“Are you excited for spring break?” I hear an old acquaintance from high school ask me. I went to elementary school with him, I’ve known him for 12 years but I’m not good friends with him. “Um, yeah,” I say. I’m not paying attention to him, I’m digging around in my book bag, looking for my wallet and the pain killers inside my wallet. I find it. “Are you?” I ask, unzipping the wallet, pulling out the small tube of pills. Two tumble out into my open palm; I swallow them with a sip of water. “Yeah,” he answers, “I’m going to North Carolina! Do you have anything planned?” he asks me. The ten minutes before class is always the longest, it’s even longer when he tries to talk to me. “Um, do you know about how I had headaches in high school?” I ask him. I had study hall with him once, he sat with his friends, I sat with mine, his friends were friends with my friends. I sat on the other side of the table usually with my head down. He answers “yeah,” but I’m not sure how honest he is, or if he knows the full extent. I wonder if he has headaches, I doubt it. I wonder if he knows anyone with bad headaches. Well, he knows one, me. “Yeah, so I’m getting a lumbar puncture?” I end the sentence as a question, I was still coming to terms with the procedure, it still seems unreal to me. “My doctor thinks it has to do with spinal fluid? I make too much apparently and it causes pressure on my brain,” I ramble. I’m not sure how much he’s actually listening. “What are you doing in North Carolina?” I ask. “Visiting my girlfriend’s grandparents,” he answers. “Oh awesome…” I reply, I swallow and stomach acid comes back up my throat, a lovely side affect from the pain killers. I take a sip of water to wash it down.
Breaks and vacations have become time to visit the doctors. As soon as I came to Kutztown, I couldn’t go to the doctor as frequently. I lived here. Home was 45 minutes away, the doctor was almost an hour from home. The first or second day of any break was usually spent at the doctor’s office. Sometimes, I would get an evening appointment on the Fridays I came home, but those were rare. After conventional medicine did not seem to work, the medicine became more invasive. Last summer I got eighteen lidocaine shots in my neck. The nurse told me it would feel like a bee sting. It felt exactly like the procedure should, it felt like there was a large needle plunging into a very tense muscle. I don’t know how big her bees were. Three sessions of 6 shots later, the headaches came back.
My third neurologist ordered a lumbar puncture. The hospital tried to schedule my lumbar puncture on a Tuesday in late February. I couldn’t do it until spring break; I needed one to two days to recover and one day for the procedure. The lumbar puncture hurt worse than the shots in my neck and the thought of a needle puncturing my spinal cord nearly caused a panic attack during the procedure.
This is what vacations had become, fear inducing, panic causing and very painful.