I Can Remember Every Detail Of My Cancer Diagnosis
A twenty-two year old woman sits on top of the examination table. She twists her thumbs around each other repetitively, only stopping to wipe her hands off on her jeans. The sound of deep breathes consumed the room around her.
She was considered an adult, but in that moment she was taken back to her adolescent years. The years of needing parents' support and encouragement, wanting them right by your side. For probably the first time in these two parents’ lives, they were just as scared as the twenty-two year old that they still called their little girl. For the first time in this girl’s life, she was truly listening to the world around her. Every breath she heard, every chair adjustment her family made, every clipboard being read outside of the examination room. Those fifteen minutes on top of a paper wrapped examination table were fifteen moments of frozen time.
All at once footsteps came closer to the door. The girl's breathing progressively got heavier. This was a make-or-break kind of day for her. Today was the day the doctor would tell her what was causing her neck to explode with visible lymph nodes. The twenty-two year old had searched online over and over again to find answers to her own questions. This moment and this doctor had the opportunity to change this girl and her family’s life.
Quickly and abruptly the door opened, and a familiar face walked in. This was the face of the surgeon who had ordered a CT scan and had also examined the girl before. The smiling, curly-headed doctor looked at the young girl and said, "You are going to have a biopsy tomorrow morning."
The young girl's breathing sped up. The anxiety was starting to consume her body. The doctor was no longer smiling but looking back and forth at both of the girl’s parents. She then proceeded to ask if the family had an oncologist they would want to use if one was needed.
In that moment, the young girl’s eyes filled with tears. The tears were not running down her face, because she was trying to keep it together for everyone around her. One of those moments where your face hurts so bad from holding in tears. Her throat was clenched tight, and her head was spinning.
The doctor and her parents were still talking, but her memory cannot recollect what was said after that. She had mentally left the room and every possibility about her future, and life itself was flashing before her eyes. Most people talk about their life flashing before their eyes right before they die, but she learned the truth. She learned that dying doesn’t induce this process, but life-changing moments do.
The doctor finished filling out her paperwork and shook the family’s hand before leaving the room. This was the most awkward moment in the young girl’s life so far. She didn’t know if she should express her fears or keep strong and throw a smile on her face. She just wanted to act like a toddler and throw herself into her mother’s arms and cry for hours. Even though surgery was not until the next day, the twenty-two year old felt numb like anesthesia was running through her veins.
Over and over again the girl looked towards her family to try and read what their minds were thinking, but they held on strong and kept emotions inside. I’m sure everyone’s throat hurt just as much as the girls from holding back tears as they walked out of the examination room. The door behind them shut and it felt like all the doors in the world had shut along with it.
Yes, that girl was me. I remember every detail of that day as if it’s a scene from a movie I’ve watched a thousand times. As I replay it once again, I can see now that the one thing I did not know in that moment was how many doors were about to open right in front of me, as all of the others shut.
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Image courtesy of Nastya Polyakova