I usually only tell this story when I’m drunk, but fuck it let’s tell it now cause maybe people out there are interested in hearing it. Let’s talk about the day all my life plans got cancelled. It was around June 19th, I know because I was supposed to go to NH to celebrate my friend’s birthday that weekend and his is the 19th, and I was at my local gym. It was late, like 11pm, and I was one of like 3 people there. I was pushing myself rather hard that day and I started to get lightheaded. I’m pretty careful at the gym so I sat down and waited for the feeling to pass, but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I figured it was late and I didn’t feel like sitting around, so I grabbed my stuff and started to leave. On the way out, I dropped my bag from my left hand. No biggie, picked it up and kept going. Then I dropped it again. Normally that would strike me as strange but I instead grabbed it with my right hand and carried on. As I got closer to my truck in the mostly-empty parking lot, I started having trouble picking up my left leg and started to limp. The feeling got stronger as I got closer to my truck, all the way until I was dragging my leg by the time I got to my driver’s side door. At this point my left arm was completely numb, so I put my stuff in the bed and used my right arm to open the door. Unfortunately, since my left leg was now also numb, I couldn’t get my leg into the cab while also leaning my body against it, so I kinda just hobbled there for a few minutes while I tried to climb in. At this point, now that I had lost control of the entire left side of my body, most people would probably think “hmmm, something might be wrong.” But not I! Eventually, a kid wearing a UNH sweatshirt who was parked in the lot came over asked what the hell I was doing. I went to answer him but it turned out I was also unable to speak. I could move my jaw but my tongue couldn’t move to form sounds. What wound up coming out was a weird groan mumble. A grumble, if you will. After a minute of questions and grumbles, he decided to call 911 and I managed to sit down. After a few more minutes of awkward silence, a cop showed up and started asking me questions, to which I responded with more grumbles. I’m not sure why she kept asking me questions when I was clearly unable to respond, but this went on for several minutes. Eventually an ambulance showed up and as they started to strap me into the stretcher, I suddenly regained the ability to speak. I used the opportunity to explain who I was and what happened, and they put me in the back and started off. I would like to say this was the first time I had to call my mom and tell her to meet me at the hospital, but it was not. It was kinda sad, I never got the chance to tell the kid with the UNH sweatshirt thanks. Sometimes I still wonder if he ever wonders what happened to me.
From there I was taken to my local hospital. It’s a small hospital that doesn’t get a lot of action so it was pretty quiet when I got there. I was feeling fine at this point, had all the feeling back in my arms and legs and I could talk so they told me I likely had a TIA, essentially a minor temporary stroke. I had it at the gym and I have a family history of blood clots, so they decided that it was most likely caused by over exertion, but they did an ultrasound of my heart anyways, just to be sure. I figured it couldn’t hurt, plus I had nowhere to be the next day and who doesn’t love the feeling of some jelly on their chest? The ultrasound got underway the following morning and while I was having some friendly chit-chat with the guy doing it, he suddenly got a concerned look on his face and started taking a lot of pictures. I asked what was wrong and he told me he found a golf ball-sized tumor in my heart. Seemed like bad news but hey, at least I didn’t have a blood clot! So he finished the ultrasound and I was promptly placed on an ambulance headed to Mass General Hospital: the finest hospital Boston has to offer (in my opinion).
I got to MGH and was chilling in a room with another guy who was there for an overdose, when a whole gaggle of doctors/nurses/random peeps in scrubs came in and said they were there to prep me for emergency cardiac surgery to remove the tumor. Seemed concerning but was nothing compared to the anesthesiologist who had the task of reading me every possible complication of the surgery which included internal hemorrhaging and multi-system organ failure. I hate that that’s a thing they have to do. Like how bout a pep talk or a “good luck” instead of a “let me list every possible thing that could go wrong with this but don’t worry it probably won’t happen to you maybe.” Regardless, we headed down to the OR and I got a round of applause from the surgery team as I walked in because apparently I was the first person they had seen be able to walk into the OR and not have to be wheeled in. Another concerning moment but I carried on. Since I was feeling uninspired, I decided I would take it upon myself to bring a little energy into the room so I gave a quick pep talk to the team and had us all put our hands in the middle and on three we all raised our hands and said “don’t kill Mitch!” Made me feel a little better and I thought it would be kinda funny. Might as well go out with a bit of humor right?
I woke up from the surgery about 20 hours later with some wires in my chest and a tube up my dick. They told me the surgery had been a success and that they would keep me for 2 weeks to let me recover and test the tumor to make sure it was benign. Fast forward a week and a half to me meeting my oncologist for the first time and finding out the tumor was very much so not benign. He told me I had what’s called stage 4 metastatic synovial sarcoma and I would need to start chemo the next day. He said I had a tumor about 9 inches long in my right thigh that had spread to my lymph nodes and was now in my arm, heart, lungs, and brain. He told me that I was going to be listed as terminal and that if the chemo was unsuccessful then I would likely pass before the holidays in a few months. To be honest, it was kind of a bummer, but it was also such an absurdly aggressive diagnosis compared to my original one of having a minor stroke due to over-exertion that it really didn’t sink in at all and I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. It’d be like if you went to the grocery store and while you were there someone called you and was like “hey your house burned down, your car exploded, your best friend banged your mom, and I’m gonna kick your dog.” You’d be like “the fuck? What a weird phone call.” That was how I felt getting the diagnoses. I mean, I was perfectly healthy not 2 weeks prior, and now I’m terminally ill with just a few months to live.
I got the diagnoses on July 2nd, 2015 and I started my chemo on July 3rd. The rest is history really.