|Current mood:|| relieved|
Midnight runs and trips down memory lane...
I love running to the point of exhaustion. Start slow, setting a steady pace. Mind blank, arms pumping slightly, legs thrusting ahead. Breathing steadily, rounding the corners, barely even noticing the scenery or other people. Ambient sounds fade until the only thing you can hear are your own rhythmic pants for air. Blank. Stillness. Before long, you can feel every muscle working, burning just slightly. I love that feeling. I can’t describe why it makes me feel so incredibly awake and alive. It just does. Stretch out the run, still keeping that steady pace.
Round the corner, loop, half-way home.
Increase the speed, running as fast as you can down the street. Feet hitting the pavement in time to your own gasping for breath. Lungs and muscles burning. Sweat dripping. Running until you can run no more.
I run for a few reasons. The most important one being that it brings me clarity of mind that I can’t get any other way. I run to cope with my problems. To me, running is therapeutic. Everyone is different.
I am so incredibly sore right now. I managed to get a 45 minute run in tonight. I hurt. I deny being a fitness nut, because I’m anything but. I eat whatever I damn well please. Red meat, fried foods, sweets. The same goes for drinking. I’m a southerner; our blood is 50% grease. I can’t deny that I have the natural vanity that comes with youth. I do. It sounds incredibly arrogant, but I know that I look decent. I have that clean-cut appeal that most parents adore while still having a bad boy reputation that girls love. They always want to be the one to change you. Stupid girls for thinking they can fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed. Stupid me for not wanting to be fixed. However, I’m not stupid enough to think that I did anything to deserve this. It’s genetic Russian roulette with genetics.
There are so many things going on in my head at the moment. Serious stuff that extends past how to get Ashley into my bed on Friday night. Sometimes I think that I think too much. Sometimes the unfairness of life gets to me. The thoughts I have are about things that a 22 year-old shouldn’t have to worry over. I project images everywhere I go. Cheerful, care-free happiness. Selective people only know how I can manage to worry myself to the point of pain. Headaches and stomachaches and insomnia.
While I’m anxious to return home and get away from this city, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment waiting. I’m not afraid of the doctor, especially considering I grew up with a family of them. I’m terrified of the results they give.
When I was younger, I had cancer. The anonymity issue arises, so I’m not going into details. It was a latter staged lymphoma, and I was lucky it was caught. The kind of cancer I had was difficult to diagnose simply because most all of the symptoms could be passed off as puberty-induced or as a result of a cold that was difficult to shake. Anemia, weight loss, low-grade fever, and lymph swelling. Either way, I went through chemotherapy and since then, have been cancer free. It’s funny, because even going through treatments, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to complete my required rounds of chemotherapy and begin my life again. Never. I never thought of relapse. Never.
I’ve found that the older I get, the more terrified I become of relapse. It’s funny how the smallest things, the slightest bodily function anomaly that occurs, can strike such fear into my heart. The cancer rates are abnormally high on both sides of my family. On my mother’s side, I recently lost an aunt to breast cancer, while my great grandfather died of colon cancer. My uncle had and is in remission for colon cancer. On my father’s side, I have two aunts with breast cancer. One having completed her treatment years ago and the other currently undergoing a second round of treatment. My uncle recently died of lung cancer, within two weeks of the aunt I mentioned above. Then there’s me. Granted, I’m also extremely worried for my mother and my sister, but I get an added bonus. The cancer that I had makes me predisposed to develop other cancers later in life. The odds that I will relapse are slim, but my chances for developing something like Leukemia, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, etc are uncomfortably high. That terrifies the living hell out of me. Not death, per se, but what my death would do to others. Out of all of my siblings, I have the best and closest relationship with my parents. I’m not trying to be sentimental or earn some sort of sympathy by saying that my parents are probably my best friends. It’s as true of a statement as I can give. If something happened to me, it would kill my parents. And, I don’t say that metaphorically. It’s an amazing thing to feel loved enough to say something like that. I know I’m lucky in that respect.
I should clarify that this is the kind of thought process I get when my annual oncologist visits begin to creep up. Once a year, I go and get stabbed with a needle for another twelve months of peace of mind. It’s worth it. I learned to not be bothered by needles very early on. It’s hard not to grow immune when weekly bloodlabs become a routine.
I say my whole obsession with relapse is a bad thing, but it isn’t entirely. Through this, I get this overwhelming urge to live life, to make memories, to enjoy everything while I can. I know I am far better off than many, many people. I have my health, and even happiness, on the occasions that I pull my head out of my ass in this city.
I miss going into the oncology clinic. That sounds like an odd statement, and probably only really understandable to the people who have ever been… whether receiving treatment or simply giving comfort. You look around, and you see so many reasons for you to be happy. You see so many people worse off. Children bone thin with ghostly complexions. Amputees. Seeing that gives you the kind of appreciation for life that nothing else will ever compare. But, memories fade with time, and even thinking back doesn’t produce the same kinds of results.
I see so many people, myself included at times, so angry with their life and their reality. And then I can think of that kid I used to be, happy with just being allowed out of his hospital bed to go to the play room to paint. Two days after diagnosis. Two days after an invasive liver biopsy, port-a-cath placement, and two bone marrow aspirations. Two days after a long surgery that made me incredibly sick. Didn’t even have a voice due to being intubated during the length of the surgery. Yet, happy to be able to play with the other kids.
I was only 12.
It’s scary to grow up that quickly. Overnight you’re forced to change. My parents and doctors were great though, attempting to keep me blissfully happy in my childhood despite all the problems. Try as they might, it’s not something that can be stopped. It happens, whether we like it or not. You can’t go through something like this and not be changed. These are some of the most vivid memories I have of my life. And, they weren’t always bad. When I was sick, I learned to love to draw. I learned to love arts & crafts or any sort. I learned to accept being stuck in a hospital room. You make the best of it. You make new friends. You decorate the walls with drawing and pictures. You cope.
I was resilient when I was younger. That fades with time. I can’t imagine going through that now that I’m older. Granted, I was old enough to understand most everything that was happening. I understood pain, I understood I was sick, but I also naively and blindly trusted in my doctors and treatments available. It’s funny how memories get distorted over time. From the entire experience, I remember being sick. I remember my first chemo had me so incredibly sick that I managed to vomit away nine pounds worth of body weight. I remember getting Shingles and being hospitalized for such. I remember being happily driven home the times my blood counts were too low to receive treatment. I remember giving myself daily injections to improve those blood counts. I remember blood transfusions that always made me feel so much better. But, most of all, I remember the good stuff. Craft projects and new people. Friends who understood the complexities of a bald head, daily meds, scans, and hospital days.
Even so, one of my clearest memories (aside from chemo #1) was my first bone marrow aspiration. I remember the terror I felt as my dad explained the procedure to me. I do have to mention how thankful I am to my parents, for how they treated me. My dad told me everything. He didn’t believe in the adage that “ignorance is bliss”. He thought I was intelligent enough and old enough to not go into things blindly. Granted, it did induce fear, but at least I was never surprised. I still remember how the “sleepy time” medicine they gave me tasted. Bright red like cheery flavored cough syrup. I remember sitting up on the examination table, bony legs hugged to my chest, explaining to my dad that they must not had given me enough medication because I wasn’t feeling a bit sleepy. The next thing I remember was my dad picking me up and helping the nurses as they laid me flat on the table. I remember them lifting my hips and placing a small pillow underneath. I remember my dad helping in all this. And, I remember, at that moment, thinking he was such a traitor. The sight of the needle scared me to death. That’s about the time I started crying. If you’ve ever seen a bone marrow needle, you’d cry too. I was told I’d feel “a little pressure”. The pain was incredible. I’ve felt few things in my life that compare. The next thing I remember is watching “Dennis the Menace” in the clinic waiting room. I dozed in and out. Even by the end of the day, the medication they’d given me was too much and I was still too drunk to walk by myself. I remember my dad throwing me up on his shoulder and carrying me to the hospital, where I was being admitted so they could run even more tests.
It’s a scary thing to be that young and know you’re sick and know the doctors don’t know yet what is the matter.
Most of my other memories though, were positive. It came as a shock that a few years ago, while talking with my parents about how well I’d done during treatments that reality blew through my clouded memories. My dad stopped what he was doing and turned to look at me, his expression that of complete and utter surprise. “How well you did?” He asked me, his tone incredulous. “Seth, we thought you were going to die. For a long time, we weren’t sure you were strong enough to make it through the treatments. Don’t you remember that?” I remember shaking my head blankly. I didn’t. I still don’t. I remember bad, but I never remember that bad.
It’s an odd thing how the memory works.
And now, four pages later, I’ve run out of words.