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How a Misdiagnosis Shifted My Perspective

I'm not usually a fan of story times, but boy do I have one for you.

Even those who know me on the most basic level immediately pick up on one thing: I'm a hothead. In true Leo fashion, I think everything should go according to my plan. If not, well godspeed. Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that my intensity has dialed down a bit. I'm slowing down and learning to appreciate my surroundings. I've never understood those people who are always happy or appreciative, but here I am, working to be more and more grateful each day.

Right after finals, I spent a week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to celebrate with my friends. Everything was going great, but after an eventful night out, I woke up with an insanely swollen lymph node. I shrugged it off and figured that it would go away soon. It did, only to be replaced by a handful of other symptoms. I'll spare you all the details, but I seriously felt awful. I spent the remainder of May visiting my primary care physician, hoping to figure out what was wrong with me. After a negative COVID test, I returned to work. Aside from waitressing, I spent a lot of time sleeping. I was always tired. After two rounds of antibiotics, I still wasn't feeling right. I worried and worried and worried some more. I worried so much that I drove myself to the hospital one night to get checked out again.

My chest X-ray and EKG came out clear. Right as they were about to discharge me, the ER doctor told me to sit tight as he wanted to check something out a little further. I worried, yet again, even though he told me not to.

He came back in my room, turned his computer monitor to face me and pointed out a flag on my blood test. He explained that it was an indicator of leukemia. He stepped out, per my request, to allow me a few minutes to process. When he reentered, he also clarified -- the result very well could be a false positive. I asked him to retest my blood, which he did. It came back clean. He explained that regardless, I was to schedule a follow up appointment with the oncologist.

I returned home that night at one in the morning. I didn't fall asleep until four am, only to wake up an hour later. I stayed up and called the oncologist's office right when it opened at 8 a.m. The receptionist offered me the earliest appointment, which was nearly three weeks later. I explained my situation and my concern. I told her that I probably wouldn't be able to sleep for the next three weeks thinking I had cancer. She talked to the doctor, pulled some strings and got me in that same day. Even after cinching the appointment, I couldn't fall asleep. I eventually dozed off, then resumed my day with a whooping two and a half hours of rest.

I drove back to the hospital I was at less than ten hours prior and made my way up to the fourth floor. I was crying during the whole elevator ride. The lady at the general reception was not the happiest camper and she took her sweet time with my paper work. I cried some more. After what felt like an eternity, they took me back to be seen. The nurse was an absolute angel to me. When the doctor came in, he reviewed both blood tests and explained that the doctor in the ER was being a bit dramatic. He told me to breathe, as everything looked normal. Although he didn't see much of anything to worry about, he had me go downstairs for my fourth and fifth blood draws of the day. I got bandaged up, they sent my bloodwork off, I got in my car and drove to work. I made it just in time.

When I got to work, I was just happy to be there. Just a few hours earlier, I was afraid that I was sick — the scary kind of sick that you can't fix with antibiotics. Yet there I was, at the Olive Garden, serving soup and salad and grating cheese until my arm went numb. I was overjoyed to be there rather than in a hospital bed. For the first time, I truly, and I mean truly, appreciated the little things. One of my coworkers was telling me about the baby birds that live in the tree outside of his house. He mumbled something about life being beautiful before hurrying back off to work. I cried again. It's what I needed to hear.

Everything turned out to be okay. The oncologist told me that whatever I have going on probably falls outside of his realm of expertise. Now, I'm referred to an ENT as my symptoms best fit that specialty. As a hypochondriac, this has been one of the most stressful, scary experiences ever. Hands down. Yet, I did it all on my own.

I look back on this day and I think about how strong I am. I went to the ER and the oncologist alone all in one day. I even managed to clock into work on time. Would it be too niche to call myself a girl boss? Maybe. Probably. Moving on.

I have to admit, writing this article is a little scary. Vulnerability isn't really my thing — but if my story helps just one person feel better, I think publishing it was well worth it. I still don't know exactly what's wrong with me, but I do know this: life is short and good health is precious. Take advantage and be appreciative while you can. The kindness and compassion that the oncologist and his staff showed me was unreal. I couldn't be more grateful that they were so considerate in my time of need. I feel like if I had experienced this just a year or two ago, I wouldn't find much good in the experience. I'll admit, it's hard to be optimistic. I've never been big on the "life gives you lemons" mantra, but hey, it's worth a shot. I suggest you all give it a go, too.

Macy is a Pittsburgh, PA native with a passion for reading, writing, tree-hugging and music. She is pursuing a major in Biobehavioral Health, while minoring in English and Sustainability Leadership on the Humanities Track Outside of Her Campus, Macy spends her time with her golden retrievers and her camera.
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