Cherish Every Breath

Meaghan - Harrisonburg, Virginia
Entered on September 15, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in appreciating life. Not the small things in life – but life itself. This past fall, a routine trip to the dermatologist changed my life forever. What my primary care physician diagnosed as a mere cyst turned out to be far worse than I ever could have imagined. As my dermatologist examined my back, his facial expression turned sour. “We’re going to need to remove this cyst,” he said. I was extremely nervous and hesitant, but my mother who is a nurse wouldn’t allow me to protest. I laid on my stomach on the paper-covered examination table, creating loud crinkles with each nervous twitch. A shot of Novocain was all I received before I felt what looked like an Exacto knife pierce my fragile skin. I squeezed my mother’s hand and focused on her warmth in order to distract me from the uncomfortable stinging that was overcoming my back. A “quick” 15 minutes later, my impromptu surgery was complete. I left my “routine appointment” with a sore back marred with a row of black, Frankenstein-esque stitches. A week or so later I received a phone call from the local pathology lab telling me that I had a consultation appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital. I skipped school that Thursday and drove into Boston with my parents, completely unaware of my fate. After hours of waiting and watching the snow heavily spiral outside, I was ushered into a small, sterile-looking room. A surgeon introduced himself, poked at my back for a few minutes, and then left. A nurse came in not long after, and told me that my surgery date was January 2nd. I was dazed and confused. “What surgery do I need?” I asked. “A tumor bed excursion. Don’t worry, you’ll only need bed rest for about a month,” the nurse replied. Never in my entire life have I felt so vulnerable. Two short weeks later I was in a Johnny, with IVs, catheters, and drains encompassing what felt like every square inch of my body. I couldn’t eat for about 3 days, and every movement I made had to be aided by a nurse. I thank God that my mother is a caring nurse herself, because she made the transition from the hospital bed back to high school that much easier for me. I must have worn pajamas to school for about a month, and I carried a pillow to rest my back against the chair with. Sure I got asked, “Where’s the pillow fight?” at least once a day, but those people didn’t have to know. They didn’t have to know what I went through because I know what I went through. Luckily, my cancer is now in remission, but that doesn’t hinder my newfound appreciation for life. I appreciate being able to get in and out of bed and dress myself. I appreciate cuddling, dancing, and having hair. I appreciate life.