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My Survival! <3

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know,
The way it all would the way it all would go,
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have the pain,
But I’d a had to miss the dance.”
Garth Brooks The Dance



Have you ever been alienated because of something you have experienced? Have you ever been the object of tests and exams? Have you ever been so close to death that you felt as if it was knocking on the door? How many nine-year old girls can say they are in the American Medical Journal? This story will tell you about the revelation that changed my life forever?

May 4, 1997

I have been at school all day. I came home and now I am lying on the couch. My body feels so numb, but at the same time I am in so much pain. I feel as if someone is gouging knives into my stomach, back, legs, and chest. My forehead is covered in perspiration. My house seems like an oven to me.

“Kara, are you feeling alright?” My mom asked.
“No, Mom! My head is pounding and my body is aching. I just need to rest before cheerleading practice. Wake me up if I fall asleep.” I replied.
“Ok, will do. Please take these Tylenol. Kara you are burning up. Do you think you should skip cheerleading tonight?”
“No way. I can’t. Competition is only a few weeks away!”

Cheerleading went okay tonight. Our squad has high hopes for the competition. At this point I don’t have hopes for tomorrow. The pain is back now that my mind is not distracted. The pain has seemed to increase the more I lay here. Mom and Dad are trying there hardest to assure me nothing is wrong. They are constantly telling me it’s going to be okay. I have a gut feeling something is VERY wrong with me. I have never been sick before. I only go to the doctor for shots and well visits. It’s been years since I have been there for being ill. Yet, something is still pushing me to go to the doctors…. the hospital even.

“Mom, I am going to get a shower.”
“Alright. When you get out I want to check your temperature again. I really don’t think I should have let you go to cheerleading tonight. You are white as a ghost now.”
“I will be out soon.”

No matter how much I tried to say I was fine I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t want to believe that I could really be ill. For the last few weeks and have been “run down” and dizzy. It was time for me to do something about it. Maybe after I get out of the shower I will be feel better. Hopefully anyway.

“Mom and Dad; May I sleep in your room for tonight? I am not feeling any better and I don’t want to sleep in my room alone. I will bring a futon chair in here and sleep on the floor. My head is burning up. These stomach pains are becoming more frequent and painful as the time passes on.”

“Sure Kara. We will get some blankets and your pillow. You just lay here for now.”

The hours of the night dragged on and on for hours. What seemed like an hour was really a minute. No matter what I tried to do or think about, I was restless. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I am tired. Yet, I am unable to even close my eyes. These tiny knives are gouging me deeper and deeper. The pain rages on inside my body. I glance over at the clock. Is that really what time it is…4:30AM in the morning. I have a game tomorrow morning. I was panic-stricken. I had to get up and go to my bed so I could sleep. I felt as if a ton of bricks were lying on top of me. I was frozen solid. I was unable to pick myself up. After about 5 minutes of trying I finally was up. I walked into the bathroom. Right then and there is when I realized the horror I was facing. I looked like a ghost. I felt like I was floating because of my dizziness. I sat on the floor right by the toilet and threw up several times. My mom and dad woke up to my coughing and rushed into the bathroom to see if I was ok.

I told them, “I need to go to the doctors now.”
“The doctors won’t be open until later on today.” My dad calmly stated.
“I can’t wait that long. I feel like someone is ripping my insides to pieces. I need help. I have been fighting this for weeks.”
“Alright honey. Let us get ready. Let me help you get back to your futon while we get changed. Everything is going to be alright Kara.” My mom promised.

Little did they know the nightmare that was about to begin. About 30 minutes later my dad was carrying me out to the car. Conrad and Nate, (my brothers), stayed at home. My parents assured them they would call with any news whatsoever. Nate and Conrad said, “Kara we love you, and you will be just fine.” I was so confused. I had no idea what to think. I remember being carried into the emergency room, with my mom by my side. She never left my side. She didn’t want me to feel alone. All I know is that I can’t stop crying. I am curled up in a ball on a hospital bed with a 104.9 temperature. After countless labs and tests the staff told me to go home and take Ibuprofen with Mylanta. They told us it was nothing to worry about. The nurses and doctors at Naples Community Hospital told me I was just ovulating.

“Then my mother asked the nurse,” What can you tell me about this rash she has on her neck.”
“That wasn’t there a few minutes ago. I noticed it on her back while we were examining her but didn’t think anything of it.”
During all this I just wanted to go home. I couldn’t stand the needles and the sounds of this place. I knew when they told me go to home they were making a huge mistake. I looked into my mother’s concerned eyes. She knew as well.

My father insisted the hospital call my pediatrician Dr. Troast before they discharged me. As I lie there in bed curled up like a baby I can see my mother crying. I was trying to be strong. Yet, as soon I saw her crying I was crying to.

My parents were nervous to hear what Dr. Troast’s diagnosis of my illness was. About 10 minutes later the nurse said to me, “Kara, we are going to put you in an ambulance to Children’s Medical Center in Ft. Meyers. Dr. Troast thinks your appendix has bursted.” Of course I had no idea what she was talking about so I just cried more and more. I said good-bye to my Dad. He left in a rush to go get the boys so they could there with me before I went into surgery.

My mom decided to ride in the ambulance with me. I didn’t want to ride alone. I was so scared. This was my first time in an ambulance. The EMT was showing me all the cool gadgets they use on people while they are riding to the hospital. He asked me if he could try some of the things on me. I was in too much pain so I told him no. I volunteered my mom so I can watch and try and get my mind off the pain. The pain was excruciating.

He used a blood pressure meter, a thermometer, and all kinds of machines on her. It was ironic because I was the one who is sick; and my mom is the one having all the tests administered on her.

Finally, we reached Children’s. I was taken to a pre-op(eration) room immediately. I was wheeled in on my gurney without anything explained to me. All I new was I was being taken in for some serious surgery. That is when I met my surgical team. Now at this point I have medicine running through my veins. I only remember to this day that Dr. Marchildon was the main surgeon. Lying there in this hospital gurney I had all kinds of crazy thoughts running through my head. Am I going to live? What is wrong with me? Why won’t anyone explain anything to me? Also, as I was lying there I wondered to myself….where are my dad and brothers? Why aren’t they here with me? Could this be so serious that they aren’t allowed to be in here with me? At this point there was a lot of whispering between my mothers and the doctors. I wanted to scream at them Tell me what’s wrong. Unfortunately there was a huge tube down my throat so I couldn’t tell me how I felt. Within a few moments I saw Nate, Conrad, and my dad walking briskly down the hall toward the pre-op room. I could tell, as they got closer that they tried to erase their fears off their face. I could see it just looking at them. My mother and Dr. Marchildon quickly informed my dad and brothers of the situation. I was completely in the dark. Everyone knew what was going on except me.

It seemed like hours later that Dr. Marchildon spoke to me. He tried to sugar coat my diagnosis. I knew something was very wrong. I could see it in everyone’s eyes.

“Kara…again my name is Dr. Marchildon. You are going to have a simple surgery. You should be out of the hospital by Sunday. You will also then be able to return to school. I believe your appendix has bursted.” Dr. Marchildon explained. I wanted to scream because I didn’t know what he meant by that.
“So this isn’t huge? Nothing bad is going to happen to me during surgery right?” I asked.
“This is a simple surgery. We open you up. We will take out your appendix. We’ll give you a little spring-cleaning inside and then close you up. Your scar will only be about 3 inches long.”
“Okay. When am I having this surgery?”
“We will give you some time with your family. As soon as an operating room becomes available we will have you in there.”

My family looked like they had all just been slapped across the face. I had never been sick. I have always been the healthy kid the doctors did not know existed. All of a sudden my perfect reality of being healthy started spinning out of control.

My brothers and parents waited in the waiting room for 5 hours. Later the doctors into a separate room to tell them how it went. My mom later told me that she did not have a good feeling when both my doctor and my surgeon were there. They were also concerned with the fact that my 1-hour surgery had lasted so long. This is what was explained to my parents and brothers. Despite the fact that all of the symptoms had shown that my appendix had already burst, it had not. The removed it because it was little infected but the real problem was that I had a massive abdominal and pelvic infection. The Doctors has to clean out off the infection they could while I was under the anesthesia. While they were into my abdomen they removed a large portion of my small intestines and found a condition called diverticulitis. My parents were told that “diverticulitis” was a condition that was found in 60 to 70 year old men. Usually this condition is found when the coroner is performing an autopsy after their death. That was pretty scary and hard to understand for my family and I. The infections were what made me so sick and irritable. I had never felt so exhausted and tired in my life. Nor had I ever been so frightened.

The incision in my abdomen, which I had expected to be 2-3 inches long, was about 7 inches long. Because of all the infection inside of me the doctors were not able to put stitches in me or close my incision up. It was over a month later when this giant gash in my abdomen (which is how it felt to me) healed together completely. I had a tube inserted into my lower abdominal area for the first 7 days in the hospital in order to let the infection drain out. It was pretty uncomfortable to look at so I did not for the first few days. It was also really disgusting to look at all the infection as it drained out. I was on Morphine every four hours for the first 5 days after they surgery because if the pain. I also had a tube attached to my nose for the first 5 days. I still have a small scar on my nose that shows up at times. A nurse tells me that is will always be there. I was on 9 different kinds of antibiotics and medicines including the Morphine right after surgery. Most of them were to fight the two massive infections. My mom tells that I slept in between the times the nurses came in to take blood or to drain the tube from my incision. This was done about every 2 hours or so. I was allowed to get out of the bed on the third day and I had to pull a card along that was filled with my medicines. The cart was also attached to my IV and the tube in my stomach and pelvic areas. My mom would try to talk me into doing more laps around the nurse’s station. It was fun to get out of bad but it hurt really badly. I had to take my time and go really slow. On the 6th night my Dad stayed all night with me and my mom went home with my brothers. I walked more laps that day with my dad than with anyone else. I walked seven laps to be exact. That was a lot compared to the one a day I walked with my mommy. We of course had to tease my Mom about that.

A few of my friends and friends of my parents came to visit. Teddy Bears and stuffed animals were sent from the Grandparents. Balloons were sent from my class and flowers from other relatives helped cheer up my room while I was in the hospital. My mom sat beside my bed and slept in a chair whole time. She would read to me when I was awake and tell me stories to try to distract me from everything that was going on. Most the time it helped but sometimes I was really angry about why this had happened to me. I continue to be scared that it will happen again. The doctors sent away a sample of my appendix ad the other tissue to find out how I got such a serious infection. They also were trying to figure out how it can be treated. They even put everyone in my family on a special drug for a while to make sure they didn’t get sick. On the 5th day the doctor called my parents to the opposite side of the room I was in. The doctor then told them while reviewing the biopsy; the hospital lab had found cancer. My cancer was called a carcinoid tumor. My mom and dad decided not to tell me about the cancer yet, so I did not understand when an Oncologist came to visit my mom. He and my mom talked while I was playing Nintendo game that the nurses had brought to my room. It wasn’t until I asked my parents that they told me. It turned out that once the appendix was gone the cancer was gone. I was really scared but I was also really lucky that I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy. I still have to visit an oncologist once a year for blood work. I have learned a lot about myself since I got sick. You see before I got sick I was not independent at all. I was the baby of the family with two older brothers and parents that pretty much did everything for me. I did not do a whole lot on my own. Some would say I that I was even a little spoiled. When I was recovering in the hospital I wanted to do everything on my own. I had to be able to certain things before I was allowed to go home or return to school. It would have been and easier to let my mom help me, and she tried, but I insisted on doing it all myself. My mom later told me that she was really proud of the independence I had found. My brothers and my dad said they liked me better before when I was sweet and agreeable to everything that they told me. They even teased me that Dr. Marchildon filled me with **** and vinegar that made me stand up for my self and challenge and question them on everything. I don’t know if they every got used to my new confidence and independence but I sure was different after that.

It took me 5 weeks before I was allowed to go back to school. My fifth grade teacher helped me pass all of my subjects and the class even postponed the DARE program and the 5th grade graduation until I could go back to school. I was really glad for that. Some of the kids at school asked me questions about cancer. That was scary for me because I did not really know how to answer them since I didn’t even understand what had happened to me. Some of the kids were afraid to sit by and me or hang out with me at first. They thought they could “catch” cancer. I tired to believe that they were afraid like I was. As a fifth grader cancer is a pretty hard concept to grasp and handle. I learned who my true friends were back then and made some news ones to.

I have had some health issues since then but that’s okay. I have participated in the annual Relay for Life cancer walk since I moved to Ohio in 1997. I have many special memories, laughs and tears from these walks. You see my grandmother is a cancer survivor. We now both realize how truly blessed we are. WE also realize that even though cancer is the scariest thing we have ever had to go through, we wouldn’t be the people we are today without that experience. We are better and stronger people now. Cancer has made us more appreciate of the people around us that love us. Cancer has also made us learn and accept certain things about who we are and what is important to us. My life is completely different now because of all I have been through. I have had a lot of difficult times since then. However my faith, my family, and my friends will help me deal with whatever comes my way. Cancer has made me an individual but at the same time has made me a part of an amazing group of people. It has brought me some of my most precious memories to this day. My best friend Alex Fiegly talks to me while I am on my way to the oncologists’ office just so I don’t get scared of the needles. To this day, I am scared to death of them. Alex, and others, made me realize no matter how bad things get that I can not forget the people who love and care about me. The song I quoted at the beginning of the song is how I feel about my battle with cancer.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know,
The way it all would the way it all would go,
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have the pain,
But I’d a had to miss the dance.”
Garth Brooks The Dance



This song is saying that we should live our life how it is thrown at us. I personally believe life has its ups and downs, but never dredge on the negativity. I could have missed the pain of the cancer but I would have missed a huge part of my life. I would have missed the dance.
KaraDHolmes KaraDHolmes 26-30, F 1 Response Oct 4, 2012

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That is quite a story. Have you read 'Pilgrims Progress' by John Bunyan? I think you may appreciate it

I have not but I will check my library and see if they have a copy of it!