Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9:59AM
Two years ago today, I woke up with a sense of dread. Not for me and my ever-growing belly filled with fluid that seemed to grow by the minute, but because of the date. September 11th. By far and without a doubt, the worst day of my life. I didn't lose anyone I knew in those vicious attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but I knew that as a nation, we lost our innocence and had our hearts broken. I was a sophomore at Duke at the time, and I certainly lost my innocence and had my heart broken on that day. Regardless of the battle raging on in my body, I took time out to watch 9/11 documentaries and pray for the victims and their families even as I ran back and forth to the bathroom and groaned in pain on my bed. Part of me still believed that I had food poisoning, but deep down, I knew that couldn't be the whole story. My stomach had puffed out beyond all recognition. When I lifted up my shirt in front of the mirror, it looked as if I was nine months pregnant. The mild amounts of vomit I retched up didn't make much progress in un-bloating my belly. I tried to weather the storm, knowing full well that a trip to the ER could be possible. Not today, I thought to myself. I'm going to try to get through this on my own. Will was really the only person who knew how bad things had gotten. My parents were on vacation in Hawaii, a trip they begged me to join. I declined, citing work responsibilities that I was too dedicated to and wrapped up in to abandon even for a week. When the time got closer for their trip, my mom started getting cold feet, worried about my GI issues and thinking that maybe leaving home wasn't such a good idea. A mother's intuition. She was absolutely right given how severely downhill things had gone with me, but I had assured her that all was well. Now, I was exchanging text messages with her, telling her that the probiotics she'd bought me were working like a charm and that I was feeling pretty good. Yes, I was lying. But what choice did I have? I wasn't about to have my parents cut their time in paradise short only to fly home frantically to deal with their puking, pooping daughter. No, no, no. They were going to enjoy their trip and I was going to power through this in one way or another. What was perhaps the most ironic part of my day is that I started watching the Showtime series, The Big C. The series starring Laura Linney that details her battle with Stage IV cancer. Had Laura Linney not been one of my favorite actresses, it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to take up watching the show, but she was, and I did. If you've seen the show, you know that upon receiving her diagnosis and grim prognosis, our lead character Cathy Jamison, pretty much gives up. She goes on a strict diet of cocktails and desserts and refuses to tell her family or friends about the fact that she has late-stage melanoma. Her attitude was resigned and bitter, but the most good-natured version of both (I mean, the show had to be watchable, right?). I remember watching it and being disappointed in her response to her diagnosis. I was engrossed by the show but couldn't help feeling like she needed to fight a whole hell of a lot more than she was. And in that moment, I made a promise to myself. If I was ever to face a foe so formidable, if I was ever to be diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, I would fight. I would never feel sorry for myself, nor would I adopt a bad attitude for a second. I would fight with every fiber in my body. I would fight with my brain, researching the best doctors and diets and everything else under the sun in my attempt to beat the disease hell-bent on beating me. I would fight, and I would have the time of my life while doing it. It was a promise that I'd have to come to terms with sooner than I'd ever imagined. Tune in tomorrow for more. I'll be writing "Two Years Ago Today" from now until my cancer anniversary, a day that I was not expected to live to see, September 19th, 2012.