I posted back in October that I was in the hospital and needed prayers. Little did I realize that it was only the beginning of the longest five months of my life.
Part 1: The Hospital Stay
On 15 October 2015, I was approved for an apartment I’d been trying to get since April 2014. For various reasons I kept getting denied, but I was finally approved. The plan was that I was going to move on Halloween, as it would give me time to pack and transfer the electric to the new address. I’d posted the announcement on Facebook and told everyone at church that night. It was the happiest news I’d had in a long time. I was in a little pain at the time, but I was getting an apartment so I decided to worry about it later.
However, around 2am that night I was woken up by the pain increasing. It was in my lungs, and it seriously hurt to breathe. I could only take very shallow breaths. After the sun rose, I called a friend to take me to the hospital. They kept me overnight, but only focused on my stomach even though it was my lungs that hurt and it was hard to breath. My pastor came to get me after they discharged me when all the tests came back negative (because, again, wrong area).
Over the next few days I just laid in bed in extreme pain, until one day I asked my roommates to take me to the hospital. They refused and told me to call an ambulance, which I did. The ambulance took me to the same hospital, which discharged me a couple hours later, saying I was fine even though I was still in pain.
I called another friend on the evening of 21 October 2015. She said she was taking me to a different hospital, one that actually cared about the patients. Within a couple hours they determined that I had pneumonia and put me in a room. They intended to just keep me a couple days until I got better, the whole time taking blood and testing it.
As they were preparing to discharge me a couple days later, one of the doctors noticed something unusual in one of my blood tests and said he was going to keep me for observation. I got upset, because I just wanted to go home. But a few hours later, when I would have otherwise been home, both my kidneys abruptly shot through with extreme pain, causing me to scream in agony. The nurses ran in and gave me morphine for the pain, which put me to sleep, and then rolled my bed to do tests. When I woke up they told me my kidneys had stopped working, and they didn’t know why yet.
Over the next few days my white and red blood cell count dropped, as well as my blood platelet count. They had an IV in each arm and an IV tower on each side of me.
Over the next month, I had more tubes going in and out of me than I care to remember. They ended up having to put a catheter into my bladder and a dialysis catheter near it. They had me on dialysis. At one point I was unable to keep food down and constantly vomited. A nurse tried putting an NG tube up my nose. That’s a tube that goes into your nose and down into your stomach to drain it. It’s very unpleasant, and you’re unable to eat while it’s in.
It was in for two weeks.
My church family would come visit me as much as they could. One night after evening service, the “main people” (about ten people) came and stood around my bed and prayed over me.
The next day the NG tube was taken out. I was put on a clear liquid diet, but at least that tube was out.
One of the procedures they did was taking a sample of a swollen lymph node. The results came back negative.
I was in that hospital exactly three weeks, from 21 October to 11 November. On that day I was transferred to a different hospital, because the one I’d been at had done all they could and were still unable to figure out what was wrong with me.
On the evening of 18 November, I was rushed into ICU. A nurse had walked in on me having a seizure. I don’t remember much about that night, except that there was alot of doctors around me looking frantic, and my pastor and his wife were standing next to me. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and every time I woke up, my pastor and his wife were there. That’s pretty much all I remember about that night.
Over the next several days, every time I was taken to have a different procedure done and pass someone, they would say, “There’s the trooper!”. I assumed that’s what they said to everyone. Then one day as I was about to start dialysis, the nurse walked in and said that. I asked why everyone was saying that to me, and she looked shocked and said, “You mean you don’t know!?” When I shook my head she asked if I remember the ICU. I said yes and she said, “A nurse walked in on you having a seizure, so they rushed you to ICU, where they discovered that your hemoglobin was four!” I asked what that meant and she said, “You only had a pint of blood in your body! You were dangerously close to dying that night. They had at least five tubes in you rushing blood in”. The reason my pastor was there is because he’s my power of attorney and they called him when they discovered that. For some reason I didn't make that connection until she told me that.
(Here's a video of her talking about it right after telling me)
One of the doctors wanted to look at the lymph node more thoroughly. So he had me scheduled for surgery to remove the whole thing. A couple days later, I finally had a diagnosis.
It was a rare blood cancer called Castleman Disease. It’s not full-fledged cancer, and the doctor called it a “semi-cancer”, but it still required chemo. They started treatment the next day, and immediately I started improving. My blood counts started going back up, and they were able to take me off dialysis because my kidneys started working again.
Part 2: Rehab
On 27 November 2015, the day after Thanksgiving, I was transferred to a rehab center. I’d been laying down the whole time I was in the hospital, and as a result I lost the use of my legs and basically had to relearn to walk. I could walk a little bit, but I relied heavily on a cane.
On 3 December, I went to church for the first time since before I got sick. I still couldn’t lift my legs too high and ended up having to be hoisted into my pastor’s truck. When I walked into the church building, everyone stood up and came to me and we had a group hug. I started bawling, and when I looked up I noticed everyone else crying as well.
Afterward, it was agreed that someone with a smaller vehicle would take me back, so I could climb in easier. I asked if we could stop by my work so I could say hi to my coworkers. I assumed they would be busy (it’s a restaurant), but to my surprise they didn’t have any customers. When I walked in, still relying on the cane, the girl behind the counter shouted my name in surprise, and there was a wave of my name going from the front of the restaurant to the back as the other people realized I was there and came to the front. We all got to chat for over ten minutes, and my manager told me that when I get better my job will still be waiting for me. Around that time my favourite coworker appeared and we hugged. I told her that I missed her the most.
Obviously, I lost the apartment I’d been approved for. But I called the office and the apartment manager said that since she knew me and understood my situation, she was holding another apartment for me. The first apartment was on the third floor, while the new one was basement level, which was more accessible to me in my condition.
On 18 December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in theaters. I knew I had to see it before the Internet was filled with spoilers. So on 19 December, I used Uber to go to the theater. It was my first time out on my own in months. I was still using the cane, but at least I sat most of the time. At least I was out on my own, unassisted. Or at all.
My last physical therapy session was on 31 December 2015. By then I didn’t really need the cane but took it with me to church just as a precaution. I was unable to move into the apartment because I still needed to pay for the deposit and first month’s rent, and I hadn’t worked in months. Luckily, someone from church offered to pay for it. I asked them to wait until the end of the month, because then the rent would be prorated and he only had to pay $175 total instead of $700.
On 29 January 2016, I moved into my new apartment. On 6 February, I went back to work.
Part 3: Independence
My pastor told me that the doctor told him after the ICU that I would never be independent again, that I’ll have to live in assisted living for the rest of my life. Three months later I was walking, living in an apartment alone, and back at work. Not just back at work, but I have more hours and do more than before. This was posted seven months later. As I was leaving the hospital, I'd befriended some of the nurses on Facebook, and I sent them some of my Just Dance videos. One of them showed the doctor who had said that, and he was in disbelief. Not at my mad dancing skillz (spelled, of course, with a "z"), but because I wasn't supposed to even be able to walk again, and here I am flailing around to We No Speak Americano.
I went to my work yesterday to order something. Normally when I’m there I wear my work shirt, which buttons up. Yesterday I wore a t-shirt, and it was the first time one of my coworkers had seen me in one. She saw the top of the dressing on the line in my chest where they do the chemo, and asked if I was okay. I told her it was for chemo. She was shocked, and said she thought I was gone all those months because I just didn’t feel well. I told her a very summarized version of this post, and she said I was amazing.
I’m not amazing. I did nothing. In fact, most of October and November, and part of December I cried everyday most of the day. One of the nurses even said she could tell I was getting better because I wasn’t crying as much.
But my point is that I had nothing to do with my recovery. It was Jesus. I had so many people praying for me in so many different states and countries. I’m still doing chemo every three weeks, but the doctor said that as long as I continue treatments I should be fine. As thus far I am fine. I feel fine. Better than ever!
This whole experience has taught me patience. I no longer worry about anything. If He wanted me dead, I wouldn’t be here now. I even told the doctors that my life is in His hands (they told my pastor I'm suicidal because of it. He said, "Well, then I'm suicidal, too, because my life is in God's hands as well"). And I made it through. So I don’t worry anymore. If something happens, it’s going to happen regardless. Nothing I can do about it, so worrying about it would be counterproductive.
I didn’t forget about this blog. I’m still without Internet on my computer, and I hate typing posts on my phone (I have been updating the Instagram account, though, so there’s that). But this was weighing heavily on my heart tonight. Several friends have suggested that I write about it, but I have been refusing. I don’t remember everything because I was either unconscious or drugged up, so I didn’t expect this to be more than three paragraphs at the most. But it ended up being so long that I just went back and added the “Part”s. (Yes, I typed this whole thing on my phone. When God leads you, he really leads…)
The title of this post comes from this song, which I’ve had stuck in my head the whole time I was typing it.
The biggest thing I hope people get from this is that prayer does work, and that anything can happen if you put your full trust and faith in Jesus. Also, doctors don’t know everything. Around the time I went into the hospital, my stepfather was also diagnosed with cancer (but, like, the real thing. Not a “semi-cancer”). A month ago he had tests done and his cancer is completely gone. The doctors are baffled with his case and with mine. So if you are diagnosed with something and the doctors tell you it’s hopeless, don’t listen to them. Jesus is called the Great Physician for a reason!
God is good!
Update on 4 September 2023
It's been eight years, and I am still doing chemo. But now I live in San Francisco, which has considerably better healthcare than Ohio. Instead of every three weeks, they've slowly moved it to every two months! I have a few other health issues, but they're completely unrelated, and are all manageable. My right leg still occasionally gives me issue, and I have a collapsible cane I keep in my bag incase of emergencies. I haven't needed it in a few months, but that's still a thing. I don't know if I'll ever be completely 100% healed, but considering where I was eight years ago, I'll take "slightly poor health" over that any day.