My heart was pounding again.
I had never really had good experiences with doctors, and I expected this one to be no different. Not only is US healthcare absurdly overpriced, in my opinion, but there’s so many doctors that seem to give the impression that their patients aren’t worth the moment of their time.
Time is money, sure. But when it comes to being valued as a patient, genuine and honest care are indispensable.
Either way, this was about to be a lesson for me.
I had spent the past six months in Arizona, Hawaii, and Washington (for a brief moment), while secretly worrying over the status of my health. Even then, for a few years prior, a single swollen tonsil in the back of my throat led me to consider the potentially-fatal implications of this irregularity.
The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis
First off, this is tried and true advice: no one should ever plug their symptoms into an online search engine with the expectation that they’ll receive anything less than a prophecy of early death. You should remember your ailment is unique. Online medical editors are not oracles.
With that said, doing the exact opposite of this advice brought me to tears a number of times.
What I had, or at least, what I believed I had, was a monstrosity preying on my young life and threatening to absolve all that was good, and lasting, and real in the world for me. I walked into that doctors office with the assumption he would verify the worst of my fears—that I had lymphoma.
Cancer. The devil’s own scourge could not be a worse kind of disease.
It’s not a friendly thought, and my heart truly goes out to those who are living with it, or who know of others living with it. If only I had a panacea of words to relieve this malicious malady, I’d breath the antidote of cunning linguistic rhythms, heightening the afflicted to their full vitality and strength, no longer in woe of the weary plight that has befallen them—but I don’t claim to be a Christ.
Be Grateful for Health
This brings me to my second piece of advice: for those who are free from any form of cancer, the genetic predispositions thereof, or any other serious and life-threatening medical ailments, remember to give thanks.
Whether you begin the day with your creator in a prayer of thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on health before bed, or just remain humble in life, don’t forget that that which you oftentimes take for granted, which is in turn also your greatest asset, can change from gleaming and whole one day to being bed-ridden and battered the next.
Let’s be straight here, you’re meant to live with a little bit of fear. It keeps you from making bad decisions. It keeps you humble. It keeps you honest.
No big-headed loon was ever made so by remaining in check, time to time, of his or her own mortality. One might suggest that we are invincible in spirit, but as far as the fate of the body goes, it simply is not so.
While I don’t think it’s healthy to live every day in fear of this, someday, you just have to give the gift of life back.
Every Doctor is Different
Here’s my third piece of advice: always get a second (or third) opinion on the most important matters. If you’re circumstance is not immediately life threatening, it’s probably a good idea to get additional opinions.
My experience was a clear articulation of this.
A week before I initially set out on my travel journey, I visited with a doctor who specialized in ears, noses, and throats (an ENT). He was younger, probably a straight “A” student through medical school, and probably paying back tons of money each month on his student loans.
What was his recommendation for me? Surgery.
I was crushed. Apparently, having your tonsils removed later in life can be extremely painful. According to him, it was the only way to tell if I had indeed been besieged by cancer.
Because we were booked for a train ride to Arizona within the week, I elected to wait on the surgery that would have left me bed-ridden and spitting blood for nearly two weeks. From then on out, I was living with the haunting notion of not knowing whether or not I would grow more sick by the day.
The Mind is a Powerful Thing
The fourth life lesson: your mind is a feedback loop for the energetic vibration of your body. The thoughts that arise within it, subsequently, are the roots which stabilize your perception.
As you reflect more on the probability of your beliefs being accurate, your body responds to the symptoms and stresses of these beliefs, and thus, the mind is reinforced in its own echoed impressions.
And resolving that whole matter? Easier said than done.
Stronger minds than mine have tried to break the mirrors of this replicating chamber—many of them never succeed. But being mindful of this quest is the light toward the proactivity of resolve.
For months, the mere thought that I was dying at a more rapid pace than everyone else gave me a lot of fear. Then I started believing that more symptoms were arising.
Some days, my eyes had bags under them. I would wince as I turned my neck from side to side, assuring myself that it must have been the disease consuming me from the inside out.
Yoga and relaxation came to some avail, but what I needed was an answer, a definitive conclusion to this interplay of mind, body, and spirit. Either I was going to be terminal at twenty-five, or I was going to kill this dread once-and-for-all.
Setting Priorities Straight
My final piece of advice from this escapade: do what you need to do for yourself with utmost precedence, and then worry about the rest.
I could have stayed in Hawaii for another couple of months island-hopping. Maybe I would have headed over to Asia for a while after that, spending my time teaching English and backpacking to remote temples on the weekend.
Instead, I booked a long flight all the way back to my hometown in Michigan.
You’d think that after spending a few well-deserved and immensely-relaxing months in Hawaii, I’d be chill as a cucumber. But in all honesty, I was anything but.
I started to stress about making money, getting my old car insurance back in order, and what I would do if the impending surgery revealed that I did have cancer. Compared to my former Hawaiian lifestyle, I was not going to be living a very exciting existence for the next few months.
Fortunately, I have a very special person in my life who reassured me that I just needed to take it easy until I sorted out what was going on with the item at the top of my list of priorities.
After a few days of writing poetry, researching travel-related topics, and playing an old Game Boy game from my boyhood adolescence, I finally got the nerve to call up a new doctor recommended to me by my aunt. He was about to throw down some of the best information I had heard in months.
The waiting room in the doctor’s office had one of those hyper-HD television screens mounted to the wall. Through it, some of the most engaging footage of satellite imagery I’ve ever seen circulated. The oddly serene and calming manifesto of emerging cityscapes across the horizon, and the black abyss of space speckled by thousands of tiny stars were enough to draw me in.
For the moment I spent in the waiting room, albeit reassuringly brief, I was transfixed to a point of forgetting about my nervously racing heart.
I didn’t spend an eternity in the examination room either.
The doctor came in with a character close to that of Mr. Rogers. Remember that guy? The one with all the sweaters? What more could you ask for in the demeanor of consulting with a comforting television personality reincarnated as a doctor?
I told him my fears and he addressed every one of them.
Upon feeling my neck, and observing that I literally had no other disconcerting symptoms, he appeased my thoughts. To his sincere opinion, combined with the years of experience he had in diagnosing similar disorders, he counseled that I had less than a one percent chance of having cancer.
Breath of the Angel's Fire
It’s time this spirit, long-impressed by the burden of decrepit notions, was made into a warrior.
The amusing part of all of this is that nothing has changed, aside from my outlook being shifted by a doctor’s opinion. Is there still a risk associated? Sure. But less than one percent seems like pretty good odds to me, and even then, in everything we do, just being alive is a risk.
So I’m determined. I want to grow, and prosper, and spread my reach into the embraces of utter freedom while still human.
There’s multiple businesses that I’m in the process of starting up. It seems my writing career may finally be catching hold. And I’m learning what commitment means, not just to a lifestyle, but a person as well.
The future looks promising, and the usual dweller of depression that I’m occasioned to deal with no longer has footing in the ideology that I’m losing my life.
By this time next year, all the things that I’ve been holding myself back from will surely be the lot on my plate, full throttle ahead, no-holds-barred, and ever-thankfully relieved by the gods of Fortitude and Mercy for not sealing my fate otherwise.