Growing up I was always taught that the natural progression in life was you learn in your childhood, work throughout your adulthood, then you retire and reap what you have sowed until you die. It’s like everyone’s life is a story with a regular introduction, climactic middle, and hopefully peaceful end.
At 34 years old I assumed I was in the middle of this story of mine called life. Routinely going through my mundane days, trying to successfully play out my role as a partner in a long term relationship, a manager in a fast past department in the corporate world, and a daughter, sister, friend and family to many. I thought “well, this is it…” I expected to run into climatic dramas throughout those years but already accepted that I was already defined as to who I was supposed to be.
One night in the Spring of 2015 I got up, got ready for my graveyard shift at the casino and had my day already set out in my head. I went on my regular 3am break, ordered my usual salad (I’m quite a creature of habit thanks to my minor OCD) and sat down to have my usual 30min browse on my social media on my phone and devour what I can before I am called out on the floor again. But that night a small insignificant incident, that many people encounter, turned out to be the turning point in my life. That night I bit my tongue.
A couple of weeks past and what turned into a small bite, I assumed at that time, got infected. I brushed off my health problems to the fact that I worked graveyard and never got enough sleep. I mean that was the reasons behind all my health problems in the past. I looked for natural ways online to heal canker sores, and admittedly waited way too long before seeing a doctor about it, not an excuse but anyone who works graveyards will understand how things can easily be put off when your sleep needs to be scheduled in. Then in August I developed a throat infection and had no choice but to see a doctor. At that time the sore would sometimes look like it was healing then the next day just look horrible. I was prescribed antibiotics and was assured that it would also take care of the canker sore and that my throat infection is what aggravated it. After completing my filled prescription my throat infection healed but my tongue did not… so I was prescribed a topical steroid based cream. By then it was getting difficult to eat, my tongue would get inflamed without warning, and yawning or sneezing cause immense pain. Seven days passed and I went back to the doctor. I told him the cream hasn’t worked and I was starting to self-diagnose myself, thanks to the internet. He looked me straight in the eye pulled out his cellphone and showed me that I’m too young and don’t fall under any category so I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I was advised to find a dentist as they were oral specialist and understand the entire mouth. He told me not to stress and that we were going to take care of this.
I had an immense fear of dentists, I just never had a great experience and they eventually became one of my phobias. I sat there in the dental chair praying that we were going to fix this with another medicine and that I had nothing to worry about. The dentist looked around my mouth, had his assistant take photos and made the suspicious “hm, ok, um” sounds. They sat me up and he sat down. He asked me if I smoke, if I every smoked and how much alcohol I consume. I don’t smoke now, I was a minimal social smoker in my 20’s and I don’t like to drink. I was an admitted cannabis smoker, but he told me cannabis isn’t necessarily a factor. A FACTOR? A factor in what? Then he says it doesn’t look good and I need you to see an oral surgeon. I felt the tears falling and knew inside what it was, neither one of us said anything until it was confirmed. It must have been serious because he made on phone call and I had an appointment to see the specialist later that evening.
At this point I was preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. This time my sister came with me. Again it was another minor invasive exam and I was sat up. Dr. Samsung Ng was very warm, he put his hand on my arm took a big sigh and explained to me that this isn’t the first case he’s seen and that we would need to do a biopsy to confirm, but he can almost guarantee that my canker sore that I thought was infected, was in fact a lesion, and it was CANCER. The C word was brought up throughout all my appointments but at that very moment was when it hit me that now it was now associated with me.
I HAVE CANCER.
The tears running down my face have never burned as much as they did that moment. I looked at my sister and had no words. I went home, crawled into bed, held onto my boyfriend as I told him the news and he laid there in silence. I honestly can’t remember exactly what he said that day, I knew it was words of positivity or something of that nature, but anything that was said sounded like the voice of the mother on The Peanuts.
All I could think was this was IT, this was the end. I had my introduction through childhood, had my climactic adulthood and will have a not so peaceful end. Little did I know these whole 34 for years before Cancer was my entire introduction into life. And I needed this dramatic climatic event to live.