March ’09. The best month ever.

To understate it, I had a few setbacks this month, some were thesis related, and others were health related. To explain, I have put together a timeline explaining how March ’09 was the greatest month ever.

February 28 – I get a mole removed from back of my right calf by Dr. Franco at Dr. Shultz’ office in Oak Park, IL.

March 2 – I turn in the first draft of my thesis.

March 3 – I send out a mass email, telling everyone I will be graduating. Much joy is shared.

March 5 – Get first draft back. Have some revisions to make, but seemingly, not many.

March 6 (9:05am) – I wake up to the sun shining, 65+ degree weather, and the knowledge that I have a week of no classes, students, or obligations of any kind to look forward to.  Just my own thesis work.

March 6 (9:55am) –  I am talking to a friend on how she needs to stay positive, using myself as an example I say, “My IPOD went missing, I think it was stolen by an 8th grader, these things tend to work themselves out. Something good is going to come my way.”

March 6 (9:58am) – My phone rings. I don’t know the number. She says answer it. It’s Dr. Shultz’ office. They tell me they have good news and bad news.” The good news is we think we caught it early. The bad news is the mole is melanoma.  You have skin cancer.”

March 6 (10:00am) – I remove my foot from my mouth.

March 6 (2:45pm) – Despite the bad news received in the morning, I realize just how funny the timing of my “stay positive” speech and the phone call was.

March 9 (10AM-10PM) – I spend 12 hours in my office working on my thesis, schedule surgery with Dr. Franco for Friday March 13 to have skin on calf excised, and buy a whole mess of train tickets not knowing when I will be traveling where or for what. I submit a second draft of my thesis before I leave.

March 10 – I receive a phone call from a nurse asking the basic pre-op questions: allergies, previous surgeries, habits, etc. She asks how often I smoke cigarettes and I hesitate. I want to say “Only when I binge drink” but think better of it.

March 11 – I take the 7am train home.

March 11 (2:00pm) – Get blood work done at West Suburban. In mid-sentence of yelling at her kid for eating junk food the nurse exclaims “You got a big vein!”

March 11 (11:45pm) – I am at the bar with Chris, Rolly, and Cory. It’s Rolly’s birthday, I had forgotten it. I tell them what is going on with me. Chris already knew, Cory says “Damn dude, that sucks,” and  Rolly says “Wait…so you didn’t come home for my birthday?!”

March 12 – I become even more familiar with the taste of my foot when I comment to Mom and Laura that whole grain is better for your skin which is one of the reasons I only buy whole grain. They look at me like I’m a moron.

March 13 (11:45am) – I have surgery scheduled for “sometime in the afternoon.” I haven’t drunk water since midnight, my veins have disappeared. My resting heart rate is 48, the machines beep like something is wrong at anything under 50, it quickly becomes very annoying.  Tatiana,my nurse, fails to get the IV in and I almost pass out. “We’ll let the anesthesiologist do it” she says.

March 13 (3:00pm) – The pre-op nurse attempts to get an IV in. She misses, guaranteeing a painful junkie-look-a-like left arm. “We’ll let the anesthesiologist do it” she says.

March 13 (3:15pm) – Dr. Franco comes in, draws a circle on my leg where he is removing my skin and says, “It ain’t gonna be pretty but hey, at least it’s not on your face, right?”

March 13 (3:30pm) – The anesthesiologist comes to get me. I tell him I don’t have an IV yet. He says, in a pleasant, cocky sort of way, “Well we’ll see if I can’t find one” I get strapped to a heated table in a Jesus pose, he finds a vein, and I go under listening to a jazzy version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”

March 13 (?:??pm) – Surgery. I have the skin removed from my calf. I have a skin graft taken from my right butt cheek (there wasn’t enough skin on my lower abdomen) and placed on my calf forever earning me the nickname “Asscalf”. During surgery Dr. Franco saw a mole on the sole of my right foot and since moles on palms and soles are bad to have he decides to remove it.

March 13 – March 16 – I keep myself heavily medicated. The pain in the bottom of my foot is the worst but overall the pain really isn’t bad but since I’m mostly confined to a bed and have a lot of vicoden I take it almost recreationally, daytime television becomes more bearable. At some point Mom asks me if the sun is bothering me and I make a Superman reference alluding to getting my power from the sun. I am starting to like the taste of my foot.

March 16 (12:00ish) – (Sorry about this one mom) My mom calls and starts talking about all the health issues I have had recently: mono, waking up sweaty, various little skin issues. She thinks it’s correlated with the cancer. I spend the next two days thinking I am going to die, it really wasn’t that bad, I have lived a good life.

March 18 – I get my bandages removed. I can tell from my mom’s face it’s bad. It has to be, I’ve done a lot of stupid things and my mom has been there for all of it. I look at it and am terrified, and then I think that it looks like a zombie bite and feel a little better. Dr. Franco removes the staples, re-bandages it and tells me how my Sural nerve got beat up during surgery and my foot will feel bad for some time. But there is good news. The mole on my foot was benign, and everything from my calf comes back negative. The Mayo clinic report says there is no sign of vertical movement. As of now, as far as we know, I am cancer free. At Mary’s later, in response showing them the calf, Joe very accurately tells me, “Justin! It looks like your leg got hit by a mini meteor!”

March 19 (10:00am) – I start working again on school stuff and look at the edits on my second draft. Somehow I have 10 times more work to do than after the first draft. I am confined to crutches, my brain feels like mush, my foot hurts and I need to change the bandage on the back of my leg daily. I take my first shower without having to keep my leg dry. I get my first real good look at my calf and finally break down. I sit on the edge of the tub and cry. Life was a lot simpler when I thought I was going to die.

March 19 (11:20am) – I get a physical from my regular doctor. He asks the basic questions. He asks if I smoke cigarettes. Ready for it this time, I answer, “Depends.” He looks at me and says, “Depends? On what?” I say, “How pretty the girl is.” We share a good laugh, then he tells me to turn my head and cough.

March 20 – I return to Carbondale, my mom drives me down. I see my doctor here to get transit tickets to get rides to and from class. She does my laundry, takes me shopping, makes my bed, brings me Dairy Queen and pretty much earns the “Mom of the Year” award in a day. She falls asleep on my couch while we watch a movie. I don’t blame her.

March 21 – Mom departs. My friend Kevin comes over and we are drinking a few beers. My high school vault coach, G, calls. I tell him about the ordeal. He is concerned with my calf muscle; he claims to have built it. He tells me he is going to get checked out and that his wife has been bugging him for years to have his moles looked at. I tell him about the bottom of my foot. He responds, “Aw man, I got two on the bottom of my foot.”  He then tells me about Morton’s conference meet. He lost the vault for the first time in 17 years. I am dumbstruck. I say, “That’s the worst news I’ve heard all month, and I got cancer this month.” Kevin immediately Facebooks the quote.

March 25 – I get the stitches taken out of my foot. This is also my last day on crutches. My doctor tells me, “Of course it’s gonna hurt so stop being a big sissy. Using your leg will only promote healing…just don’t be an idiot.” I like her.

March 26-28 – I realize the April 10 thesis deadline is not going to happen. I have too much work to do, not enough time, and my foot being perpetually asleep and on fire makes me snappy and, in short, hate the way I act around others. Teaching and tutoring are the high points of my days. I call G so that he can tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself. It works.

March 30 – To end March on a high note, I drop my phone while talking on it; the screen breaks, I can only read the left half of text messages…I’m an idiot.

March 31 – I don’t leave my bed. Nothing happens all day, and it was good.

Here are some pictures showing the “healing” process.


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One response to “March ’09. The best month ever.

  1. Pingback: 21 Days Later. « Laura Kozak

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