Sunflowers and Sunflowers and Sunflowers
Hey friends and family! Happy August!
School starts in about two weeks, and I recently wrote an essay for a scholarship competition, and it really captured an excellent overview of a lot of the things that have happened these past few years.
I'm really trying to up the regularity of my blog posts, so I thought sharing it might be a great way to get myself back into the game.
That, and seeing my entire family is sick with Covid, when I'm not feeling horrible, I'm really bored.
Sunflowers, and Sunflowers, and Sunflowers
Growing up, I had a really loving and supporting family, which I feel like is something very few people can say anymore. I had my issues, mostly health and friend related, but overall, I've really enjoyed my life.
I was determined to go to nursing school from a young age, and looking back, my reasoning was a little misguided. But, because I wanted to be a nurse, I was determined to finish high school early because all I wanted was to help people. A lot of people told me I couldn't do it, people I loved and trusted, told me I couldn't. So, I did it. Being homeschooled made it a little bit easier for me to work independently and push myself to the limits, all the while struggling with trying to get my chronic illness diagnosed.
When I was nineteen, I graduated with my Associate's Degree in Science, and very quickly realized nursing was not what I wanted to do. I transferred to UTD to major in English, and fell in love with what I was learning. However, halfway through the semester (October of 2019), I woke up one night in blinding pain, and a "quick" trip to the emergency room told me it was appendicitis. After being transferred to a hospital, I had surgery to have it removed.
After a night where my nurse refused to medicate me, my surgeon came to talk with me later that day, ensured I received the proper pain medication and got a blood transfusion because I had minor internal bleeding. She sat on the edge of my hospital bed, looked at my mom, and then looked at me.
Then she told me I had cancer.
I thought my brain might explode.
She told me that when the removed my appendix, they found a tumor on it, and when they sent it to pathology, it came back as a Neuroendocrine Tumor, an extremely rare form of cancer. She scheduled me an appointment with an oncologist. When I saw my oncologist, she told me that while I didn't have to have another surgery, it was highly recommended because when they removed my appendix, they didn't know to check lymph nodes.
I agreed to get the surgery. Which was one of the best, and worst decisions, in my life.
During the time between October and December 19th, which was when I ended up having the surgery, I ended up taking a medical withdraw from UTD because I had professors who were unwilling to work with me. I also had genetic testing done to see where the cancer had come from because it was in an uncommon spot, and I was too young to be have these types of problems. It came back that I had something called the ATM gene mutation, which is a rare genetic mutation that is worse than the BRCA gene, because they know absolutely nothing about it.
December came, and after extensive surgery preparations, I finally had the surgery (which in layman's terms was just a colon resection).
It went well, practically perfect.
Until it didn't.
Around midnight, my nurse came into my bedroom to get me up and moving and to go to the bathroom (when you have a colon surgery you have to be up and moving within six to eight hours to wake up the colon). When she got me out of the bed, my vision tunneled, and I collapsed onto her and had a seizure.
When I came into consciousness again, I was flat on my back, and crying, surrounded by doctors and nurses. I begged for my mom. The next thing I knew, I was being rushed into CT -- that I remember well. I feel really bad for the staff who were moving me. They had to use the sheets to move me and I remember screaming in pain. They were so kind and apologetic, even in their own panic to find what was wrong. The found massive amounts of internal bleeding, and rushed to call back in my surgeon and his team.
I should be dead right now.
I was in the ICU until he arrived, nurses were literally squeezing bags of blood into my body. I had eight bags of blood that night, if not more. Mass Blood Transfusion Protocol is four. I had enough blood that night to replace the all of the blood in my body. Twice.
My grandmother, who is an ICU nurse at a different hospital, was there that night. We didn't know how bad it was until much later, but she did. She came beside me and held my hand.
I think this was really when I scared the nurses, because I started talking nonsense. I told my grandmother, "Grandma, I'm going to Italy."
"Right now, child?" She indulged, in her grandmotherly way.
I nodded. "I'm there right now."
And I was.
I remember it in vivid detail.
I always say Verona here, but the place I'm about to describe is an actual place in Tuscany, Italy.
I was standing in a beautiful field of sunflowers.
It was warm, so warm, but not unpleasant in the slightest.
The wind pushed my hair away from my face, and the sun greeted me like an old friend.
My feet were bare, and my toes curled in the grass.
I wore a sundress -- a soft, yellow spaghetti-strapped one -- and a straw sunhat with a ribbon the same yellow-green as the dress.
There was no pain, but only peace.
It didn't hurt anymore.
I felt the presence of someone behind me. I placed a hand on my hat to hold it still, a bright smile decorating my face. As I went to turn around, everything stopped.
And I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, if I turned around, I would be dead today.
I spent a week in the ICU, and came home, alive, on Christmas Eve of 2019.
My surgeons never found what caused me to bleed either, and two years later, I still don’t know. But, I’ve made my peace with that. My family and I made our peace with that.
Then, following that surgery, my mom tested positive for the ATM gene mutation and ended up getting a bilateral double mastectomy with deip reconstruction. 2020 was a long year for my family. Her surgery was right before Covid hit, and she had numerous complications in the middle of Covid.
During this time, though, I started a blog called TotallyNatYourAverageGirl, got diagnosed with Lyme Disease (finally! Some answers!), and I finished writing a fantasy novel, Secrets in Ashes, which I’m currently attempting to get published. I was also featured on a podcast, Jokes Aside with Jason Earls, where I talked about what happened in 2019 on a deeper level.
I’m twenty-one years old, and currently working part-time at my local library. I plan to get a sunflower tattoo on the back of my left calf at some point. I am attending Dallas Baptist University to major in English my dream is to become a published author one day. But, if the past few years have taught me anything, it’s not to hold too tightly to my plans. Often enough, God always has something different in store for me. And, more often than not, it’s always bigger, and better than anything I could have ever dreamed of.
I won’t stop dreaming, or writing, but I’m not going to hold myself to impossible standards anymore. Every day is a new day, made for something wonderful. Take it from someone who knows: life is too short to be living any other way.
Read: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Show: Parks and Rec, New Girl
Music: Stupid by Cate, last cup of coffee by LilyPichu