After 10 years cancer free Christine develops a brain tumor and radiation, for the second time, is the only way forward. She is 16.
One morning, 3 days before my planned trip to Toronto to visit friends, I was awakened early by muscle convulsions in my hand, and then my left arm was taken control of and started thrashing around uncontrollably, while I was laying in my bed trying to keep conscious and breathing. I felt my arm smash the cup of water off my bed table, and as my entire body began to shake uncontrollably, my eyes began to almost rock back in my head, all I could see was the corner of my red walled bedroom. I thought for sure I was dying and although I tried to scream for help only little squeaks came from my mouth, and while my vision came back to normal and I started to hyperventilate, I decided to get the phone and call my mother at work. But as I tried getting up I was pinned on my back. I tried and tried repeatedly to sit up, and although it took all my strength and all my muscles, I finally got up.
I grabbed the telephone and tried to make it down to the kitchen to get my mom's number. As I got up I stumbled out of my room with almost no control and tried for the hallway, but as I kept going I kept falling and getting up was almost impossible. I began to cry thinking I would be found dead lying there on the floor, but something made me get back up to my feet and stagger to the stairs. Somehow, I made my way down the stairs and to the kitchen to call my mom, but as I got her on the line and sat down, the words that came from my mouth made no sense, my mom could not understand me. She asked where my brother was but I had looked for him and all I found was a boy I didn't know working on the patio. As I went towards the garage my brother walked in and saw me, he was as confused as I was. He couldn't figure out why I was crying, and I dropped the phone and he picked it up and told my mom there was something wrong with me. My mom had a lady in the office call 911 and someone called my father at work.
My brother sat me down in a chair and tried to calm me and figure out what had happened. I showed him my left hand still convulsing, and then the boy from outside came in (he was one of my brother's best friends). He came to my side and saw me crying and held my hand to try to calm me as the paramedics came. The paramedics, not knowing the seriousness of my situation, arrived 15 minutes later and hooked me up to a heart monitor, thinking I had a stroke or heart attack. Ya, a heart attack at my age... right, but they only do their job. I tried to warn them my hand was convulsing rapidly and "it was going to happen again" and it did. "it" turned out to be a seizure, now my worst fear in life besides death and spiders. As it started shaking again they realized the seriousness of what was happening and took me in the ambulance where I had another seizure. They didn't have enough time to take me to CHEO so we stopped at another hospital. There they pumped anti seizure medication into my blood to stabilized me before I was send off again in an ambulance to CHEO.
It was hard the first couple of weeks, having MRIs and CAT scans, and having no clue what the doctors were thinking. Then one day 3 of the doctors came in and said they were still unsure of the problem, but 3 possibilities they said were stroke, heart attack or brain tumor. When I heard brain tumor my mind was saying no, no that’s not possible, it can't be.
Well I'm sure you heard the saying "never say never". About a week later one of the doctors showed up with 3 strangers and just bluntly stated "It seems Christine has a brain tumor", no preparation, no I'm sorry, no proof, no explanation, nothing but the blunt truth. As soon as I heard it I went into utter shock, "what the f**k! he did not just say that!" Then I put my head in my mother's arms and began balling. It was true, my worst enemy had just hit me again, another knife in the back. At that moment I had no idea just how long and trying this battle would be. It was probably the most emotional challenging event of my life. I had had all the freedom I could taste, but now it was about to be slowly taken from me.
It was a long wait to find out exactly what kind of tumor and the treatment for it, and most importantly the cost if I were to survive. I was told that they wanted to try a still experimental form of oral chemo therapy using Etopiside and Temazolimide. They told me about the side effects, then the doctor was straight forward with me and explained that there was a chance they might have to do radio therapy. That's what got me. How is it that the daemon that betrayed me will save me? How can I trust it? Irony: at 4 the only way to cure my cancer which relapsed, was to try performing radiation. At 15 I find out that the radiation has caused secondary cancer. At 16 I am told I need radiation to really control my cancer, which has relapsed and is getting bigger. Now I must trust in the cause to save me.
How can you put faith in something that has betrayed you like radiation? I always had faith in God and he has never betrayed me so how can I put my life in the hands of the daemon that is already killing me? I don't know how I did it but with God on my side I shook hands and made peace with my daemon. I trust him again. It seems crazy knowing I won't know for at least six months if it really did work and I'll never know how long I have before my cancer strikes back, but there is no way I am giving up now, I have come so far and been through so much, I don't care what I have to do, this girl isn’t going down!
A Childhood Cancer Survivor Poem
© 2016 Christine Mulvihill
Here I am drowning in the sea
A sea of everything I don't want to be
A sea of all my failures and mistakes
A sea of my tears and splitting headaches.
Waves of sorrow wash over my face
I go under with a silent grace
I fall down deeper in my depression
Deeper and deeper into my obsession.
I'm overwhelmed with all my faults
My skin is burning from the salts
Salts of what I could have been
If only I could have seen
What the future has in store
How soon I would reach the shore.
Now my storm dried up in the sun
Maybe I am a lucky one.
Now I'm walking on water because I have Faith
This tortuous dungeon I have escaped
I hold His hand as He walks me to land
I bend down and kiss the merciful sand.
So happy to have found happiness again
Now the sun overpowers the rain
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
I once was lost but now am found.
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