Most people my age hate the first day of classes. As for me, it is something that I look forward to almost every semester. While I will admit that I am a bit of a nerd, I don’t covet the first day of school because of the learning process. I’m terrible at making new friends, and I do lose interest in class events rather quickly. Throughout most of the school semester, I’m that guy who sits in the front that reads the most random Japanese comic books and drifts off during class time. What I look forward to is the class introductions.

Every class does it (unless it takes place in a freaking ampatheater), and it’s almost exactly the same. After discussing the syllabus, the teacher calls on everyone to say their name, their major, and some random crap about themselves. Most people talk about either their favorite musician, some talent they have, or random piece of trivia that I can use on Jeopardy one day if they ever become famous. My introduction is a bit different than most. 

Hi, I’m Joseluis. I’m currently a Secondary Education major, mainly English, and I had a heart transplant.

Well, for most of my life, it used to be “…and I have a heart condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy”.

I grew up with an enlarged heart since birth. I have died three or four times over the course of twenty years. I had to move away from my home town for two years so I can be on the list for the best heart transplant hospital in the US. I went through months of recovery and pain, spitting death right in the mug. I earned this introduction!

I also grew up in a very competitive family. Everyone has to have something, right? My family had baseball/softball. I have movie collecting and school introductions. I know for a fact that there are very few people out there who endure my life, so there seems to be no chance in Hell that anyone can top my story. All my life, I’ve been told by the best doctors in the United States that I was supposed to be dead. They couldn’t find a reason why I’m still here. Mere mortal thinking, I say! My name is Ozymandias, King of kings! Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

At the beginning of my first semester after moving back to my home town, I was taking a Multicultural Education course. It was a nice small class filled with various Education majors. The professor went around the room, asking for introductions. I was somewhere towards the end, so I became anxious. We were about halfway around the classroom when something terrible happened.

“Hi, I’m Amanda. I’m an Elementary Education major, and, um, I’m a cancer survivor.”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of the colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Cancer. Fucking cancer.

I was beyond devastated. The ashy remains of Pompeii seemed tame compared to this.

How does anything compare to cancer?! At this time, Breaking Bad was wrapping up, meaning that everybody knew about it. Cancer wasn’t only sexy, but at this point, it was also powerful. And overcoming cancer; that just puts the last nail in my coffin.

Heart disease isn’t sexy. Not much is known about heart disease when it comes to the general public. Also, while it was genetics that gave me my medical problems, a lot of adult transplants happen because they acquired heart problems through obesity. So now, it appeared like I wasn’t taking care of myself.

When they finally got to me, I introduced myself, but my heart just wasn’t into it. My spirit was broken. My ego was crushed. I looked over at Amanda when I mentioned my transplant, staring her down. I had said my usual mantra, holding back the snake bite remark that was fueled by my inner rage.

“I’m Joseluis. I’m a Secondary Education major. I recently got a heart transplant, which means that my disease will never come back.”

I wouldn’t have won the day even if I launched my passive-aggressive sneer. It’s nearly ironic because the class was mainly about learning about other people’s personal culture (and the two of us bonded by the fact that we both grew up terminally ill).

Looking back on it, I recognize that I was being pretty dick-ish about it, thinking that I’m the only person out there who has had to live with terminal illness, even for a moment. I had gotten so used to being the only person in class who had medical problems that I forgot that there were other people out there who had to go through similar things. It’s amazing how this one incident also reminded me that I’m not alone, and it’s comforting to know that other people accomplished what I did.

(The first time I ever told this story to a group of people, they all busted out laughing. The next day, I went to the hospital for an X-ray. It turns out I had to go back for more testing because apparently they found what looked like a lump in my bone.)

(The doctors thought I might have cancer.)


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