Transition

If everything goes well, last Thursday was the last vincristine and dexamethasone treatment.

Behind the big generic drug names, what this really means to me is that these couple of days will be the last serious suffering: the last segment of abstract unjustified misery, the last random bout of lack of energy, the last bits of spontaneous back pain — but also, the last opportunity to blame any of those bad feelings on an external chemical source. The last milestone like this was my final lumbar puncture. At last, the regimen is transitioning to the final movement — and what a transition!

Wednesday morning — the guys from the Jubilee Project visited our school, showed us a few videos, and told us their story. Afterwards during lunch, we got to sit with them in the teachers’ office and talk. From what I remember, these guys gave up medical school, a successful business career, and a job organizing Asian-American outreach under Barack Obama to form a non-profit organization to make charity and inspirational videos full-time. I think the story speaks for itself.

It’s nice to have a reminder not to limit oneself and dwell less on high-school matters. It’s a long story, but Ms. Lin coaxed me into saying something about competitions and their replies were roughly, “Wow, I got, like, a 1 on the AIME.” Who cares about high-school achievements when you have beautiful dreams? But before I get too deep into angsty personal reflections, let’s leave it there…

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(Chemical imbalance)

Ignore me. I’m just another chemical imbalance in the corner of your brain, something none of your reasoning skills can overcome. You can’t understand me. You have no idea what I do and what sort of strange mental obstructions I throw in your way, because I’m more fundamental than that. I’m part of the problem with that leaky abstraction you proudly call “cognition”.

Isn’t it enlightening to know that, like every gush of confusion you’ve experienced every four weeks for the last two years, it can all be resolved by waiting? That all of your troubles can be blamed on something as tangible as a bag of transparent stuff hooked into your shoulder for an hour three days ago, instead of some elusive undiagnosed combination of puberty and synthetic drug collisions and cosmic interference? And that as you’ve tried to disprove fruitlessly just as many times, there is no other way out?

And still, you’re not egotistic enough to completely let go of being so fiercely possessive of your time. You’re still stubbornly optimistic enough that, no matter how many medical calamities the cosmos throws at you, you still think your life is pretty good from a rational viewpoint. Even on days when you find your normal thought process indistinguishable from sleep for two-thirds of the day, you want to take on the thinking and learning responsibilities of a dutiful (read: above-average) teenager. Or, at least, drive yourself mind-bogglingly nuts trying.

Life is hard, isn’t it?

Lumbar Punctures

Cycles. Twice every four weeks, milling about the hospital for three hours to receive a single shot. Then once, spending those three hours strapped to a chair with an IV stand instead. And finally yesterday, the blurry seven-hour spinal skewer of an ordeal. I don’t talk about it on the Internet much… always been unsure if this is necessary, but it’s always easier to reveal a secret than to take it back, and I still don’t feel like it’s a part of me, just something that happened to happen. For one year, two months, and going strong.

There I was lying down for the required six hours after doctors messed around after my central nervous system a.k.a. spine. Mixed emotions; as taxing and nauseous as the experience is, it’s the last occurrence in the chemotherapy plan. One monster of a box ticked off, one step closer to the “normal” life of more than one year ago… or, to me right now, very unfamiliarly unrestricted. I can’t recall in full what it feels like to practice a chair freeze on the dancing room’s sweat-laced wooden floor… to gulp down a wasabi-smothered piece of sushi and then have to perform jumping jacks in response to the flavor… just to stroll through a park or a nature path like a normal guy, without having to worry about a mask.

Then the day after, now, I had an extra day’s stay for a CT scan. Even in the mere hour I ended up needing to wait for the installation of the killer-thickness needle — which I’m actually getting right now as I’m typing this sentence, and it is hideously, hideously, nasty to endure — I feel inklings of the oppressive dullness of hospital life again. To imagine, according to the doctor, I wasn’t supposed to be back in school until this point in the schedule!

I had hoped or maybe expected that I would have become desensitized to the pain, the interminable poking and prodding that I’ve been designated to suffer, by now; but still, every one of these experiences is just as difficult to get through as the last. But now the worst parts will be behind me forever, if my luck holds up. I don’t know if I dare hope for any more good fortune, though.

Whatever happens, life goes on. Before I know it (in four days, to be precise), I’ll be sucked into the next challenge, fighting for something different, something I understand why I’m battling for. Until then, there’s not much more to do than grit my teeth and resign myself to the perfectly typical homework load.

Last hospitalization ID band...?

‘Cause there has always been heartache and pain
And when it’s over you’ll breathe again
You’ll breathe again…