Cancer... And You Thought Your Life Sucked...Well here it goes… I can finally talk about it in complete detail. Everything here is too chaotic to make up and should I be lying about anything in this note, God will smite me in a most excruciating manner.
In October, 2007 I started to have these back pains. Nothing important, or so I thought at the time. As the months progressed, they started to get worse. In about late May to early June, 2008, the back pains became so severe that I couldn’t even move without feeling that sharp, agonizing torture. To describe the feeling, did you see the movie X-Men: Origins? The part when sabretooth grabs the teleporting guys spine? Yeah that’s what it felt like every day.
I finally went to the doctor. You know what he said? He took an x-ray and said that I had gas. So I took some Gas-Ex but the pain was still there. I went back and the Doc then said that I was constipated. So I cleaned out my system. Yeah it’s gross but it’s part of the story and I’m trying not to leave out any details, and this is too extreme. You can't make any of this up. It didn’t work so I went back and this time the Doc sent me to ER to get an MRI. The Doc at the ER said that he didn’t think I needed to go through an MRI. He said that I had a torn abdominal muscle and gave me some Motrin 800 to relieve the pain until it heals.
I then went off-island on a trip to LA to accompany my girlfriend while she takes care of some affairs. I know how she is when it comes to telling people about what she does when she goes to LA, or this certain thing about her, but don’t worry, it’s something really legit, no shopping sprees or anything like that. Well anyways while I was out there the pain never went away. It actually seemed to get worse as each day passed. I couldn’t even sleep in a bed. I would just curl up on the chair or push the chair to the side of the bed and try to sleep that way, with my legs resting on the side of the bed.
I came back and went back to the doctor. He said that something must really be wrong for the pain to still be there at that intensity. He then called in a personal favor to a colleague of his who runs the nearby radiology center to keep the clinic open for me (it was around 7pm) so I could undergo a CT Scan. When I went in for the scan, I couldn’t even lie down, let alone keep still with the IV tube for the contrast stuck in my hand. I stayed still as long as I possibly could. The scan wasn’t finished but I just couldn’t stay still anymore. I started to sit up, pulling the IV tube out, and bled on the table. From the scans that they were able to take, it turns out that I had a spinal tumor on the thoracic 10 vertebrae. The technical report sounded like this: Patient underwent a CT Scan and a destructive osseous lesion involving the thoracic 10 vertebrae and is suspicious for malignancy with an infectious process less likely.
After the scan I was immediately sent to GMH (Guam Memorial Hospital) for four days. While I was there a needle biopsy was done. At first the sample of the tumor that was taken was diagnosed as a hyperparathyroidism induced “brown tumor”, which turned out to be another misdiagnosis. It was recommended that I be sent off-island for further evaluation and possible surgery with a neurosurgeon.
By the time I left the hospital, I was no longer able to use my legs. I was home for about a week trying to get affairs in order to get to a hospital in the mainland. I left Guam on 16 August, 2008, and arrived in LA to go to Good Samaritan Hospital. I was scheduled to have a meeting for a consultation with the neurosurgeon on the following Tuesday, but I was in so much pain that I went straight into their ER from the airport. I was admitted right then and the following day I had my emergency surgery.
During the surgery, as the surgeon cut into the tumor, I bled on the table. It was then that they discovered that the tumor had developed its own circulatory system and latched itself onto mine. As this happened I went into cardiac arrest induced by spinal shock and was clinically dead for 2 minutes. The surgeon had no choice but to seal the tumor and reconstruct my spine. He place in two rods, three plates, and 8 pins to stabilize my spine. I was in surgery for a total of about 18 hours. Only less than 30% of the tumor was removed.
After the surgery, I was told by my neurosurgeon that I was never going to be able to walk again. I spent a lot of time coming to the conclusion that I would never have the life I had, that things would never be the same again. I also found out that the correct diagnosis of the tumor was a “giant cell carcinoma”, technical term “osteoclastoma”. These tumors are common but only in elbows, knees, fingers, ankles, and toes, not in someone’s spine. This was the first recorded case in medical history.
I then underwent 26 sessions of radiation therapy to try to shrink the tumor, all the while going through intense physical and occupational therapy, to try to gain the use of my legs and/or to learn to live with my new disability. The radiation was able to shrink the tumor, but within less than a month the tumor was back to its original size. Another problem came up when I developed radiation-induced esophagitis. Basically that means that the membrane that separates my throat from my stomach has been burned through radiation, now making me bulimic and anorexic, not by choice. It wasn't fun at all...
I came back to Guam, tumor and all, to try to find some sense of normalcy. When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my girlfriend, or fiancée at the time, broke up with me. So I lost my education, my legs, my career, my love. What more could I lose? But then I spoke too soon. I got news from my doctor in LA that the tumor has become cancerous and that it is going to kill me in time. How much time? Does it really matter? All I want to say is to shut up and stop complaining about how your life sucks, there are people out there who have it exponentially worse than you. As for me? I’m not complaining, I’m merely giving you a reason for self-evaluation to see if you're life is REALLY as bad as you think it is.
As of right now, I'm now pretty much independently mobile. No wheelchair, no crutches, no cane, no assistance, no problem! I've been able to pick myself back up after falling so hard. My life has taken a new direction, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Just different. I can resume where I left off in all aspects of my life, and I am completely grateful for this second chance. I guess my point is that the only person that keeps you from accomplishing anything... is you.
Once again, nothing in this note was made up. Everything is 100% legit. I’ve experienced every kind of suffering imaginable; physical, mental, emotional, existential. I know for a fact now on what to expect if I should ever be condemned to hell. The only thing I hope for when my time comes can be summed up as:
I was alive... I didn't merely exist...