hospital room entrance

What It’s Like to Get Cancer, and Be a Caregiver, as Young Adults

“This has to be a joke – watch me have cancer or some bullshit like that,” Tom replied, clearly caught off guard by what the doctor had just told us.

It was at this point that time started to stand still. After a brief wait, the doctor came back into the room. There seemed to be a shadow of some sort near his lung and they wanted to do a CT scan of his chest. We were not sure what he meant by shadow, but he informed us that it could be a mass of some sort or an infection in his lung. The doctor was very serious and seemed concerned; we knew something wasn’t right. As he walked out of the room, I turned my head towards Tom and lifted my eyebrows up high.

“I wonder what it could be,” I remarked, trying to keep my mind away from the worst-case scenario.

“This has to be a joke – watch me have cancer or some bullshit like that,” Tom replied, clearly caught off guard by what the doctor had just told us.

“Oh stop, let’s see what the scans say before we jump to any conclusions,” I replied, trying to keep my composure. “Should I call your mom?”

“No, let’s wait until we actually have some answers,” he replied.

We stared at each other. Neither of us knew what to say, but we were quickly interrupted by the nurse, who had previously been so upbeat. She was very somber and took Tom away again for the CT. I squeezed Tom’s hand as they pulled him away in his hospital bed for the tests. I went back to my chair and stared at the floor. I had no idea what was happening but knew that the direction we were headed couldn’t be good. A thousand distractions plowed through my mind, people I should call, sending a note to my boss, doing more research online, but none of it processed – I was paralyzed. I stared. I didn’t move the entire time he was getting his scan done; I didn’t touch my phone; I didn’t move a muscle. I sat there and stared. Thirty minutes had gone by when, once again, Tom’s hospital bed reappeared in the doorway of his room. If I had felt paralyzed for the past half hour, I couldn’t imagine what he had been feeling. I knew right then that my only time to be paralyzed had just passed.

The doctor came in an eternity later, though realistically it was only about thirty minutes. There was a tumor in Tom’s chest and they were going to admit us to the hospital and complete a biopsy. It was too soon for them to give us more information, but they would tell us more once we did some additional tests. The doctor walked out and Tom and I looked at each other. Tom quickly looked away and looked up to the ceiling trying to avoid tears.

“We don’t know anything for sure yet,” I replied, choking back tears, though I, too, feared the worst. I’m not sure how long we sat there, staring at each other. I had moved from my chair to his bed and was sitting off the side, holding his hand.

Eventually, I reached for my phone. I flipped around my phone as he watched me. He started shaking his head when he saw me select his mom’s contact. I was shaking.

“Hi, Honey, how’s it going?” she asked as she picked up the phone.

“I think you should probably come to the hospital if you can,” I replied in a monotone voice.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“There’s a mass in his chest, we are being admitted to the hospital,” I replied, holding back tears once again.

“I’m on my way – where are you?”

“We are still in the ER right now, but the plan is to move us. Come to the ER unless you hear from me otherwise,” I said.

“Okay, bye,” she quickly replied as she hustled off the phone.

Tom was upset hearing his mom’s panic and squeezed my hand.

“A lot of times a tumor is benign,” I said.

Tom kept staring at me, trying to not get upset, and made random comments to my ramblings.

“Whatever this is, we can figure it out,” was my final thought as the nurse came into the room.

She told me to gather up our things and that we would be moving down the hall to free up the ER room while we were waiting for a room to be available upstairs. I grabbed our stuff and followed Tom as they started to push his bed out of the room.

When they had pushed the bed out of the room completely, Tom heard his name and saw his parents coming down the hall. My mother-in-law had called my father-in-law to meet her. His mom gave me a hug and thanked me for calling her. My father-in-law, Denny, reached in and gave me a hug too, I could see in his eyes he was concerned. My father-in-law has a very particular kind of hug; he puts one hand on the side of your face, kisses the other side and gives a tight squeeze. At that moment, I didn’t want him to let go.

We followed the bed down the hall and explained how we had ended up in this situation. Tom’s mom was walking next to the bed, and my father-in-law and I followed. As we were approaching the room, the nurse from the ER tapped me on my shoulder and summoned me to chat with her. My father-in-law proceeded into the hospital room while I stopped to answer her questions. She had been so kind to us and had made us feel so incredibly comfortable. She asked me a few additional things about Tom’s health for the records, which I answered, followed by a few questions of my own.

“I know you can’t say anything, but is this bad? Are we about to get the rug pulled out from under us?” I asked, looking her straight in the eye.

“You two are a wonderful couple. I really don’t know much, but I will be thinking of you both and hope it’s the best possible outcome,” she diplomatically replied.

“Can you at least tell me where they are admitting us?” I asked.

“2 East South,” she replied.

“And what is that floor?” I asked; medically savvy enough to know that it should help give me a hint.

“Oncology and Geriatric,” she replied, looking me straight in the eye.

“Given our age, I’m going to go ahead and assume we are headed to oncology?” I said, though it really wasn’t a question.

She put her hand on my shoulder, rubbed it up and down on my arm and wished us the best as she walked away. Still holding the heaps of our stuff, I turned my head the other way and looked at the door frame where I had seen them wheel Tom’s bed.

“It could still be benign,” I softly said to myself as I took a deep breath and walked the few steps down the hall to our new room.

About the Author:
Honore Nolting resides in Chicago, IL, and was born in raised in Milwaukee, WI. She is a Midwestern girl to the core and loves the simple things in life like spending time with family, writing and traveling. When she is not writing books, she works as a Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Communications for a Fortune 500 company and loves mentoring younger talent within the company.

Honore wrote 128 Days and Counting because she was feeling lost in a dark time in her life and wanted to give back to the cancer community, and specifically to young adults that deal with so much heartbreak and uncertainty during a cancer diagnosis. She is an active volunteer for a variety of causes, enjoys running for a great cause, and loves the Green Bay Packers, red wine, and a good sunset.

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