"Cancer does not have a face until it's yours or someone you know"-Anthony del Monte
The biopsy was on November 14, 2012. It hurt more than I ever thought possible. I had to have shots in my head ( I’m a huge needle phobe). I was shaking the entire time, and my foot was trembling incessantly. My mom was holding my hand, and I was jamming out to Justin Beiber on my Ipod. Luckily, it was over after a few minutes, although it felt like an eternity. The place where the biopsy was preformed felt as though someone had slammed it with a 500 pound weight! The pain went away the next day, although I had to sit out of gym the next day. I had stitches on my head, and we were playing floor hockey in gym. If I were to get hit, who knows what would have happened?
It all started on October 4, 2012. We went to the dermatologist for a regular mole check. My mom and I talked before the appointment, and we agreed to also show the doctor an eraser-sized bump on my scalp. “I’m sure it’s nothing”, my mom said. I thought the same thing. Three pediatricians had said it was nothing, so why would we hear anything different this time around? I thought to myself. Boy, was I ever wrong! When we went to the appointment, the doctor looked at the bump. “It’s red- that’s unusual! We can either take it out, or I can see you back in my office in a couple of months to look at it again”, she said. I thought about it for a few seconds. I eventually decided to have it biopsied- I certainly didn’t want it to get any bigger.
A few weeks before the biopsy, my mind started racing. I couldn’t stop thinking about it! What would the pain be like? Will it hurt? How long will the whole thing take? What if the results are bad?
The biopsy was on November 14, 2012. It hurt more than I ever thought possible. I had to have shots in my head ( I’m a huge needle phobe). I was shaking the entire time, and my foot was trembling incessantly. My mom was holding my hand, and I was jamming out to Justin Beiber on my Ipod. Luckily, the procedure was over after a few minutes, although it felt like an eternity. The place where the biopsy was preformed felt as though someone had slammed it with a 500 pound weight! The pain went away the next day, although I had to sit out of gym the next day. I had stitches on my head, and we were playing floor hockey in gym. If I were to get hit, who knows what would have happened?
The next day, we got the most horrible and devastating phone call in the world. The bump was cancerous, and I’d have to have it removed-again. That night, I cried for about two hours. Why did this have to happen to me? Teenagers don’t get skin cancer, only old people who spend too much time in the sun. Unfortunately, the problem certainly was not going away, and we were just going to have to deal with it. Only 1.4% of all skin cancer cases are what I had- a type of cancer called a soft tissue sarcoma.
I had to have an MRI of my brain to see how big the cancer was, and if it had spread. We found a place that did open MRI, so the test wasn’t quite as bad. I wish I could say the same for the machine’s noise! It sounded like someone was mowing the lawn in my ears. I lied there for two hours, and my back was killing me from lying in the same position for so long. The worst part was that I had to get an injection of contrast, which is a material that helps the pictures come out clearer. I have to admit that I was crying during it, and it took two tries to find a vein.
Eventually, we decided to go to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for the surgery. We saw a dermatologist, a plastic surgeon, and a surgical oncologist. I’d have two surgeries (one under general anesthesia). This was going to be a long, hard road, but I had no choice. The surgeries were three weeks away at this point, so I knew I had to keep myself busy. When I’m terrified about something, my mind tends to think about the scary event incessantly. Waiting for a terrifying and horrible event makes the days before it seem endless. In a way, it’s like a ticking time bomb, and the event is just sitting there, becoming closer every day as time runs out.
After a while, we were three days away from the first surgery. Finals week had come and gone, leaving me with nothing to distract my mind from wandering aimlessly. A few days before surgery, I again went and visited my old english teacher that I mentioned before. We’d been talking via email the last few months, so she knew what was going on. Having that visit with her helped lift my spirits. Communicating with her on email was one of the reasons why I got through this. Yes, my parents were amazing, but it was reassuring to have an outside listening ear. And to think that I was nervous about telling her in the first place…
Fast forward to the morning of the first surgery. I was crying when I first entered the office- I just wanted this all to be over! The surgeon was absolutely fabulous. He was great with controlling the pain (even told a few jokes in the process), and the nurses were also really nice. I took a tranquilizer before the surgery, so I was pretty After about five hours, surgery #1 was over.
We also saw the plastic surgeon that day. As if the day couldn’t be any worse, the surgeon told me that he’d have to shave my head to do the surgery! I immediately broke down in tears when I heard this news. My parents and I bought a wig, and it didn’t look anything like my real hair!
A few weeks later, February 8, 2012, was surgery #2. The morning of the surgery, the doctors changed their mind about shaving my head, telling us that they’d do a skin graft instead. I’d still have a full head of hair after! That sounded good to me…
I really don’t remember a ton about going into the operating room, as I was pretty drugged up beforehand. I do, however, remember receiving the I.V. Let me tell you- that was anything but pleasant! I was holding the anesthesiology resident’s hand the entire time. Being put to sleep was not bad at all.
After the surgery, I really was not in too much pain. I was at the hospital for about three hours afterwards. Walking for the first time after I woke up was weird. I felt sort of dizzy and very tired.
I ended up staying home from school for five days, and my grades dropped- not good! I now have ultrasounds every six months to check on my progress, and the cancer has not come back! I’ve also started volunteering at Lutheran General Children’s Hospital. It’s incredible what the children there have to go through on a daily basis. Yes- some of them are in fact cancer patients like myself. Although I didn’t intend for it to be, the main reason why I volunteer is to give back to all the people that have been nice to me in the past seven months. The least I could do is help these kids! This volunteer work is truly inspiring.
This experience has changed me for the better in so many ways. I am certainly thankful for my full head of hair, as well as for doctors! I have also learned to put my life in perspective. Thanks to the patients at Lutheran General, I no longer stress about the small, every day worries. I never thought this would happen to me, but that just goes to show you that life doesn’t always go as planned, but it will be ok in the end.