On Hospital Beds (Memoir)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Memoir assignment for Creative Writing Class about my cancer journey.


Chilled and quiet, the waves climb the edge of the cliff shooting bursts of cool air up toward me.This is the last memory I have of my vacation to the West coast. Cold and quiet is how I feel, just like in hospital beds. No matter how many warmed up blankets they send to me, it's still cold, quiet, and blurry white. The track of soft mumbles, machine beeps, and screeching wheels is played on repeat in this land of the dead, dying, and hurt. Where we lay and are treated in the silent and still rooms, wondering how many people have died in this cold, quiet hospital bed.

Yellow. The first colour that envelopes my mind when my eyes open up at 9:00 A.M. that cool September Friday. It's a day after my mother's birthday, but I don't think about that. Letting my faded dreams slip away through the weak grasp of my mind, I realize it's a Friday, and I have school. I snap upward in the cozy bed I've made for myself on the couch, and I feel the goosebumps grow on my arms. I hated missing school. I ignored that feeling and stood up. I was taken aback by my tight throat, sore stomach, and dizzy head. I check the time on the TV, and decide after my mom barges through her bedroom door that I'd rather just have a sick day than have to show up to school late and embarrassed. Mom serves me cereal and toaster waffles. I take a few bites, and quickly feel much, much worse. 

Time passes through the day and I eventually am greeted by two of my friends that live near me, Shelby and Casey white. They ask me if I want to hang out, and as a twelve year old would, I beg my mom and eventually am let out to go to my neighbor's house. They make some sort of food, and reluctantly, I take a bite. My stomach again feels much worse, so I stop. It is eventually time to go home, a short 1 minute drive. I get home, climb the stairs, and collapse on my mom's bed.

I eventually get worse and worse. I peel of my jacket, and strip down to my pajama shorts and a tank top. At this, I fall to the floor, close my eyes, and attempt to ignore the now building sense of pain in my abdomen. My mom takes my temperature. 104.6 degrees. 

My mom calls an ambulance, and half leads, half carries my down to the main floor to the bathroom, for I am now throwing up and blacking out. She sits me in the bathroom and takes my temperature again. 96.7 degrees. I don't remember what happened in between then and the ambulance ride, but I know it must have been brutal not just for me, but for her. 

When we arrive at the hospital, a lady puts an IV in my arm, only successful on the second try. I'm led to a room and then another and then another. Dr. Bakken eventually comes in after my X-Ray, CT and Echo scan results are back. He tells me I have a "football" in my stomach, and it's a simple matter of getting it out. 

By "football", Dr. Bakken meant a benign tumor, or a non-cancerous growth. From there, I was sent to the LaCrosse hospital to have the thing taken out of me. Dr. Saxton was the surgeon who saw the growth for what it was, and left it. It was far worse than what we thought. I was soon diagnosed with what is known as 4th Stage Undifferentiated Sarcoma. And I was then confirmed, in my cold, quiet hospital bed, as terminal. 

My first rounds of chemo didn't go as well as hoped. I was sent to the ICU when an unidentified rash emerged from the surface of my entire body. It soon began to peel, and my body erupted with a fever that would not go down. I still had my hair. My precious hair. The first thing I asked when I got diagnosed was if I was going to lose my hair. Stupid, stupid me. At least my second question was important. Was I going to die?

At one point in the ICU, my dad came to see me. I hadn't seen him in eight years before this point, and I honestly didn't care to. But nevertheless, he came, he was there, I still have some pictures. I still don't like to look at them. But with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Soon after I heard that they needed to shave my head, I learned that my classmates were going to shave theirs, too. 

As it turns out, most of my classmates did in fact shave their heads. Almost all of the boys, and even one girl. That girl was my best friend, Clarissa. I never appreciated her enough throughout this all. Sadly enough, she committed suicide our Freshman year of high school, New Year's Eve night. It's sad. I'd like to say I know I'd have done the same for her, but I'm not quite so sure I'd have been so strong. 

As I continued along my journey, becoming familiarized with the nurses, doctors, physical therapy, therapy animals, and essentially the entire hospital, I became more and more tolerant of the chemotherapy that was tearing my body apart from the insides. I got used to pretty much everything. The only thing really bothering me was watching my broken family, my breaking family as they slowly become more and more distant, like a train leaving the station. 

Chemotherapy continued through Christmas, my benefit, Valentine's day, all throughout February. At the end of February, I stopped my chemo so I could recover in regards to blood-counts for surgery. In mid March, I had my surgery where a different doctor at the Madison hospital, Dr. Lund, (Ironically, when I met him, I asked him if he knew Denny Lund, my uncle, and he said "I am the Denny Lund." He and my uncle had the same name), anyway, he took my tumor out, and even took out negative margins (meaning he took out a bunch of extra liver, intestine, stomach, and whatever else). It was a 13 hour surgery, and when it was over, I slept for an additional 13 hours. I woke up after what felt like weeks, and ended up in a small, white, cold hospital bed. From this surgery, I recovered in 1 week. Three Times less than what it took me to recover from a 2 hour surgery, just six months before hand.

Once I recovered from this, I was okay to be home, and after another four days of letting my scar heal, I was told to stay home for a while to recover for my remaining rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Though upon arrival to the hospital for my chemo and radiation, I was told that Dr. Lund was so sure of the surgery that I'd not be needing the potentially toxic radiation. So I had to just get through the chemo and hopefully go into remission. 

My memories have surely faded in some spots, so I can't remember whether I went to school before or after my continuation of chemotherapy, but I did eventually go back to school for a small while. 

I was so very excited to go back to school. I'd always loved school, despite it being the unpopular opinion amongst my peers. I had always been top of my class, as well. That's part of the reason for me not getting held back even with me missing collectively a year of school. But that's another thing. I liked school for the knowledge aspect, not the social aspect. I was never a 'popular' person, and although I couldn't care less now, I cared a great deal back then. Of course, with my tumor, I looked 'fat', and no one wants to be friends with the fat girl. (It's ironic, right? Because after I got diagnosed, everyone wanted to be my friend. Good thing I knew better. The only real friend I ever had at that wretched place was Clarissa, and she's the only person that really mattered in the end.)

Well, I happened to leave at just the right time for all of my peers to be changing through the hormonal roller coaster of puberty, and for me to be changing through being terminal. When I came back, most of my friends were alien. I didn't know anyone. The kids weren't sure whether they should ask their questions or avoid asking them, so most of them avoided me. It wasn't too different from how it used to be. Except this time, I wasn't dealing with bratty, ignorant children. I was dealing with bratty, ignorant, moody pre-teens. And let me tell you, it's not all fun and games. 

Summer came soon enough, and I spent more time at the hospital. I met Audra sometime around then, and we became close friends. Audra was a victim of brainstem cancer. I don't remember and can't pronounce the name of it, but it was deadly. It was inoperable, so radiation was her best shot. She still had her hair, and for this I was jealous, but I understood her situation enough to know that despite her fairly normal appearance, I was luckier in regards to survival. Over time, I noticed Audra was gaining lots and lots of weight. I was told it was from the steroids she was taking. On one day at the clinic, she and I were drawing together (for the record, she was 15), and she told me she gets to have a hospital bed in her house. I thought this was awesome. I guess I wasn't as intuitive back then. Audra died in August, shortly after her 16th birthday. First went her vision, then the feeling in her left leg and right arm, then her right leg. All her mother could do for communication was to talk to her and tell her to squeeze her hand. When I heard the news, I went to Audra's home, hoping to see her one last time. Her mother came out and told me that her and Audra both didn't want me to see her like this. She wanted me to remember the smiling, laughing, beautiful Audra that I once knew. Not the crippled, motionless, dying Audra. And that's who I'll remember. Before I left, her mom gave me a picture Audra had showed to me weeks before. It was a horse. One of Audra's most beloved hobbies, and one of her favorite drawings. Her mom asked her "Audra, do you want me to give Shai this picture? It's of your pretty horse." Three.., four.., five.., squeeze. That was Audra's way of saying yes.  Audra died at 5:09 A.M. I'll never know what Audra looked like the night that she died. Maybe she looked peaceful, or maybe  like she was in pain. But all I can remember is her smiling, laughing face. 

I told her mom I'd come over again. I promised her. But I haven't since. 

Chemotherapy continued. I was pretty tolerant of it all. Of course, it still made me nauseous. I still lost my hair. I still was deteriorating from the inside out. But it wasn't as extreme. I threw up, but not continuously. I still had joint pain, but not nearly as bad as previously. This was until I started my last rounds of chemo. It was new, and it was extra strong. Much like a grand finale at a 4th of July fireworks show. The first night, I didn't sleep. I stayed up all night, throwing up about every hour for five minutes at a time. My joints hurt more than ever. My jaw felt like it was being broken over and over again. The pain was excruciating. Even on the days that I wasn't on a chemo-drip, I still threw up continuously. This particular chemo lasted from October 2010 to Late November 2010. It was at this point that I was pronounced as in remission. 


The time between this and my final surgery is a bit of a white blur. But I eventually got to the point of my final surgery. Where they would take my port out. My port is something they inserted in my side during my first surgery to use as an IV that would last longer so I didn't have the get a new arm IV as often. It was at this point when I'd get my final scar and leave it all behind. Well, my final physical scar, anyway.

I lay there, in the white blur of a room. Bald, anxious, tired. Burnt out in stillness with invisible smoke radiating off of me like a candle from the dinner table. Goosebumps rise on my hairless arms, and I feel that familiar cold sense that I get in hospital beds. Where we wonder how many have died in the bed that we lay on. This was the end of my journey through cancer, but the beginning of my story through recovery. A recovery that will take a lifetime. I'll never know if it will come back. I'll never know if it will be my death. Cancer is a never-ending battle with nothing to do but wait it out in hospital beds. Chilled and Quiet.

Submitted: March 12, 2014

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Emmett Cohl

This was beautifully heartbreaking, and a journey I know all too well. I was lucky enough though to never go through radiation, and I never lost my hair. You are a true warrior, my darling. Remember that ????

Sat, March 15th, 2014 9:17pm


I must say, you're one of the first I've met who knows the battle field. I'm glad you made it through. Thank you, kind stranger. :)

Sat, March 15th, 2014 7:27pm

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