Updated: Nov 26, 2018
San Diego resident Andrew Tompkins, was diagnosed with Stage 2B Osteosarcoma at 19-years-old on Dec. 19, 2017. After 18 rounds of chemotherapy and three operations, he was declared NED on Aug. 31, 2018 at age 20.
During my battle with Osteosarcoma, I endured three surgeries: one for my port, one for my tumor removal, and one for appendicitis. Yes, you read that right. I had appendicitis during chemo. How mad was I? So livid that I started laughing. Like, the maniacal villainous chuckle. By the third surgery, the nurses on the pre-op floor were like “What is your deal”?
I don’t know, I’d rather be at home in bed. I get it, I don’t have my life together, just put in the IV and move on.
While all three surgeries were painfully entertaining in their own ways, my leg surgery was definitely an embarrassing moment I will probably never live down. Imagine this: a 19-year -old bald dude strolls into the pre-op floor in a wheelchair with heavy duty socks on. He goes to get changed, is FREEZING, wraps himself up in a blanket. A nurse comes in to ask what the last thing he ate was, and he shyly says that he annihilated two peanut butter chocolate chips cookies at 11:30 p.m. the night before because he was nervous. Yes, I am that person.
Given I have anxiety about only everything, I’m shaking with fear and confusion in my bed, wishing I could run out of the floor but I can’t run because I have a tumor in my leg and running also sounds really tiring and I’m just not that committed. A nurse asks if I’m OK, knowing for sure that I am not anywhere near OK, and I still say, “I’m OK.” She says that she can give me something to calm down, and I willingly agree, slightly wishing she punches me in the head so I can just go unconscious and get this thing over with.
Instead of doing that, she gives me a nice dose of Versed into my IV and I can feel my heartbeat slow down from beating at the speed of light to only half of the speed of light. I am still coherent and able to talk to my parents but like definitely feeling relaxed. Not too much longer after that, it’s time for me to be strolled into the operating room and get this stupid tumor out of my leg and start my transition as a robot. Robots don’t have bones, right?
Anyways, by the time I stroll into my operating room I am looOoooOoOoOooOoopy. I’m dancing to the song that’s playing in my head, probably an Ariana Grande song, and ready to get my game face on. I’m transferred onto the operating table which feels like the floor of Elsa’s Ice Castle from "Frozen," and I’m just about ready to be put under. My surgeon and I agreed that I would get a nerve block in my leg to help manage the pain, and it had to be done while I was awake because, well, I don’t know; I was off my rocker and not really listening. The nerve block has to be injected at the top of the leg, around my groin area, and obviously it’s blocked by the flowy blue nightgown I’m graciously wearing. So, the anesthesiologist goes to move up gown to give the injection, and I hilariously think to myself, “Hey! I don’t give out free shows.”
Then everyone in the room starts laughing. And then it hits me.
I just said it out loud in front of the entire group.
I didn’t even feel the embarrassment until I woke up and was in recovery. Surgery was a success, and my tumor is gone and I am in the process of learning how to walk on my own today, but my dignity did not make it out of the operating room. I’m traumatized from it and vow to never talk in the operating room again.
Yeah, we all know that’s not gonna happen. Curious to see what I’ll say before my port is removed next year!