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So, How Long Do You Have to Live? Chapter 4 of Suck it Up and Deal

I soon settled into a life of hospitals, tests, physical therapy and chemotherapy. At thirteen, my priorities were not that different from other teenagers without cancer. When I had a new roommate, for example, I had my first question all ready for the unsuspecting individual.

General Hospital or Guiding light?

This was my priority, and not even cancer would change that.

In fact, chemotherapy worked with my soap opera schedule. We would check into the hospital in the morning, get the necessary tests done, and get settled in the hospital room. At three o'clock, as General Hospital was coming on the air, they administered my most frequent chemo drug, "Methotrexate." It looked like Orange Tang, but was far more deadly. I would sit back, allowing the I.V. poison to stream into my system, happy knowing that Luke and Laura, Felicia and Frisco, and my other television friends were all falling in love somewhere in a hospital in Port Charles. Awww, the irony.

Did you know Chemotherapy was the injecting of poison into your system? Long after the actors entertained me, six hours later, I would be getting sick to my stomach and exhausted; frequently throwing up through the night. At some point, I was given the "rescue drug" so I would not die, but the subsequent illness only got worse and worse with each passing treatment. Make no mistake, this treatment kills cancer cells. It saved my life. It was a horribly way, but it was the only way.

Then, my thirteen year old body would bounce back from this. Every time a treatment was done, my mission was waiting for my body to bounce back enough to go home. In a few weeks, with proper rest and recovery, I would return for another round. Then, we would start again. Each time, I was sicker than the last.

So, I kept watching General Hospital when I could. Since I would stay in the hospital for treatment, and it was often, I became a Pediatric Floor "regular." That meant every time I came, I had to have a roommate. My first hope, always, was to be the odd kid who is last and had no roommate, but this did not happen often. I didn't want another "chemo kid" because I found only more nausea from their illness on top of my own. I also didn't want a kid with an "immediate recovery" illness like an appendicitis or a broken leg. These children were showered with gifts for the smallest of injuries because that is what happened in a "normal" kids life: hospitalization was temporary and "special" in that world. My hospitalizations were a routine. I may have been fighting unbelievable odds and at risk of death every time they put the poison in my body but I would be back again and again.

If that weren't ironic enough, I preferred roommates with Cystic Fibrosis. In 1984 the life expectancy for a child with Cystic Fibrosis was somewhere between the 1960's which was 10 years old, and now (2017) when it is 37 years and rising. The figure I believed was 25. My mother told me everything she knew or could find out, as a nurse, about the children around me, andI felt bad about each roommate's disease or illness. Be that as it may, I was a teenager, and I didn't care that I might get hurt; Cystic Fibrosis girls did not throw up or get lots of flowers. I liked rooming with them because they were mostly getting seemingly benign pulmonary treatments, they were "regulars" like me and I could keep track of the General Hospital fans. It was only later when my various "medical" friends started to die that I realized, those wonderful, beautiful, special girls had a terminal sentence and I, well, I might not.

In fact, after being a "regular" for awhile, I was asked about that very subject by a student nurse, "So, how much longer do you have to live." Now, when she asked me that, I wasn't half way through my treatments, but I had a sense of what my life would be like for the next eight months, or at least, I thought I did. So, not thinking the question strange or untactful or just plain rude, I answered her...

"Oh I think I am going to beat this, actually."

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