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Suck it up and Deal

Chapter 1: And so it goes...

I danced in the basement all the time. I didn't like it when people saw me dancing so I had to listen closely in case someone came downstairs. It didn't matter that it was brown and drab downstairs, as it was a one place where I actually had privacy. In my teen mind, that was all I needed. Well that and the older television for the music, and a couch to crash on. All told, I was safe.

I don't think I was the greatest dancer but I took jazz dancing when we lived in Valley Cottage, New York. Not far from New York city, my dance teacher had been famous in her day. Yet I wasn't meant for that life as we had to move this past summer, and Massena was the farthest place you could go from New York City. Honestly, my dance career was ended with puberty, as I was too shy by that point to ask to take lessons, although I was never shy in the basement. MTV blasting, I was too busy paying attention to the freedom and listening for intruders to realize I was veering close to my brother's barbells on the floor. I fell right into them hurting my ankle. My embarrassment kept me from telling anyone about the pain until the next day after I walked home from Junior High. By then it was really hurting. My mother is a damn good nurse. When my ankle started to swell, she brought me to a new orthopedic surgeon in our small town. Where many people would have chosen their family doctor, my Ma chose a specialist. Later, the doctors told us it was Ma's choice, this choice of a specialist right out of residency, that probably helped save my life. Scary if you think about it, one choice can be so important.

At first, it just seemed like a sprained ankle, yet the doctor believed the X-ray showed possible calcification of the bone, seemingly nothing important. He put me on pain medication and I was to return in two weeks for tests if it worsened. After two weeks, my ankle had doubled in size.

I'll never forget the morning of the tests. My mom worked for public health so we stopped by to see "the nurses" first. A very friendly, well-informed group of women, they tried to take gases at what my ankle was up to. It's funny looking back, no one said, "well it could be a tumor." It certainly never occurred to me.

I was to have blood work, a CAT scan, and a bone scan. After the CAT scan, one of the technicians told us to go back to the doctor's office before we went to the bone scan. Apparently, it was very clear to the technicians that something was wrong.

I remember my father was there when we figured out "the plan." Before the tests, our family's plan centered around my father. My dad was always a very hard-working electrical engineer. We had recently moved to Massena New York because he was to be the youngest resident manager of a New York State Power Authority project. The day of which I speak was actually the very day, the people of local industry and business were coming together to meet my father, and to celebrate his appointment to such an important position. Ironically, Dr. Piscapo was also a new member of the white color work force of Massena. It was his diagnosis of bone cancer that won the day, unfortunately. Although all members of my family attended the celebrations with smiles on our faces, I cannot even begin to imagine the fear, pain, and stomach-clenching anxiety my parents were experiencing. With the diagnosis came the fresh-out-of residency doctor's plan; send me to his last place of work, Massachusetts General Hospital.

Even though our lives were changing so radically, my parents had to get through the party before they could explain to my brothers what was going on. However, I felt it fell on me to tell them, as my parents had enough going on. Toby, my older brother of fifteen years old, quietly took all I had to say in. Jordan, eleven, and always the one with the most common sense of the group, was the one who was visibly concerned. I was thirteen years old, you see, and I was trying to explain what I did not understand.

"You're going to Boston with Mom and Dad?" "Yes, they think I might have a bone tumor." "When will you go?" "I have to be there on Monday." "When will you come back?" "I don't know." "Wow." There wasn't much to say, actually. What can you say as people are taking your picture, while your mind is numbly stuck in a molasses of all you don't know. How was I to know what it all meant?

It wasn't like I knew nothing about Cancer, you know. I watched some "made for television" movie about this girl with dark hair, who while playing soccer, broke her leg because she had a tumor. Nothing about that bothered me, it was just that I knew, somehow, cancer caused you to lose your hair. That was the part that concerned me. I liked my hair I didn't want to lose it. It's funny now when I think of it: I had no clue what was at stake.

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