, so I suppose I don’t know what it actually is at this point. It’s bugging me. I keep looking for a normal hand, but I look down and see this red, thing that is bleeding and filled with puss.
“We need to go to the nurse immediately.” For once in my entire life, Mr. Weader sounded worried for me. We hurried down the hallway and down two flights of stairs to the nurse’s office. We were running so fast, it was like it was a life or death situation.
When we got to the nurse’s office, he showed the nurse the bump on my hand, then went into her office and shut the door to talk. I couldn’t make out exactly what the teachers were saying, but all I know is that they sounded worried. When they came out of her office, the nurse came up to me and said, “We need to call your parents honey.”
“Okay.” I said, trying not to worry about what they were chatting about in there. I gave the nurse my dad’s number, she called, and told me to sit in the chair and relax. I was thinking about what it could be, and why she was being so nice to me. To be honest, she had never this nice to me before. So, I’m figuring, it’s worse than I thought, or she’s just in a good mood.
“Honey, it’s worse than you think.” she said, as if she needed to calm me down for some reason or another.
“When I saw it this morning, I thought it was an infected something or other. Is it worse than that?” I could tell that my voice sounded nervous, and that was because I was nervous. She was silent and didn’t answer my question. My palms were sweating, and my heart started pounding. I could say that I’ve never felt worse. When she finally said it, I thought I could die right then and there.
“We think it’s worse than something infected.” she said in her calmed voice. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. It just wasn’t possible. I ran into the bathroom a fast as I could. I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. The nurse didn’t try to chase after me, which is good because right now, I just want to cry in private. I ran into the girl’s bathroom and just started weeping. Thank goodness no one else was there, because if there was, I would be so embarrassed. I look in the mirror and I see a totally different person than this morning. I feel as if the whole world around me is closing in, as if there’s nowhere to go. If I had to choose, I would probably choose not knowing it was. Since this morning, my whole life has changed. Or at least I think it has.
After twenty plus minutes crying in the bathroom, I finally go back to the nurse’s office as if nothing ever happened. Of course, they knew I was crying, because they could see it. They tried to tell me that everything was going to be okay, but I know what doctors do to you. They kill you. I’m not going to try to lie to myself. This is bad. I’m not going to go through the rest of my life and try to live this nightmare.
I sit in the nurse’s office freaking out because apparently Dad is coming in to talk to the nurse. In about ten minutes, my dad shows up and the nurse and him start talking. While this is happening I have my ear up to the door listening. I am so worried about the next few days. When I found out what they thought it was, I stopped, and everything froze. That’s how I feel right now. Everything is frozen. Time. Space. All I can distinguish of the conversation is mumbling. To tell you the truth, I’d rather know the bad things now, rather than later.
“You need to see a doctor.” she said in a hushed voice.
“Yes we do. Do you have any recommendations?” I hear my dad say this in a worried voice. Then I hear shuffling papers. She must be looking through her documents. This is going to change my life forever.
The next day, I wake up, but not to the sound of my alarm clock. I look at the clock as it reads 8:14 AM. My dad let me sleep in too late! I get up, rush downstairs, and grab something out of the fridge for breakfast. Then I realize there’s something different going on today. It’s not Saturday. It’s Thursday. My dad is sitting at the kitchen table with the newspaper blocking his face. The day doesn’t seem the same to me.
“Hi daddy.” I say in a high-pitched voice.
“Why’d you let me sleep in late and miss school?”
“The nurse at the school called late last night. Said you should go to the doctor as soon as possible. So, that’s what we are going to do today.” My heart sank. I figure since I don’t have anything else better to do, I plop down in front of the TV. I turn on the TV and flip through the channels for a bit and I finally find a good enough show to keep me entertained.
“We have an appointment at 11:00. So you should shower and be ready by 10:30.” he said as if I was actually paying attention.
“Okay daddy.” At this point, I don’t know what to expect. I go upstairs, into my bedroom, and pull out my journal. I start writing and it reads:
Alyssa and I almost got in a fight today, but then I found out she was just joking. If I had one wish right now, it would be to talk to Mom. But mom left us, so I can’t talk to her. It feels like the whole world is closing in. No one to talk to, no one to turn to. By the way, I found a mysterious bump on my hand yesterday and went to the nurse. I came home early yesterday because the nurse told me to. The nurse called my dad late last night to tell him that I should go to the doctor. So, today we are going to the doctor to get it checked out. I am really nervous about what it might be. Dad is saying I shouldn’t be nervous. But I am. It’s hard not to be nervous about a mysterious bump. Wish me luck!
I finish writing in my diary and I hear dad calling my name. He’s telling me that I should be ready for the doctor. I rush to get some clothes on, brush my teeth, and rush downstairs. He is standing by the door, and I run to the car and grab shotgun. He walks over to the car, gets in and starts the car. The Honda Pilot smells like cigarettes and bubble gum. As we wind down Cedar Hill Road, I get even more nervous to find out what’s going on. In the car, the silence is getting deeper and deeper. And the road seems to get longer and longer.
We get to the doctor’s office, and I’m getting to feel really tired, even though the ride was only twenty minutes long. It’s probably just because I woke up late today, but this is different. I’m exhausted. We are sitting in the waiting room, and they call my name.
“Stephanie Roberts?” the lady says in her loud voice. We walk in and they take my height and weight. This doctor’s visit feels different than all the other ones for some reason. Probably because I’m actually worried about what might happen.
“Well, your weight came in as 103 pounds, which means you have lost weight since your last visit. And your height came in as 5’3”. That means you have grown an inch since your last visit.” This did not help my nerves. Losing the weight was good, but not that much weight. The doctor went in the room with my dad alone first, and then she called me in.
“Can you show me the bump?” she said in a soothing voice.
“Sure.” I said with some hesitation. She looked at the bump, and for a while she had no expression. She just looked at it intently and then after a while of poking and looking at it with a flashlight.
After the random watching and poking, she said, “I am going to refer you to another doctor, for I cannot identify what this is.” And that was the end of the appointment. Just some poking and watching. Personally, I think I could have done that in the comfort of my own home.
We walk out of the office, and down the long hallways. It seems to get quieter and quieter as we pass each door in the office building. It smells of hand sanitizer. It smells too clean. As we get to the elevators, it seems like nothing was moving. Like that one moment when the whole world freezes.
“Honey. We need to talk.” Dad says this in the calmest way he can.
“Yeah?” I can tell my voice sounds worried. Dad sounded worried too.
“I know you’re tired, but tomorrow, we are going to another doctor’s appointment.” I look at him and give him a glare. We are acting like this little blister thing is going to change my life. It’s most likely just going to go away in a week or two. But of course, the doctor can’t agree with a thirteen year old, ever.
We get into the smelly, silver Honda Pilot, and drive home. Again, this ride seems like it’s taking forever. The silence is driving me crazy. But as a man once said, “A man is known by the silence he keeps.” So I guess I will be known by how quiet I am. We get home, and I sprint into the house. I guess I just need time to myself. I run upstairs to go into my room, and suddenly I feel like a totally different person. I sit on my bed, and I start thinking about how I will change over the next few years of my life.
I decide to get up early the next morning, forgetting that it was Saturday. Again, my normal routine as I grab leftovers out of the fridge, and sit down in front of the TV. Nothing is on, except for the never ending infomercials on crappy products. So that’s it for my morning TV. For once, I might take charge of what’s going to happen around this house. I grab my laptop out of the cabinet above the sink, and turn it on as I sit down at the kitchen table. I open a new window, and look up hand rashes. I figure since the doctor didn’t know what it was, I might as well try to find out myself. The images that pop up look like hand rashes but not what I have on my hand. For the next hour, I look up other things it could be, like a bad bee sting, but it looks different from that too. By the time I’ve done my failed research, Dad is up.
“You’re up early.” he said in his “I haven’t had coffee” voice.
“I know.” I said, in the same tone of voice. He acted like I had never done this before, when I can tell you right now, I have. He looked at me with worried eyes, as if he knew something that I didn’t. He never really did that before, and that is why I was worried. He seemed like the kind of guy who, when he was worried, wouldn’t show it. So this look was new, because he looked worried. A different kind of worried.
Today, we are going to see another doctor. Her name is Dr. Snow. She seemed nice enough to trust, from what I’ve heard. I’m nervous, like always with doctors. Again, my palms start sweating like crazy. It’s kinda gross. Anyway, I walk into the office, and I see these cute, colored pictures that look like they were done by three year olds. Dr. Snow walks in, and starts talking to me. At first, everything she says goes over my head. Then she says the word. The word I hoped I’d never hear. “Tumor”. That word catches my attention, and now I am listening to every breath, and every word. Then she says something about seeing my hand, which is so instinctive, that I just pull it out from under my sweatshirt. She looks at it, asks me a question, and then says, “Can I talk to your dad privately for a minute?”
“Sure.” I say, trying to hold back the tears. They are in there for a while, which makes me nervous. Then, about twenty minutes later, I hear the door open, and the doctor comes out. Dad doesn’t. She looks at me with worried eyes, and finally says what I think I’ve been waiting for.
“That thing on your hand is a cancerous tumor.” she said with a look on her face.
“Does that mean I have cancer?” I say, with tears running down my face.
“I’m afraid so.” she said, hoping that I wouldn’t burst into tears. I run into the other room, where Dad is, and grab him in a big hug and started weeping. He looked at me with his tear-filled eyes. This moment is going to change my life forever. The doctor and Dad go back in the room, Dad still crying, to talk some more. He left me in the waiting room, also still crying, and I decide to write a diary entry, because today was the day that changed the rest of my life. I wrote:
I was just diagnosed. Turns out the whole thing was a cancerous tumor. I don’t know where we are going from here, but all I know is that I hope I recover. I hear treatment hurts, but anything to make me feel at least three percent better is worth it. Dad says that I have to drop out for the rest of the year, to get treated and everything. I don’t know how I’m going to tell Alyssa. All I know is that we are both in for a lot for the rest of the school year.
Dad comes back out of the room, and we look at each other, and we both try to hold the smile. I look down to my notebook, and realize that my pen writing is smudged by my tears. I get up, walk towards Dad who is holding the door for me, and walk out of that hell. And this is only the beginning. But I can’t afford to think like that.
We get out of the office building, and walk towards our car. Neither of us have said anything yet, mainly because we both know to talk about anything right now is painful. We get in the car, and drive home. I turn on the radio, thinking that I need something to keep my mind on right now. On the way home, I’m just trying so hard to find something to be happy about. After thinking about that, I finally come up with something. The promotional dance at the end of eighth grade. That is my goal. I don’t care how much it hurts; I’m going to make it to that dance. Again, I find myself thinking too hard. But, at least, now I have somewhere to go with this pain.
The next morning, again, I got up late. Watched some TV. Then, I finally broke my daily routine. I decided to call Alyssa. I pick up the phone, dial her number, and hear the phone ringing. She picks up, “Hey girl. What’s up?”
“Nothing much.” I say to her, trying to fight the tears that I want to cry.
“Why did you call?” she said in her peppy little voice.
“We need to talk.” I could tell that my voice was getting more serious sounding.
“Can we meet up today?” she said, still sounding peppy as can be.
“Sure.” And that was the end of the conversation. I shower, get dressed and put makeup on, and then walk over to her place. Obviously it wasn’t clear about where we were meeting up, because on my way there, she was walking to my house. We start walking the other direction, towards my house; we pass it, and keep walking. She still has that peppy look on her face, like she didn’t know what I wanted to talk about.
“Alyssa?” I say to get the conversation over with.
“Yeah?” she says, not sounding worried at all.
“This is serious. I might die in a year or so.” And that caught her attention. She seemed shocked enough to pay attention to me.
“How? Why?” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I have cancer.” The words seemed to be locked in my mouth, and like someone unlocked it with a key. But I can tell you, the words didn’t come easy. She looks at me like she didn’t believe what I had just told her. But at the same time, she had tears running down her face. I started to cry too, and then she hugged me. By the time we were done crying and hugging, we were all the way around our block.
We get to my house, and she comes in. Dad is sitting on the couch, watching afternoon football. He looks at us, realizes we’ve both been crying, and gives me a look. He knows I told her, because he just knows me. We run upstairs, and go into my room and shut the door. She is still crying, and I try to calm her down, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.”
“No it’s not. I’m going to lose you.” she said, her voice stammering because she was crying. She looked so crushed; I didn’t even know what to say. This was the worst I’d ever seen her. Except for the time at the amusement park, when she didn’t win the big teddy bear from the ring game. She was reacting worse than I did when I found out. But, that proves that she’s a real friend. We talk about the promotional dance. I tell her that’s my goal. She looks at me with those deep blue-grey eyes that are slightly tinted red from crying. And I wonder why I had to be the one out of the six billion people on this earth to get cancer. I know I sound like a stuck up snoot when I say that, but it’s true. Sometimes I feel like God is writing a horror story and mistaking the book as my life. But sometimes I like a mystery, just not in my life.
“Would you and your dad need help paying for treatment and stuff?” she sounded so worried and caring.
“I actually don’t know. I don’t think he’s worried about that though.” she looked at me like I was crazy. He was the kind of guy who was always looking at the glass half full. But in this situation, there’s no water in the cup. But at least he keeps things positive. We go into the backyard to jump on the trampoline, which is worn and old, and go on with our lives like we never cried less than twenty minutes ago. At least we are the same amount of friends.
Now that I have that off my chest, it’s easier to walk around for the rest of my life. However long that is. I feel that all that time between now and then will just be hurt. And I know it’s hurting everyone around me, but sometimes I feel like giving up. And Dad knows that I’m in pain, so he says that if it gets to the point where it hurts too much, I can shut my eyes. But I tell Dad he’s wrong, and that I can’t just give up. I also said this to Alyssa, even though she didn’t ask. I just tell her this in case I tell her that I’m going to give up later in the future. I can’t give up. That shows vulnerability. And the last thing I need is to look vulnerable. Personally, I think to look vulnerable shows that you can’t overcome what life has thrown at you. Whether it is a fastball, a curveball, or a split ball, you have to fight it. But so far, fighting it just means getting hit by the ball, and that hurts.
To think that less than a week ago, I thought that thing on my hand was just infected, and now my life is currently ending. It’s like one raise of a hand can change the way I think of myself. Just about a week ago, I used to think I was just a high school student, and now I feel like there’s so much I should get done before I…….you know? But I really don’t want to think about that right now.
All I want to do right now is sleep. Because the way I see it, it’s either sleep, or think of dying. But right now, I decide to get out my laptop, and just write. Because if I don’t document this, no one will. And if it doesn’t get documented, no one will ever know how much pain I was ever in. In one of my favorite songs, the singer says, “And if I get it down on paper it’s no longer inside of me threatening the life it belongs to.” And I do agree. If I don’t end up writing what happened in this painful part of my life, then no one will know what I went through. And also, if I write it all down it’s no longer screwing with my head. I go to the drawer where I secretly keep my laptop, my underwear drawer, and just break down crying. Every time I look down at my hand, it’s so painful. There’s physical pain there, and just the pain that I probably won’t live that much longer.
I really don’t know how cancer works, but from what I’ve been told, you get a tumor, then it spreads to your brain, heart, liver, wherever, and takes over. And from there, I don’t even want to think about it. I figure since I’m probably going to die from this horrible disease, I might as well find out how it works. I go into the internet, then type in Google. I then type in “cancer”. I look at the many articles, and then decide, I’d rather not know how I’m going to die.
Alyssa said she was worried about me, and since it’s a Saturday, she said she would come over. And me being me, I told her no. And her being her resilient little self, told me she didn’t care about how bad I looked, she wanted to see me. And that was the end of that phone conversation, and then she came over.
“How are you?” she said, looking deep into my eyes, trying not to look down at the lump and scarring on my hand.
“Good.” I said, lying, and she knew I was. We looked into each other’s eyes and tried with all our might not to cry. She knew what I was going through. She knew my pain. She was basically the twin I never had. We knew when the other was down. We went up to my room, and we sat down on my carpet. We saw it in each other’s eyes. Then, out of nowhere, she leaned over, and kissed me on the cheek.
“I know you needed that.” she said with a half-crying; crooked smile on her skinny freckled face. She was like a sister to me, and she has always been there for me. But now that I think about it, I feel like I’ve never been there for her.
“If you ever needed me, you would tell me, right?” I said, the salty taste of tears finally gathering at the corners of my mouth. We both stare at the back of my hand. She looks up at me and nods, repeating the crooked smile action.
“I love you,” she says with a very hopeful smile on her face. “Oh, you told me to remind you about your meds.” She says this so casually, which is shocking because practically yesterday she was having a panic attack about the whole situation.
I head over to the medicine cabinet right above the sink, and take out the orange prescription pill bottle. I attempt to open it, but I realize that even the slightest movement of my digits agitates the wound. I hand it over to Alyssa, and she opens it with a flick of her wrist and a smile. I had somewhat forgotten how hard it was to do basic things until that moment.
“Here,” she says with a gloomier look about her. I guess she had somewhat forgotten about everything too. The pills are little and red, about a millimeter in diameter. I pop two in and take a ginormous swig of water. As soon as I swallow the water, my entire body starts to burn. Not the inside, but the outside, like my skin. I then start hyperventilating. Alyssa is having another heart attack as she watches me go into some kind of shock.
Alyssa sprints downstairs to tell Dad. They both come sprinting back upstairs in a little less than thirty seconds, my dad with the phone in his hand to I’m guessing call my doctor. He starts talking to whoevers on the other line.
“She’s going into some kind of shock!” he yells into the phone.
“Is she having trouble breathing?” the nurse says calmly, like she’s no new employee of the hospital. Her voice sounds crackled through the phone, either out of exhaustion or bad service on one of our ends.
“Is hyperventilation a sign of breathing troubles?” Dad says this with a slight chuckle in his voice, I guess at an attempt to stay calm.
“Yes sir. You need to drive her here immediately so we can check on what’s going on. Can you do that, or do we have to send an ambulance?” she says either not recognizing Dad’s sarcasm, or just trying to take this seriously.
“Yes ma’am I can get her there as soon as possible.” Dad says this in a calm voice, I guess trying to calm himself down. We rush to the 1990 Toyota minivan, pile in, and speed down our street to 3rd Street. We then turn left and the hospital will be on our right.
I’m still panting by the time we get to the hospital, and my hands and feet start to itch. The woman who was on the phone with us is still at the front desk waiting for us. She’s wearing a nurse’s outfit with carton puppies on it. The first thing I notice about her is her hair, which is pulled back as much as it possibly could be, for it is frizzy and short. She seems perkier than she did on the phone, I’m guessing because this is the actual situation she’s dealing with, not just a phone call.
They rush me onto a stretcher as soon as possible, and then take me back, with Alyssa and Dad following. The nurse brings me to an all-white room with a heartbeat monitor and all the other emergency room doodads. They first tell me to get up and walk just to make sure it hasn’t affected anything they need to worry about. Then they take me in for height and weight, which I’m used to by now-with the doctor visits and all. They tell me to take an anti-inflammatory pill and drink water. By the time I’m done with that nasty chore, the doctor comes in. He has a very friendly face, young looking too. He couldn’t be any more than thirty-five.
“Are you feeling okay today, Stephanie?” he says this in a welcoming, but concerned tone. I notice that his wrist, pale and little, is covered in little rubber bracelets that each have a message on them. One reads “Get Your Flu Shot Today”.
“I would say yes, if I knew I wasn’t dying of skin cancer.” This is one other time that it came to me that I’m actually withering away. The doctor looked at me with a disappointed expression, probably because he thought I was innocent, but believe it or not, I know I’m dying.
The doctor looks at me with tears in his eyes, as if he feels pity for the poor little girl sitting on his eight-foot long examination table. He excuses himself to clear the tearlets from the corners of his eyes, then after a short period of time, came back into the room. He has his clipboard in his big, pale hands, and he skims through the pages constantly. His nervous demeanor is obvious. But it’s not like he’s nervous for him. He is nervous for me. I’ve never had anyone worry about me like that except for Alyssa.
“We should probably prescribe you chemotherapy. You’ll lose all your hair, but you will get slightly better.” He says this while twiddling his thumbs, again making it obvious that he has something clouding up his mind.
“Yes.” I say this without thinking about consenting my father or Alyssa.
“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” he says this with a confused look on his face, like he wasn’t so sure this was right for me.