Around this time last year I was battling stage 4 cancer, hospitalized with an unknown infection, spiking 106 degree fevers, and locked away in the neutropenic ward of a hospital (think Boy in the Bubble). Of all the hospitalizations I suffered during my cancer ordeal this was the worst one. Between the severe fevers and intense painkillers I lost touch with reality on several occasions.
When the fevers were making their deadly climb I would lose pockets of time. One moment I was watching my fever reach 106 while my heart rate hit 190 and then the next I’m back down to a more manageable 103 degree fever and a heart rate of 160. Everything in between was erased by the constant pain. It even made me forget I was in a hospital room leaving only raw sensations to define my existence. Tossing and turning on a vinyl mattress covered in thin sheets. The sweat on my body taking me from supernova to ice cube in minutes. My thoughts raced with no coherent stream, swirling in my mind like angry bees. I couldn’t grab onto a single one long enough to follow its path. Every ounce of me was overloaded.
Then there were the painkillers, quickly administered into my power port to course through my body in seconds. According to my wife I became quite the chatty Cathy when on morphine. I already talked a lot when nervous, so I can only imagine the insane speeds I hit on opiates. This was the time when I began hallucinating friends visiting me. This was also around the time of my birthday. The picture at the top of the post was my birthday cake. My wonderful wife brought it into my room a couple of minutes after midnight. She had to relight the candle because the HVAC system in a neutropenic room pushes all the air out when you enter the room. I was so twisted on medication and pain that I was genuinely surprised to see her walk in. The look on my face broke her heart. In essence, I spent my birthday trying not to die.
Things are much different this year, but it’s hard to shake off those memories. I could have easily died in that room and often times I wasn’t even coherent enough to understand that simple fact. My wife stayed by my side the entire time enduring what could only be described as a hellish waking nightmare. I was trapped in my mind with no escape plan. I’m still not sure how I made it out.