Friday, September 14, 2012 at 6:04PM
Two years ago today, I dove headlong into a world without food and painkillers, not knowing that I had a bowel obstruction caused by a massive tumor in my colon. All I knew back then was that my stomach felt like it was filled with toxic acid, I was itching like crazy from Dilaudid withdrawals, I couldn't get comfortable in my hospital bed, and that fire-hose vomit sessions every hour or so had become my new normal. Despite all the pain and discomfort, I had as much fun as I could. Especially with the vomit-fests. It's hard to describe well enough to give you a true sense of how out of control this vomit was, but I'm going to try. I would know immediately that it was time to get out of my hospital bed. Even linked up to an IV and sick as a dog, I was still pretty spry. I would hop out of my hospital bed, slide on some socks, and take the dozen or so steps to the bathroom. Instead of the shallow dish-like receptacle for vomit that one of my nurses had given me ("Honey, please. This is not going to work," I thought to myself when she handed it to me), I went for the big guns. My trash can. Not a heavy duty gigantic take-the-trash-out-the-trash-guy-is-coming-tomorrow-sized trash can but one that you'd see in an office setting. It seemed like it could hold a good amount of fluid. That would be essential. So I'd make my way to the bathroom, sit down, place the trash can in front of me, lean over, and simply open my mouth. No wretching, no heaving, no nothing. Once I was in position, my body did the rest. There was no stopping the vomit. And why would you want to? That greenish, then brownish fluid had no business staying in my body for so long. After about three or four fire-hose projectile vomiting mini-episodes, I'd be done for the moment. My mom would slowly let go of my hair, which she had lovingly held back for me, and would hand me a tissue. I'd wipe my mouth, throw water on my face, and pull up my hospital gown to see if the purging had helped de-bloat my gigantic belly. Every time, it had. Slowly but surely, I was looking less and less pregnant with a fluid baby. Maybe I could vomit my way out of the hospital, I thought to myself as I eased my body back on the hospital bed. When I passed Ramos in the hallway that night, I made him look at my belly. "Smaller, right? Aren't you happy?" I grinned at him jubilantly as I squeezed his shoulder. "Well, I'm happy that you're smiling and walking up and down the halls." I stopped squeezing his shoulder and smacked it instead. "Come on, man! Give me a little positive reinforcement here! Give me something, dude! This is progress, Ramos!!" Ramos kissed me on the forehead and sent me on my way. There were still no answers and there wouldn't be for a while. It didn't really matter that much to me at this point, though. I was starting to ease into this new version of reality. Whatever it was that I was facing, I'd do it with humor and toughness. No matter how long it took to weather the storm, I would weather it. And regardless of all the fluid in my belly, swishing and writhing and cramping and bloating, I would vomit it up or poop it out or get rid of it somehow. I got through those 24 hours without Heavenly D, I was forbidden from food but having a good time with my ice chips, and I was adapting quickly to life as a hospital patient -- making friends with my nurses, nodding knowingly at patients down the hall, and acclimating to the three or so channels that my outdated TV transmitted clearly. I was on my Blackberry, assuring my colleagues that I would be back in the office soon. I was on my iPhone, telling my friends that it was probably an ugly mix of food poisoning and ill-chosen meds. I was on my iPod, bumping Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne and making sure this hospital stay seemed more like a party than anything. It was pain-filled and vomit-laden, but it was still a party. A really messed up party, but a party. I was more than hopeful. I was confident. My body had given me a grand total of zero reasons to be confident, but I was. And thank God for that confidence, because I would need it. Tune in tomorrow for more. I'll be writing "Two Years Ago Today" until my cancer anniversary, a day that I was not expected to live to see, September 19th, 2012.