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The First Downpour

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Those first few months in Madison put me through the wringer, to see if I was up for the challenges ahead. These tests would prove whether sheer determination, faith and stamina were enough to successfully navigate the world of autism and all it entails. 

I was about to experience my first test. 

While waiting for Jonathan to begin with WEAP, I took to making our duplex look and feel more like home. One afternoon while I had some free time, I decided to put up a new shower curtain. Cassie was napping and in a rare moment Jonathan had actually fallen asleep, so I seized the opportunity. Hindsight being 20/20 I should have used a stool but I stood on tiptoe, straining to place the hooks on the curtain rod. As I was almost finished, I stretched a tad bit further and felt a sudden pinch on the side of my neck. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it, other than that I probably pulled a muscle. The pain subsided quickly and I heard Jonathan stirring, signaling that my free time was up. 

The next morning as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, I noticed a lump on my neck, about the size of a golf ball. It didn’t hurt, but I knew I’d obviously done something. Again, I assumed it was just a pulled muscle. We were getting ready to head to Omaha to see my husband and daughter, so I loaded up the van and we headed home, where I would check with my doctor there.

The OB-GYN who delivered all three of my children and his wife, who was my FP, were good friends of ours. They had invited us over for the afternoon so the kids could go swimming and we could visit, something I greatly looked forward to doing. That is, until I showed them my neck. The look on both of their faces said it all, something was definitely wrong. 

The next day they sent me for an MRI and based on the reaction of the radiologist, I knew the news was not good. I believe his exact words were, “Good luck to you”. Not a ringing endorsement for a bill of good health!

My doctor friends worked a miracle and the following day I was scheduled to see the top head and neck specialist in Omaha. At that point everyone thought I had lymphatic cancer. This is where my stubborn side and determination kicked in. I remember vividly telling everyone I didn’t give a damn what I had, if I had to walk around with an IV pole, with a chemo bag and my hair falling out. Nothing short of my death would stop me. Jonathan was not going to lose his opportunity regardless if I had cancer or not. 

Strange as it sounds, I felt pretty confident that the shower incident had caused the lump, despite what medical professionals were saying at the time. When I went to see the head and neck specialist, I told him my story and he decided to try and aspirate the lump. He had his doubts and informed me it was highly unlikely to aspirate a mass but humored me and gave it a try anyway. Humorous is not how I would describe getting a large bore needle stuck in your neck, but I obliged. 

Sure enough, he and his resident stood there and as they started to aspirate the lump,  he remarked: “Well, the shower curtain story is starting to make a lot more sense now”, as he was aspirating dark red blood. It was not cancer—I had torn a neck muscle and a hematoma had formed. I did require surgery which they scheduled for the following day. 

In my opinion, the surgery couldn’t have come at a better time, as it was the most restful sleep I’d had in months. I came through with minimal discomfort and was back on my feet the next day.

I had passed the first test but there were more to come. Little did I know but another downpour was on its way. 

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