To sum up my personality, I am a music theatre nerd. #varsitymusicaltheatre as we used to say in high school. Whatever this means to you is fine, but for me it means that I have moments where I am particularly melodramatic in my reactions to things. Apparently, cancer was no exception.
As you can see, it took me all of twenty-three days to break my social media silence, and when I did, it was to complain about every little thing. Except, I still wasn’t outright stating where I was or what I was doing, so everyone was left to interpret my tweets as they saw fit.
As I quickly learned at Towson, I also learned that Hopkins and its cafeteria were planted firmly in Team Pepsi territory, and I had the misfortune of being a diehard Team Coke girl. When you aren’t in the cafeteria and you’re on the floor and ask for soda, the only thing stocked at the nurses’ station are generic brand sodas. Call me a snob, but I was craving something a little more.
In between my time walking laps, I would sit out in the visiting area of the oncology floor and listen to music or read a book. Shortly before entering the hospital, my mom and I traveled to the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey to see The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the newest Disney musical based on the movie of the same title, and it was AMAZING. The cast album is out now, but back then I just had bootleg recordings on YouTube to listen to, and listen to I did (this particular song was on repeat for probably three days straight). While sitting up on the eleventh floor, looking out the window at all the people down below going about their daily lives, I convinced myself that Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz had written this music just for me, and that I was basically the hunchback Quasimodo living up in the bell tower alone.
Yeah, that’s how dramatic I can be.
When I wasn’t being forced to drag my IV pole along for laps or sitting in my bell tower, I spent my time in bed watching Friends on Netflix endlessly. I made it to the fifth season in a little less than a month before I grew tired of the show, but at the time their half hour dramatic situations and problems distracted me from my own life (although I will probably have eye problems one day from squinting to watch on my phone). These six fictional characters became my friends and helped me pass the time until my real life human friends could travel down to Baltimore.
It was so nice to have my friends visit me for the first time on June 12th (Jules is very thorough with his notes). It was only nine days after I was admitted to the hospital, but to me it honestly felt like a lifetime. For the first time in little more than a week I kind of felt like a normal teenager hanging in bed, laughing with my friends, and walking around (although this time I had a metal friend following me at all times as well). My mood was sky-high, but unfortunately it did not last.
Later that night, I was once again plagued with a fever (call the culture team!), except this time my blood pressure plummeted as well, freaking out both my mom and the nurses. Everyone was going back and forth with possible reasons and explanations as to why my blood pressure had dropped so low, while I was just hearing Grey’s Anatomy voice-overs in my head.
“Alright, push one of EPI. Start compressions. She’s in V-fib!”
The team couldn’t really figure out a reason as to why I was getting a fever again (same as always), but this time they were more concerned because of my super low blood pressure that came along with it. So, as a precaution due to a concern of infection, they decided the best course of action would be to pull my PICC line, put me on heavy-duty antibiotics, and see if things improved from there. Instead of sleeping peacefully that night, I laid awake as the nurse pulled the tube from my chest by way of my arm.
Again, I was being dramatic. Pulling the PICC line was one of the easiest things I have ever endured because it hadn’t been in that long to begin with. The thought of it was much worse than it actually was: an instruction to let out a long, slow breath, followed by a nearly imperceptible pop! as the end of the line finally made it out of the little hole.
Easy peasy, lemon-squeezy.
It took a whopping four days before I could get another PICC line placed in my right arm, and while I waited I had to endure a regular IV sticking uncomfortably out of my elbow. However, just because the tubes in my body were on standstill, doesn’t mean the rest of my treatment wasn’t plugging along. The mouth sores that had been disguising themselves as thrush were officially diagnosed as mucositis, so I was given morphine through my IV in order to fight the pain and start eating relatively normal again (fooood, glorious foooood). Finally though, the doctors all decided that my infection was well enough under control, so I would be able to take a little trip to Fluoroscopy to get my new PICC in.
Side note: I want to mention that staying in a hospital (besides the whole “oh I have a serious illness” part) is every lazy person’s DREAM. 1) Everyone realizes that you don’t feel well, so although they encourage it, no one actually forces you to get out of bed, and 2) whenever you’re needed on another floor for an X-ray or something, they either send people to come get you in a wheel chair, or they just roll you down in your bed.
But – you know – don’t try it folks, because I promise your parents won’t support this behavior at home, and you don’t actually want to live in a hospital.
So anyway, they sent me down in my bed to Fluoroscopy, and wheeled me into a room made entirely of chrome furnishings. It felt like I was in an industrial freezer, which only heightened my nerves for the procedure I had been completely asleep for the first time. I had to transfer from my own bed to the tiny “bed” they had in the middle of the room, and they pumped me full of anti-anxiety meds which calmed me down and put me in the “twilight zone” where I was awake but not really in a state to do anything or put up a fight when the needle came near my arm. All the while, the Fluoroscopy staff had the Country’s Greatest Hits channel bumping through the speakers.
Eventually, it was all over and I had a brand spankin’ new PICC in my arm. This time around, the line was in my right arm, so it was a whole lot nicer to sleep and actually function in life since I am left hand dominant. And, to make it up to me for all the hassle, the pain team (the people in charge of supervising my pain medication consumption) gifted me with my very own self-directed pain pump.
Cue the angelic choir