The summer before my senior year of college, my friend Kara and I decided to stay in our college town. Cedar City, Utah hosts an incredible Shakespearean Festival during the summer, and they kick everyone out of our apartments to make room for the actors and actresses.
Luckily our apartment complex owned the house next door as well, and they let us stay there with 3 other girls. I remember that it seemed like our bedroom was slowly falling off of the rest of the house. There was a big crack that seemed to go around the entire front of the bedroom.
Around the middle of the summer, I started dating a guy, let's call him Bill. I'm not going to say much about Bill, except to say that we had friends in common, which made dating him fun...and it also made the relationship seem more grown-up, if that makes sense. One day Bill noticed a lump deep in my right calf muscle. And that changed my life.
My parents came down, and we scheduled a biopsy on my leg. This was the first of...somewhere near a dozen surgeries I've had so far in my life, and it was the only one I was awake for. They injected me with a hefty dose of Valium, and then left me in a hallway somewhere for a while, and I remember just blissfully looking at the walls and convincing myself that what I really needed to do when they came to get me was to ask for more Valium, because it was the best I'd ever felt in my short life.
They asked me if I minded Pink Floyd, and I was like, "Nope, that sounds amazing, dude." They played Pink Floyd really loud so I couldn't hear them talk while they operated. Toward the end of the surgery, Pink Floyd started to annoy me, and that's how I knew the Valium was going away.
Then there is a blank space where I don't remember much, except the doctor telling me they were sending the biopsy somewhere, and they would let me know what it was, and then they put me in a hospital room with my parents.
I remember the nurse started to cry when the doctor came in to tell me it was cancer. She was still very professional, but it shook her up. I didn't cry. I was in shock. I think when you are 21, you just don't believe anything that awful could happen to you.
And it wasn't THAT awful, but it was still plenty hard. The doctor explained that it was a rare form of cancer, and that he could have gone his whole surgical life without every seeing this kind. However, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was a smooth muscle cancer that usually grows somewhere like your stomach and doesn't get found until it is out of control, but that it slow-growing, and the fact that we caught it so early was a miracle.
I had to drop out of school, but the apartment complex saved my spot for the next semester. I went home, and a lot of spiritual things happened that deserve their own blog post.
And what happened to Bill? He was leaving to attend a different college and was actually living only about half an hour from my home. I waited for him to come and see me, because he had a truck, so it wouldn't be long, right? This was pre-cell phones, so it wasn't like I was in touch with any of my other friends. I have a great family, but there is no denying that I was dreadfully lonely.
Finally, Bill's grandma came by with flowers and a card from Bill. And then...absolutely nothing.
In the meantime, I had another surgery, where they cut out my calf muscle. I had to stretch out the tiny bit of muscle that was left and learn to walk again. My dad lost his job, and so I remember him walking around the block with me at a snail's pace, every single day. I started doing an internship at my mom's elementary school where I figured out that I wanted to be a special education teacher. The doctor cancelled the radiation and said that he thought the surgeries had gotten all the cancer. I went to the doctor and hung out with my sisters. These experiences absolutely changed the course of my life. By January I was back at SUU for my final semester.
There were a few more Bill stories, all of them dreadful, before he was completely out of my life. But mostly, I feel like he was dropped into my life to find the cancer before it got out of control. And I'm grateful that he did. But I'm even more grateful he's gone. Honestly, I think it was just unfortunate timing. He had just moved to a new city and was probably looking for an excuse to break up with me anyway. Doesn't excuse the execution. Having the grandma deliver flowers instead of telling me it was over was pretty cowardly.
And that is the real story about the scar on my leg. It isn't actually a shark bite.