I slept in until around 930am. I woke up to no good morning messages, which I knew from experience, DeShone’s morning workouts were over by then. This morning I had an appointment to get a CAT Scan done. The doctor ordered this test to check if there was anything hiding behind my throat in places he could not see. I wasn’t nervous. I had gotten these scans done before and never had the answers been anything but normal. As I drove to my scan around 10:15, still no word from DeShone. What was he thinking? He knew I had this test and yet he didn’t really seem to care. As I checked into the doctor’s office, I felt the same hopeless feeling that I usually felt after every scan that produced no answers. The scan technician was sweet. Her smile made me feel at ease. She gave me an IV to provide contrast for the scan as we casually chatted about school and our desire for warmer weather. The scan was quick. As I finished up my appointment, everything felt different. The sweet woman I just conversed and giggled with now would not look at me. She had no smile on her face and had nothing to say. Did I say something wrong? I did not know what happened in that small gap of time to change her mood so drastically. Without taking anything too personal, I gathered my things and headed to work. The day was busy and I was working alone. Thankfully the hospital volunteers were around to help out. As the day went on, the craziness died down. Coincidentally, my doctor called on my phone and asked me for a favor. He also asked if I had gotten my scan done and I told him I had went this morning for it. He told me he would take a look at it soon. In doctor language, I didn’t assume “soon” would only be 10 minutes later. He poked his head out from around the corner and asked if I had a minute. My stomach dropped. I did not know how to feel. Part of me wanted definite answers and the other part wanted to hear the familiar response that there was nothing wrong. As him and I walked back into a consult room he said four words to me that made me feel more sick than I ever had before. He told me, “there is something there.” I did not know what he meant. What was there? He loaded my CAT Scan results up on the screen and showed me the images that were taken of my head and neck. Easily to see, there was a large 6cm tumor located within my head. I felt nothing. No emotions. No questions to ask. I was in shock. How did no one notice this before? He continued talking to me about what he found. I don’t remember much of that conversation. I just remember grabbing my things, and leaving. Walking to my car I finally felt the emotion. I could not hold back the tears that quickly began to flow down my face. Struggling to catch my breath between each sob, I called my parents. No one would answer. I then called DeShone. He did not answer either. I knew he had mentioned having a study session for an upcoming exam but I did not care. I called and I called and I called. Finally he picked up. He said “leave me alone” and hung up before I could say a word. Then I called again. Finally he called me back. He then knew there was a problem. Trying to think straight, I found enough composure to tell him the news I had just received. All I wanted was him. I needed a hug and reassurance that everything would be okay but that was impossible. 271 miles away he felt hopeless. The conversation was cut short due to me running into my brother’s nearby diving practice to tell him the news. As I walked across campus crying, everyone stared. Unlike usual, I did not care. I ran into the pool and Cameron saw me. Confused, he threw up his arms wondering why I was there. I waved for him to come to me. As he ran down the diving board ladder, he immediately felt the pain I was giving off. He came up to me and I told him “I have a tumor”. He hugged me for awhile. In shock, like DeShone and myself, he grabbed his bag and we drove home. I repeatedly asked him what to tell my parents. I knew how hurt they were going to be. The drive seemed to last forever but finally we were home. By then I had gotten myself together and wiped the tears off my face. I walked inside and my mom asked why we were home already. I told her I needed to talk to her. Alarmed, she asked what was wrong. I told her I had spoken to the doctor and my scan results showed a large tumor in my neck leading up to my head. She broke down. I knew she felt my fear ten times worse than I did. She told my dad, who was shocked as well. She did not believe me. She asked God why he would do this to me. I watched her in devastation. She did not deserve this. I worried for her more than I worried for myself. As the emotions calmed down, my parents and I sat together and called the doctor so they could get a better understanding of what was going on. He told them the news and explained to them the next steps to take. We sat speechless. I needed sleep. I needed to be alone.
Things were great. Football winter workouts were finishing up and the excitement for spring break was building. Only a couple things stood between me and spending 10 days with my girl: a statistics exam and a history paper about Russell Baker’s Growing Up.
I woke up Tuesday morning and like any other winter tuesday I headed to our 7am all team workout in routine fashion. Running a little late, I sprinted over in the blistering cold to make sure that I wasn’t going to have to suffer coaches’ late punishment: laying down on the 50 yard line with a pillow and blanket. My 5.00 second forty time was just enough for me to get in and dressed in time for workouts. The workout went well and like usual I stayed to throw to some receivers and keep my touch on the ball. After, I headed back to the locker room to find a few disappointing texts saying, “Hello?” “Morning?” “Whats going on?” “Alright Im going into my appointment I’ll just talk to you some other time.” How could I ever forget to text her on the morning of these stupid scans and exams that the doctor ordered? Like most other mornings that I forgot to text Elli, I started off in the dog house.
Mid-morning I finally got a text back from her letting me know that her scan was done. Being upset with me for not being there for her before the exam, Elli was a little short with me in her texts. She didn’t say much about them other than how the IV hurt and how the nurses were very nice. After a little schmoozing, I convinced her to like me again and we carried on with a normal day. I went to some classes, Elli went to work, and things were as normal as they ever have been. Work was pretty busy for Elli so I wasn’t able to talk to her much during the day. I sent her just a few short texts letting her know I missed her and that I was heading into a statistics review session at around 5 so our talk that we usually have after work would be postponed.
5pm came around and as scheduled I went over to the statistics review and started taking some notes on the Bayes Rule. Only 9 minutes into this review session my pocket started going crazy. Over and over it vibrated, pressing against some pencils in there making enough noise for people around me to give the stink-eye look. After the 3rd series of ringing I finally decided to pull my phone out and see who the hell was calling me so obnoxiously and of course like always the name “elli” with a bell emoji appeared. To get her to stop calling I quickly answered and whispered quietly to her “Im in class, leave me alone..” and hung up before she could respond. I glanced back up at the bored and within another 5 seconds, the buzzing began again. Already behind on the Bayes Rule I decided to take a quick “bathroom break” to see why she still would be calling me.
I stepped into the hallway at 5:13pm and called Elli back only to hear the scariest sob that I’ve ever heard in my life. (Im currently having a tough time even typing this) Thinking that possibly she was in a car accident or something along those measures, I began raising my voice and telling her repeatedly to relax and calm down and that everything was okay but to please, please, please tell me what was going on. After what felt like the longest 30 seconds of my life, the worst thing she could possibly say was said.. “I have a tumor” and before I could even process what having a tumor was I started pleading “No! no no no..”. In response she began to beg for me to come to see her. She said she needed me. She said that I had to be there. After she said that I felt one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. To have someone so close to my heart beg and beg for me to be there during such a horrific time in her life and know that there was virtually no possible way that I could ever be there. It was just awful. I had no idea what to do. I tried to get myself to brain storm what the best plan of attack was after this conversation but everything was blank. I physically could not think about anything other than the feeling that my stomach had from not being able to be with her when she got this news. After a short silence I began asking questions, “how did you find out? what did he say? who have you told?” and with my great crying interpretation skills I got the basics of the situation and allowed her to go and pick her brother up from diving to head home and share the news with her parents.
After walking back into the classroom to grab my things I began to walk, slowly but surely back to my dorm. Elli had asked for me not to talk to anyone about it to ensure that her parents could the next to know. I cheated a little and had a conversation with a friend about it. I asked him for an answer to a couple questions. “God, why elli? She’s such a beautiful young soul and you feel the need to put this 6 cm blob of the devil inside of her? What good could ever come out of this?” My mom always taught me not to ever question God, but at this time that was the only thing I could do.
For 19 years, I have been blessed with good health not only for myself but for all the loved ones around me. No deaths, No bad sicknesses, and my dog of 12 years is still strolling along. So to feel this weight on my heart was new to me. I didn’t know what to do but to just sit down and figure it out. I sat in a chair in my dorm’s hallway and stared out of a window that over looked the dome. I just waited until she would finally call me back.
2 hours passed and I was still there staring, and only getting up to take a few bathroom breaks. Finally, the call came in around 9 pm and I couldn’t wait to hear her voice and try my hardest to calm her down and make her feel better. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to say anything but goodnight and I love you. I guess the conversation with her family was tougher than I expected and now all she could do is try to sleep and get over it on her own. I went back to my room and laid in my bed with snowy boots still on, I just stared at the ceiling with the same hurt in my stomach that had almost became normal now. Almost 3 and a half hours passed until I finally dozed off.