I remember hearing the big news for the first time. I remember my palms sweating profusely, no matter how often I wiped them on my worn out used-to-be-black leggings. I was anxious, I could feel my heartbeat in every vein in my body; every single one was throbbing, aching as if each one were thirsty for blood to pump through it, begging for relief.
Sitting on the delicate white paper every hospital is known to have, I was told that I was not going to be okay. It was an odd feeling, being told that I could die young – yet I felt that everyone had that possibility; the possibility for all of your lights to go out while they should be shining bright, to malfunction. However, my chances of it occurring were significantly higher than the average 15 year old girl. I was told that I may not even make it to 18. That my future plans of traveling through Europe and writing a book would never occur. From there, all I remember is falling into myself. The world shut down and so did I; my sight vanished and I was swallowed by infinite darkness while at the same time my ears lost all power of hearing voices and usual noises, only a soft, eternal ringing that would drive anyone to insanity. It was astounding how one sentence threw me into the black hole of my mind so quickly, a place that I had been trying to escape for years.
“Six times more likely to die being active,” were the words that came out of Dr. LaPage’s mouth; the eight words that would stick with me like that gorilla glue people’s dad’s always buy at Home Depot to fix things that usually need a lot more than glue. I knew I had a problem, I had known for a while. I just didn’t know what the problem was – used-to-be-troubled kids have lots of problems, but none of those problems involve terminal illnesses or defects within the body, right? Dr. LaPage told me that the problems weren’t connected, that usually darkness inside the brain doesn’t cause a heart to not beat properly. I remember sitting on that white paper, hearing the whispers of it tearing every time I moved, and thinking that they were kind of connected. When I would run with my friends and I couldn’t keep up, the darkness would spread to more than just my brain. I guess my organs weren’t fans of the body they were placed in.
The dreams started a couple weeks after the big news. Constant nightmares of surgeons looking directly over me, their eyes drilling holes in mine while they cut my body open, and then the eternal ringing, which sounded very much like a pulse monitor when a person decides it’s time to let go.
“It’s all up to you honey,” the fairly familiar doctor said at my next appointment. “It’s your choice if you want the surgery.”
I wasn’t very good at decisions. I was even worse at dying, not that anyone could necessarily be “skilled” in it. As the days went on I started to notice things with body I hadn’t thought much of before. A trip up the stairs would leave me desperately gasping for air, my lungs screaming out. Getting out of bed would send me into a whirlwind of dizziness, not knowing which way was up and eventually started putting me back to sleep as my body hit the ground. Most of all, I started feeling my heartbeat. I felt it skip beats, I felt it stop, I felt it race as if I was running out of blood. I had no control over what was going on in my body, I was completely powerless over what was going to happen to me.
Except the one choice I hadn’t made. The one I had dreamt about so many times that I could physically feel the cold, sanitized knives slitting into my skin. The choice between maybe living, and dying.
“I want the surgery. I cannot risk it anymore.” I finally made a decision.
“Thank God, I was getting very, very worried.” The surgeon was happy I guess. “The procedure will be approximately four hours.”
My entire family came to the event. To celebrate the fact that in approximately four hours I’ll come back out good as new, as if I was something that could be that easily fixed.
Twelve hours later a nurse woke me up, and I was surrounded, dazed, and extremely confused. I felt as if I was lying on a bed of recently sharpened knives – it was a pain that I could not comprehend nor put into words because the morphine was still pumping through my veins and controlling my thoughts. It was a pain that made me want to fall back into darkness, fall back into a place that could take all feeling away. Yet, my family was insistent on keeping me awake, as were the quite concerned nurses. Eventually, someone whispered that I was okay.
“You made it honey,” said my mom as she kissed my forehead.
Although death still haunts me, it is kept away for now. I won a battle that I never expected myself to be in. Finally my mind followed the sun and I allowed it to bathe in the soft rays and for the first time, live.