I was planning on sharing my whole cancer journey in one post, but there is just sooooo much. I haven’t decided how I am going to share my cancer journey yet, I’m considering doing it in parts. Maybe I will just pick up from where I leave off after every post. Not 100% sure what the best way is yet. Gear up for a long one… This first post I am going to tell you about my diagnosis! Starting from the very beginning, and even before diagnosis! I hope you read the whole thing, I hope I can give you a glimpse of what it was like for me to be diagnosed. What feelings I felt, what thoughts I had, and I hope this story can be captivating! Enjoy!
Let’s start in the beginning. The beginning of my journey started with at a family vacation in the middle of August. My family, my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandma stayed at Peters resort in Glenwood MN. We were there Friday through Monday, just hanging out with each other, golfing, being on the lake, and just enjoying some family time. I am usually a very active guy, and especially with the Molden side of the family. We like to compete with each other in just about anything and we like to be outside! So going into the weekend, I was expecting to be doing the normal with them! Being active! But Friday night, I came down with a cold. Normally, with colds, they don’t really slow me down that much. It is more of an annoyance than something that slows me down. But with this cold, I was so tired! I had to take naps throughout the day, which took away from spending time with the family. This is very unlike me. But after that weekend, I really only had a cough that hung around, didn’t think much of it after that weekend.
After that family vacation, we had scheduled a nose surgery for me the Monday everyone left for home. My nose had been crooked for a while, and I can’t pinpoint a time when it became crooked, but I chalk it up to playing basketball and soccer. Whether that be from getting elbowed in the nose/face or getting basketballs and soccer balls to the face, I’m not 100% sure, so I’ll say it was because of both! So anyway, I had been having some troubles breathing during my junior year of track, and I was really looking to train hard for my senior year of track. So we decided to see a nose doctor and the Dr. told me I had a deviated septum and two broken bones in my nose! Makes sense that I was having difficulties breathing, not to mention I have asthma as well. So we submitted to our insurance company to see if they would cover a rhinoseptoplasty. The reason we had to ask for permission was because they weren’t just going to fix my deviated septum, but also the broken bones. So it could be seen as cosmetic, but it really wasn’t. It was to help me breathe, I really don’t care about a straight nose. I personally think having a crooked nose is cooler than having a straight nose haha! So if I can remember right, it took a while for the insurance company to “okay” the surgery, like maybe a couple of weeks or maybe even months, I don’t remember for sure. So eventually our insurance said they would cover it, and the surgery date was set for Monday August 22nd of 2016.
Everything was going great leading up to the surgery, but a couple of days, maybe 2-4 days before the surgery, I got that cold I talked about during the family vacation. My parents were worried (mainly my mom) and called and asked if it was still okay to do the surgery, and the doctors said it was! So the surgery happened on schedule! The surgery went well! Other than the fact that it didn’t work… (Side note: We recently saw a ENT and he said I still have a deviated septum) I swelled up super bad, which was expected, kind of… Everyone swells up after that type of surgery, but I swelled up A LOT! My eyes nearly swelled shut, I basically had tunnel vision when my eyes were open as wide as I could open them. But my family and I didn’t think much of it, it was just part of the healing process. A couple of weeks after the surgery, I started having some bone pain, but I thought that was because I had taken 2 weeks off from lifting, so now that I was lifting again, it was just because I was getting back into lifting! Another thing that happened was that I was having SEVERE night sweats. By severe, I mean like, my whole bed would be soaked when I woke up, and this is pretty nasty, but by the time I got in bed after the day, the sheets and blankets were still damp… Ewwww… But my mind just tried to rationalize it, so I chalked it up to my body healing from the surgery..! I mean, all of my reasons for these things seemed logical to me, so I didn’t really tell anyone about it. Until one night.
I don’t know the exact date, but one night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst pain I had ever experienced. My bones ached so bad. I rolled around in my bed for about 30 minuets wincing and crying in pain. And I am not really a person that cries much, so the fact that I was crying says a lot about how painful it was! After 30 minuets, I crawled up the stairs to get some ibuprofen. And then I went back to sleep! The next morning I told my mom about it, but I just said, “I must have had a really good workout yesterday!” Now you would think that by now, I would’ve thought something was up, but nope! I was only 17, I “knew” this would go away eventually! Oh was I wrong. So do you remember when I said I got a cold right before the surgery? Well that cold was hanging on throughout this whole process. I had an annoying cough, not that I was coughing all the time, but it just seemed to linger around. The cough had been around for about 4 weeks, and my mom finally said we should go into the ER and get it checked out. Ha! Yeah right mom! Go into the ER for a cold and a cough?! You are crazy! (Love you mom :)) But this was my thought process! I am also a very stubborn guy, so it took about an hour of my mom and dad being persistent to get me to go to the ER. So we went into the ER on a Sunday night, September 11th 2016. And let me tell you, I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE! This all seemed so dumb to me! There I was in the ER, waiting to get into a room to be checked out for a cold and a cough! It seemed so silly/dumb to me! And not only that, but next day, Monday September 12th, was going to be the day I got back to full contact soccer practice again! (I wasn’t able to practice for almost a month because of my nose surgery) I needed to be well rested for that. And not only that, but it was my senior year and I was taking a lot of college level courses, so I needed to be rested and focused in class!
So yeah, we will just say that I really did not want to go to the ER. But I did, and when we got there, it took probably 30 min to get a room, which increased my anger level. And then some nurses came in and took some blood. And maybe 20 or 30 minuets later, they came and took some more blood. AND THEN…!!! THEY CAME IN 30 OR 40 MINUETS LATER AND POKED ME AGAIN FOR SOME MORE BLOOD!!! Ohhhhhh man, to this day, I can say that Sunday, September 11th of 2016, is the day I have been the most angry in my life. I was so angry and so rude, I wouldn’t talk to my mom, I wouldn’t talk to the nurses, I wouldn’t even talk to the doctor (or whatever his title was, he wasn’t a doctor, but he was the one who came in and told us they were going to have a pathologist look at my blood tomorrow morning). My mom would attest that I was very angry and very rude that night… Not my best moment… But thank you Jesus for your forgiveness, grace, and mercy! Because I need a lot of it! So we finally got home around 11pm if I remember correctly, I am pretty sure we got there around 7:30 or 8pm. I went straight to bed, but didn’t fall asleep very fast because I was boiling with anger! But I did get some sleep that night.
The next morning, and really the whole day, I remember it like yesterday. The memories are so vivid and I can experience the feelings I felt still to this day.
The next morning I was excited! It was the day I had been waiting for! I finally got to do full contact practice! It had been almost 4 weeks of me having to just do the running and lifting, but I could finally have a ball at my feet again and do full contact practices!! My first class that Monday was a class called Team Sports, basically my one slack class that semester of my senior year. (Hey, you need at least one your senior year right?!) The sport we were playing was softball and I decided to sit out because I didn’t want to get a grounder and have the softball take a weird bounce and hit my newly fixed nose! So I enjoyed watching and was very antsy for the day to be over! I was ready for practice at 3:20! Around 9:40 we started heading back into the school, because class got done at 9:51. On the walk into the school, one of the people from the front office meet me about halfway back to the school. She told me my mom was at the school to pick me up for… A DOCTORS APPOINTMENT!!?!?!?!?!?! Hahahahahha, is this a joke?! I just went into the doctors last night, and I am not missing my college level classes for some dumb doctors appointment! Seriously, schedule it after school or something, it can wait. So I saw my mom and she walked up to me and said, “Why don’t you go and grab your backpack and schools stuff, we have a doctor’s appointment to go to.”
Me – “Mom, I am not leaving with you, I can’t be missing my college classes, I will get behind!” (In a stern and somewhat angry voice)
Mom – “Just grab your stuff Josh, we need to go to this appointment.” (in a very calm and soft voice)
Me – “Ha, mom didn’t you just hear me?! I am not going with you!” (In a slightly more stern and angry voice)
Mom – “Josh we need to go to Children’s in Minneapolis.” (In a stern and loving voice)
Me – …. (My heart sank.) … “Okay..? I’ll go grab my stuff..?”
See, the thing was, I knew people don’t just go to Children’s for anything, I knew it was serious at this point, I didn’t know what or why it was so serious, but I knew I had to go with her. I knew this was a doctor’s appointment I had to go to. I remember walking into the school with one of my classmates, who was on the soccer team, and a guy I had a good friendship with. The teacher of the class was also walking with us. I am pretty positive they had heard the conversation, as I was talking pretty loud, and they saw my body language was distraught. My friend and teacher asked if everything was alright. I answered like this, “I don’t know… I guess I have to go Children’s in Minneapolis, and you don’t just go there for any reason. Usually it’s for something serious.” So they wished me luck, and I went and grabbed my stuff. I saw another good friend on my way up to my locker, and I would usually say hi to her, but I just walked past her. I am pretty sure my face looked confused and concerned, which is not like me. I usually have a smile on my face and am joyful and happy. But I just looked at her and didn’t know what to say, I just walked past her. So I got to my locker, grabbed my stuff, and jumped in the car with my mom.
I questioned her in the car, asking what was going on and why we are going to Children’s, but she didn’t give me much information. She just told me that dad was going to meet us at home and that we needed to leave as soon as possible and to maybe pack a bag of clothes. Pack a bag of clothes? I was so confused?! It was only a doctor’s appointment, we would be back later that night, why do I need to pack clothes? But I obliged and pack like one days worth of clothes. My mom saw the bag and said, “Maybe you should pack more…” And I said, “Well how much SHOULD I PACK!?” My mom answered, “I don’t know, maybe 4 or 5 days worth..”
(My thoughts) WHAT IN THE WORLD?! This is ridiculous, we are going to be home tonight, this is dumb. I am not staying down there tonight, I can’t miss another day of school! (Like I said, I am a very stubborn guy)
But once again I obliged, I packed a bunch of clothes, my dad got home, and we were off for the cities. I put my earphones in, and listened to some music. I shut my eyes to get some rest and hopefully make the ride go quicker. After listening to my music for a while, my dad reached back and tapped my on my knee. I opened my eyes and took one ear bud out, I recognized where we were, we had just passed St. Cloud, which is about the halfway point from Alexandria to the Cities.
Me – “WHAT?!”
Dad – (Dad was sniffling and choking up, I could tell he was crying) “The pathologist called… (short pause) he said your blood looked weird… (sniffle) he told us we needed to head down to Children’s immediately…”
Me – “Okay… But why? What do they think it is?”
Dad – (short pause) “He said he saw some blast cells… He said there is a certain type of viral infection that can look like blast cells… (clears his throat) but he also said… it could be leuke… (chokes up and clears his throat) leukemia…”
Me – I honestly don’t remember what I said, I may not have even said anything at all, maybe I just said okay, I am pretty sure he said some more stuff, and I saw my mom crying, but I kind of tuned out after he said that.
What? Leukemia? Like I know what leukemia is, but, what? I am one of the healthiest, most athletic kids in our grade? It is important to note, that at this point in my life, and for that prior 3 moths leading up to this day, I had devoted my life to Christ. I was on fire for Jesus, so I was in a very good place spiritually and mentally, and I feel like Jesus was somewhat preparing me for this. I was in a place where I trusted Jesus with my whole life. So Jesus/The Holy Spirit prompted me to make a pros and cons list in my head. The pros of the viral infection included: I would heal quickly and get back home that night, I would be able to have a normal senior year of highschool, I would be able to play my senior year of sports, I would be able to be a “normal” highschool kid! And really, there wasn’t any cons that I came up with. The cons for leukemia were pretty obvious: I would have to start treatment, I would miss out on my senior year of highschool, I would miss out on my senior year of sports, I would go through a lot of pain and discomfort… and the list goes on. But because I was on fire for Christ, He revealed to me a pro for having cancer, for having leukemia. Between St. Cloud and the cities (which is about an hour and fifteen minuets), He revealed to me this:
Having cancer would give me a platform. It would allow me to inspire others. It would allow me to share my story, it would allow me to share Jesus with others. People who have cancer have a voice of authority, I can’t really explain it… But for people who have gone through cancer, people are more willing to listen to them, people have a certain type of respect for cancer patients. And this was the pro for receiving cancer, I would be given a platform.
After I made this pros and cons list, I just went back to listening to music. And eventually we made it to Children’s. Sitting in the lobby, we saw kids with no hair, we saw babies waiting to receive chemo, we saw families who had been through emotions that we were going through right then and there. We got called back, and the took some blood. This time they only poked me once though!! Hurrrayyyyy! The doctor, Dr. Perkins, told us they would do three tests. The first two tests were preliminary, and the third test, which would take the longest, would give us a definitive answer. So we waited… I got to watch a bunch of sports center which was awesome, because we didn’t get sports center at our house! The first test came pack, and they came in and said, “It looks like it is just a viral infection.” This didn’t give us much relief, because it was only the first test, and there was two more to go. The second test results came back… “Still looking like a viral infection!” This one brought some relief, but we knew there was still one test left. The third test took a while, we had to wait for about 2 hours. And around 6pm, Dr. Perkins and her nurse Sarah, stepped into the room and shut the door. The sat down, and broke the news to us…
This post is pretty long so I am going to end right here for now. After thinking about it, I will probably just pick up where I leave off. It might be the next blog post that I continue, and it might not. But I’ll make sure to mark the blog posts somehow to make sure you know I am going to continue with sharing my cancer journey and my story!
Now don’t twist my words, JESUS DID NOT GIVE ME CANCER!! But I believe that Jesus allowed me to have cancer to bring glory to His name. I would never wish cancer on anyone. Cancer is terrible, it causes so much pain and discomfort. And cancer was this for me.
But cancer was and is more than pain and discomfort. Cancer can be opportunity. For me cancer was an opportunity. Cancer gave me the opportunity to share my journey with others, and bring glory to Jesus name during and after my cancer journey.
The awesome thing is, YOUR STORY IS IMPORTANT!! You don’t need to have had cancer or have terrible things in your life to have a “good” story! Your story is powerful, and Jesus wants to use you to bring glory to His name and to inspire and encourage others! Allow Him to do this! I encourage you to read 2 Timothy 2, it will give you a better understanding of this verse.
2 Timothy 2: 20-21 20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Devote your life to Christ and allow Him to use you. Be his vessel, and share Jesus with others through your story!