For years, my stubborness always resulted in negative outcomes: being grounded by my parents, dumped by my boyfriends, sometimes ignored by my friends. But within the past year, it was my stubbornness that saved my life.
Over and over again I was told nothing was medically wrong with me. My heart was healthy. My lungs were healthy. My blood was healthy- besides the low level of iron that didn’t concern anyone much due to the fact that I was indeed, a hormonal teenage girl. But that same stubborn trait that often left me in trouble, pushed me to continue to seek for the help I knew I needed.
5 Years or 60 Months or 260 Weeks or 1825 Days- whichever way you look at it – is how long it took for the stars to align and for me to fall right into the hands of a man that wanted to help me as much as I knew, deep down, that I needed him to.
February of last year was the final month I ever spent living the first version of myself. Every time I sat at my desk and answered a phone call coming from The James Cancer Hospital operating room, never once did I pick up and think that only a couple months later those same calls, from that same operating room, filled with the same nurses, would be updating my family for 20 hours as miracle work was performed on my body. And never once did I think that every time Dr. Old stopped by my desk to have me place the family of his patient’s in a consult room, that my family would soon be sitting on those same couches, in that same consultation room, praying and waiting to hear the same three word phrase all families hope Dr. Old say – “She is OK.”
After beginning my job working in The James Surgical Visitor Lounge, only two months went by before I quickly realized that the subject matter of the messages on the other end of these phone calls I spent my shifts answering, was soon to be me.
Now let me refresh you- in February of last year, after 5 Years or 60 Months or 260 Weeks or 1825 Days- whichever way you look at it – my days were still filled with endless amounts of light-headed spells and endless worries as to why the swelling in my face and the lump in my neck still remained. And the stubbornness that kept me questioning doctor after doctor and begging for any sort of direction as to how I could find answers, still freaking remained.
It was during the first week of this past March, after 5 Years or 60 Months or 260 Weeks or 1825 Days- whichever way you look at it – that all the eye rolling and head shaking and fear ignoring that my persistent stubbornness to those around me brought about, soon became worth it. And in that March, the worry in my head and the pain in my heart in which had been building up for 5 Years or 60 Months or 260 Weeks or 1825 Days- whichever way you look at it – struck Dr. Old. Finally it was then that I found the help I knew I needed all along and finally it was then that I knew the stubbornness that came alongside of this fiery red hair, was never a characteristic to be ashamed of….
When I was told in March of last year that I needed to withdraw from my freshman year of college with an understanding that a normal college life was no where in my near future, it was the stubbornness that refused to ever let that statement stand true.
When I went to the hundreds of preoperative appointments and scans to hear repeatedly about the complexity and severity of my baseball sized skull base tumor, it was the stubbornness that somehow kept me from thinking that this battle, given to only 1 out of 5 million, was one I could not win.
When I slept on that operating table, surrounded by 5 of the best surgeons from all over the world who stood shocked, speechless, and worried that after only a couple hours my body would not survive the unavoidable brutality of the surgery, it was the stubbornness that somehow kept me alive for the next 17 hours as they performed a medical miracle.
When I laid in the hospital bed with dozens of tubes and machines keeping my body running for the following 10 days, it was the stubbornness that kept me fighting hour after hour.
When there was no physical way I could walk with my leg being fully paralyzed from my knee down, it was the stubbornness that kept me spending all my time in a rehabilitation hospital- working my way from a necessary wheelchair, to a walker, to a pair of crutches, to a single cane, to just an ankle brace, within a matter of only 8 days.
When I was told that because of the permanent paralyzation of the right side of my tongue, throat, and vocal cord, talking and swallowing would forever be extremely difficult, it was the stubbornness that now leaves me able to eat what ever I want and speak just as if nothing was paralyzed at all.
When my recovery was planned to take at least 18 months, it was the stubbornness that allowed me to be back at work 3 short months later.
When a normal college life filled with roommates and late nights and mistakes and tons of laughter was so far from ever reachable, it was the stubbornness that now has me living with 7 of my very best friends on a college campus where I spend my days and nights doing things the stubbornness will keep my mouth from ever mentioning to my parents until I not only have children of my own, but grandchildren too, and possibly even great grandchildren.
When neurologist after neurologist told me that the nerve damage done to my leg was too severe and that I would remain paralyzed, unable to feel or move anything from my left knee down for the rest of my life, it was the same damn stubbornness that only three weeks ago had me wiggle my toes for the first time in 9 months- leaving myself and family in tears of joy and shocking every doctor who had to break my heart after so many test revealed how bad my injury truly is.
Now, as I lay in my bed smirking and reminiscing about all the times my sassy stubbornness left me locked in my room or having my cell phone taken away, I laugh.
And the truth is, thank gosh there was just no punishment that could have possibly taken away this girl’s stubbornness.
Sorry, Mom and Dad-
Stubborn me saved me.