Gifford, Tessa – Surviving Mesothelioma

Gifford, Tessa

Lindsey awoke in a fit of frustration. The feeling of warm liquid on her pillow was normality lately, it was another bloody nose. She ascended from her bed with her hand clenched to her nose and staggered to her bathroom. After flipping on the light switch she bent over, strategically keeping her head pointed up, while using her free hand to rummage through the cabinet in pursuit of a towel. She kept a collection of black towels under her vanity to match the theme her mother’s interior designer had picked out. Her shower curtain was zebra-print as well as the rug next to the tub and toilet. The towels and accessories were a solid black while the walls were white with a thick black stripe running horizontally through the middle of the walls.

She found the towel and brought it up to her face while reaching for her state-of-the-art faucet and turned on the cold water. Lindsey lowered her bloody hand into the sink along with the microfiber washcloth draped over the side and scrubbed the blood off her hands. Setting down the towel she brought the washcloth to her face allowing the blood that had dried to soak. She used her once again free hand to open the drawer to her right. This drawer contained mini baskets to keep things organized. There was a black basket for everything; a basket for her toothbrush and toothpaste, hair binders, cotton swabs, cotton balls and last but not least cotton nose plugs. That was the basket she reached for grabbing two cotton plugs. Placing them on the counter she opened the left side of her large vanity mirror grasping her face wash. She shut the mirror, eyes fixed on the figure in front of her.

Lindsey slowly lowered the washcloth and examined herself. She glared at the pale-skinned and bruised body in front of her. The dried blood was no longer caked to her skin, but the new blood proceeded to seep out of her nose and landed in the sink creating a red splash mark on the white porcelain. She examined the new bruises on her arms that had no right to be there, she had done nothing to deserve them. They were even more distinct with the lack of hair unable to conceal them. This thought brought her eyes back to her face. She missed the way her bangs once fell over her green eyes creating a sense of mystery. Her long dark hair that formerly decorated her shoulders was gone and had been since October; induction chemotherapy had made sure of that during her four week hospital stay. The pain in her eyes was evident when she smiled. Once again she lifted the washcloth to her face wiping away the dripping blood.

The face wash smelt familiar and gave her a sense of comfort every morning. She glanced at the clock; it wasn’t exactly morning for her yet. This nose bleed had interrupted her night and would continue to throw off her whole day. When finished with her face, she took the nose plugs she had placed on the counter top and shoved them into her nose irritated with the constant bleeding. She continued her routine from then on, brushing her teeth and taking a shower. Wrapping her robe around herself, she ambled back to her room. Lindsey’s bedroom, like her bathroom, was decorated by one of the most famous interior designers in the country. Luckily, her parents Audrey and Michael Marquette had no worries about financial needs and hiring an interior designer posed no problem for them. Like her bathroom, everything in Lindsey’s bedroom was coordinated. The furniture, bedspread and curtains all corresponded to the color scheme of a deep purple, an iguana green and a darker aqua.

Sauntering over to her queen sized bed, she snatched up the pillow case, aggravated that she had to wash another. As she walked into her bathroom to dispose of the pillow case, her alarm sounded from the other room. Slamming down the off button she managed to knock down the stack of pamphlets that had made themselves permanently comfortable on her night stand. She bent over and gathered them into her arms. The bold titles stood out reminding her of the cancer that flowed through her blood. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Living with Cancer, The Pros and Cons of Chemotherapy; the titles glared at her. Feeling conquered she threw the pamphlets back down to the floor, kicking them under the bed.

Though out of her sight, she could not help but repeat the last title in her head; The Pros and Cons of Chemotherapy. She remembered holding the packet for the first time. The same thoughts streaming through her mind that were running through it now. It should have been titled The Single Pro and Many Cons of Chemo, she scoffed. The way Lindsey saw it, there was one pro to intensive chemotherapy; losing the cancer cells. Everything else about it sucks, she grumbled. The side effects were no easier than the cancer to deal with. Unfortunately, Doctor Jergens hadn’t had many other options to provide. The diagnosis came quick, almost as quick as the cancer cells were spreading and Lindsey and her family had needed to make decisions fast, before it was too late. The first phase of chemotherapy was started right away. Lindsey grimaced as she recalled the memories of the day that her life changed. By now she had lost approximately ten minutes of the time she needed to prepare for the day. She couldn’t help but feel unconcerned as she leaned back and laid across her bed spread allowing the memories to rekindle.

* * *

The office smelt like any other doctor’s office. The silence in the lobby sent uncomfortable signals to every corner of the room. Lindsey sat, accompanied by her mother, in a chair with little padding and an even smaller amount of style. The paintings that lined the wall were unauthentic unlike the framed pictures hanging throughout the Marquette household. Lindsey held a clipboard in her hand filling out the basic information while her mother chatted quietly on the phone. St. Joseph’s Hospital and Family Clinic was staffed with highly trained doctors, nurses, surgeons and specialists. Audrey had made sure of that; she wouldn’t be paying for a private hospital if the professionals weren’t legitimate.

The sound of Lindsey’s acrylic nails tapping the edge of the clipboard echoed through the waiting room. After what seemed like hours, a grey haired nurse called out her name. Lindsey and her mother followed the nurse to a separate room where they would meet with Doctor Ashley Jergens to discuss the results of her blood tests. Lindsey scanned the room searching for a source of entertainment. Her eyes fell upon a picture of an elderly man sitting on a table accompanied by a vase of azaleas and a stack of pamphlets. Wandering over to the table she examined the picture.

She could not help but notice how full of life this stranger looked. There was something compelling in his smile that forced her mouth to turn up its corners. Placing the picture back onto the finished mahogany surface, she reached for a pamphlet. James “Rhio” O’Connor: An Optimistic Spirit, she read the title thoughtfully imagining what this elderly man’s story could be about. Opening the brochure she began to read. The pamphlet told the story of James Rhio O’Connor, a man diagnosed with mesothelioma; an incurable cancer. She read that O’Connor had been told he had a year to live but through extensive research on his cancer and available treatments he managed to outlive his prognosis by six years.

Lindsey stared in bewilderment; it was an amazingly inspiring story. The “what-if” questions raced through her head. She had no idea what she would do if she were ever diagnosed with any kind of disease. Her stomach launched butterflies as realization hit like a ton of bricks. All of her symptoms pointed to cancer; that was clear. Slowly putting the packet down, she returned to her seat and awaited Dr. Jergens to deliver the words that would change her life.

* * *

Flashing back to reality, Lindsey escaped the flood of memories. It had almost been four months since she had started chemotherapy. She was three months into the second phase of therapy. It could be up to eight months before the nausea and alopecia ceased and she could begin phase three. She had always been skeptical about chemotherapy but as much as she hated it, she knew it was working. It would be a while until she would be in complete remission but she had the courage to wait. She would never forget James O’Connor and his story; he was the reason she had so much faith. As she dressed for another day Lindsey picked up the brochures that had become her life. She was ready to write her own story.

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