My parents met when they were in the seventh grade in a small town 2 hours east of Toronto. They were married, had my sister and I, and we got to live all over because my dad was a professional hockey player in the NHL. When they got divorced, we were living in New Jersey. My dad chose to return to the small Canadian town and my mum stayed in New Jersey. Initially I stayed with my mum for a few years in New Jersey, but I hated everything about it, because I felt like it hated me. I just did not fit in, and so I moved in with my dad in Canada when I was 15. I like to joke that I was raised by guys, a hockey team of sorts and its why I speak dude fluently. It was hard leaving my mum and my sister, but it worked out well for us. So January of 2004, I had been officially living with my dad since the summer, Christmas had just passed and my sister was staying with my dad and I for the holidays. My mum just so happened to be in town as well visiting her mother, my grandmother. As far as all that was concerned, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.
My dad had gotten a brand new LCD TV for the holidays and we were so excited to watch "Finding Nemo" that night. My dad was broadasting for TSN and had to be on the air the next morning, so I made sure to keep quiet so he would look good on the air, not tired. My dad had the biggest couch of all time. It was fabulous. Natalie and I snuggled up to watch Nemo. We grabbed some popcorn and started the movie. About half way through the movie, I tasted blood in my mouth. I assumed a kernel had cut my gum. I played it off as nothing had happened. My Dad was in bed by this point so my boyfriend T snuck over (we started dating a few weeks after I had moved to Canada in June- his sneaking over is not as scandalous as it sounds). When the movie was over, the bleeding had increased in my mouth but I thought nothing of it or at least tried to think nothing of it.
It was late so Natalie went to bed. I told T to sleep in our guest room, because something seemed off about the blood in my mouth but I didn't want to alarm him. That's one of my downfalls, I ignore all the warning signs because I want to assume the best, I don't ever want to burden anyone with something that could potentially be nothing. He went to sleep in the guest room, and I grabbed a large plastic cup. The blood was accumulating a lot quicker and I had to spit it out in the cup to avoid swallowing it. I remember feeling light headed and woozy but still thought it was nothing serious, because I didn't want anything to be seriously wrong. I didn't want to wake my dad up to have him take me to the E.R. for it to be just a cut on my gum from popcorn, and potentially ruin his broadcasting career. So I just kept my cup, spitting in my cup.
My room was baby blue. I had baby blue walls and sheets and a comforter with white trim. I had a white dresser with baby blue drawers and baby blue closet doors with a full size mirror. The headboard of my bed was a white picket fence my mum had picked out of a trash and refurbished for my room. I had pictures from my cheerleading days in NJ, and posters of kittens. I wore a baby blue tee that night and crawled into bed with my cup. I started coughing because I was beginning to swallow the blood that was accumulating in my stomach, there was just so much of it. I grabbed tissues to try and wipe the blood away from my face but knew I looked like a character from a low budget vampire movie. I was glad I asked T to stay in the other room, because I didn't want him to see me this way. I eventually passed out, probably from being so lightheaded.
When I woke up the next morning I instantly knew that it was worse and this was an extremely dangerous situation. I had a raging headache. Everything was blurry. My sheets were no longer blue, my walls were no longer blue. There were puddles of blood everywhere. There was a spray pattern along my sheets no doubt from coughing blood in my sleep. Everything was covered in blood. I vomited copious amounts of blood up, from everything I had swallowed in my sleep. It was early in the morning because my dad was up getting ready. At this point, I knew something was seriously amiss and I could no longer hide it, nor should I. I yelled for my sister and she came rushing in.
"Nat, please go get dad."To which any unruly concerned little sister would reply
"WHY? Court what's wrong? Tell me?"I choked back a yell and simply said again
"Seriously Natalie, GO GET DAD. PLEASE!"My dad rushed in wearing a brown suit and as he walked in my doorway stopped cold in his tracks. With absolute fear in his voice stammered,
"What the hell happened?"The first words out of my mouth were
"I'm so sorry. I don't know whats wrong with me, it started last night but I didn't want you to be tired today so I didn't say anything and I'm sorry because I think something is seriously wrong."Tears started to flow as it became a reality that this wasn't me being stoic, but something dire and I was urgently ill. My Dad jumped into action,
"Call T and have him come pick up your sister, that way we can head to the hospital right now, I'll call your mother and have her meet us on the way."Little did he realize that T was two bedrooms over, but I left that part out. Last thing I needed was to feel like hell AND get busted for unauthorized sleepovers in the same day. However, if I was ever going to get out of it with the sympathy vote, that day was the day. My Dad went to change and call my mum and I woke up T and explained what happened. We left immediately for the hospital. I didn't pack a bag, or bring anything. I knew I was sick but had no idea with what, and no idea how severe it was.
It was a 45 minute car ride to the hospital because we lived on the outskirts of town. It was long and quiet. I looked at my dad and said
"I don't think this is just an iron deficiency anymore."We met my mom at the hospital and she took one look at me, and knew. It was the first time I had seen her since she arrived in town. I was pale as anything and covered head to toe in bruises. If you didn't know I was sick you would have thought someone beat me silly. There was no waiting in the E.R., they took me right back and began blood work. The doctor said he knew exactly what to test for because he was pretty sure he knew. While we waited for the tests I was starving. T went to get me Harvey's because all I wanted was a cheeseburger. When he finally got it to me, I was too weak to even lift it to my mouth. There was so much blood pooling in my stomach that I couldn't stop vomiting. They had i.v.'s running fluids but it wasn't helping. I tried to take a bite and savored it while it was in my mouth but simply could not swallow. The simplest task of taking a bite of one of my favorite foods on earth was impossible. T patiently tried to continue feeding me, but it would simply not work. The doctors came back in, and we knew they had nothing but bad news.
"We need to get her to Toronto immediately. She is DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) and needs blood transfusions. We can't be sure which type, or how severe but we believe she has leukemia and with out further testing and treatment she may only have a week or two. So we need to act immediately."They arranged to have an ambulance take me to Sick Kids in Toronto, and my father rode with me. I was in and out of consciousness the whole ride. I had one of those turquoise kidney shaped puke buckets and it was full to the brink of bloody tissues. I kept spitting the blood into the tissues. I knew I was sick. I knew it was serious, but I had no idea I had cancer. If anything, I was excited at first.
My parents lived in different countries, I was the baby of the group of my friends. I was the new girl at my school, and I had an older boyfriend. I craved attention and needed any sort of validation to feel secure in my new roles in the new life I had created for myself. I thought to myself,
"I'm going to head to the hospital for a few weeks, get a lot of attention and be back and at it in a couple of weeks."I had no idea what was ahead of me. No idea what so ever. Here I am, nine and a half years later... still wondering when I'm going to wake up from this dream. Still trying to come to terms with how this happened. Still... fighting.
The signs were all there. When I got to LCS (My high school) I was in the best shape of my life. I played on their basketball team and hockey team. I trained as hard as I could everyday and ate really healthy. In December I said to my hockey coach
"I'm so sorry, I don't know whats wrong with me. I'm training just as hard, if not twice as hard as the other girls but I am always exhausted and feel like I can't keep up."I was taking advil like it was pez from a dispenser because I constantly had headaches. I was covered in bruises to the point, I had an adult ask me about my relationship with T. T didn't go to my highschool, because he was a cottage boy from Toronto. He was an angel and they couldn't have been more off base asking me, but based on how I looked you never knew. I attributed the bruises to hockey. I only joined the team because my school didn't have a cheerleading squad and I could skate, and well! I learned how to skate before I could walk. At the winter formal, while getting ready at a friends house, I walked into her dresser. It just grazed right below my shoulder but with in minutes I had an enormous bruise. I would think to my self when things like this happened
"Wow, I must have walked into it a lot harder than I realized."The final give away was my period. I was always bleeding. Somedays it was so bad I couldn't go to school. My blood was clearly trying to tell me something was wrong. I just always had an excuse.
"Oh maybe I messed up my birth control. Oh Hockey was a little tough today. I have headaches because I'm dehydrated. I'm tired because I'm not sleeping enough. I can't keep up at practice because I'm not training hard enough."T's family had looked into it and said that it sounded like I had an iron deficiency because I was not a fan of red meat. Nobody knew, but nobody wanted the reality to be true.
Canadian health care is not the best, and I will gladly and openly talk about it's downfalls. All of this was happening in November, I couldn't get a doctors appointment until January 6th. I went into the hospital on January 3. Round one. Ding Ding Ding.... and the race was off. That was how it began...