Here we go with the worry today, and yesterday. I started having upper stomach cramping yesterday, which was pretty painful. Cancer patients/___________ (alternate word for survivor, which by the way, has horrible synonyms on thesaurus.com: "residue, debris, leavings, legacy, oddments, remnants..." this is not helping... "scraps, surplus, trash..." WINNER, I want to be cancer "trash!" Who is the person in charge of proofing these synonyms because we need to have a meeting... "odds and ends, orts..." THAT is IT. I'm done. Obviously there's a better word for "survivor," I've just not found it yet and this is clearly not my resource.) Anyway, if you've ever gone through cancer, it's quite possible that you have created two pain scales as I have: My "normal person" scale and my "cancer fighter" scale. It matters because when I say I have pain, an 8 on my normal person scale is really only a 2 on my cancer fighter scale. This should give you just a glimpse of what we are all capable of enduring. So, yesterday, my pain was about a 6 on the normal person scale and today it was about a 3. Either way, there's measurable pain which of course creates alarm for an anxious person. Having been through Hell and back, I prefer not to visit there again, so any warning that could tug and drag me back is not taken lightly. Of course, there's an unlimited amount of possible diagnosis options to choose from if I do a web search of my symptoms, but I refuse to do that again. DO NOT DO THAT! (There's my little word of advice for you today, if you have any shred of anxiety, and you have an ailment at all, do not research it on the internet; just go see a doctor.) I learned that lesson the hard way after I was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of my state of shock. I found ALL the worst outcome possibilities at a time when I was already facing the worst possible outcome which made all possibilities VERY POSSIBLE considering my current situation at the time. So, here I am today, still hoping that this cramping will vanish as of tomorrow, after all, it has improved. I'll give it a few days... which means I'll probably end up in urgent care on Christmas Day because I didn't want to go in at all. Only time will tell. I'm sure that my past experiences are affecting my choice to just ride it out right now, and I know they are playing a role in the worry about something that could really be nothing. Meanwhile, I try to focus on the good: my healthy family, our beautiful home, wonderful friends, supportive family and the upcoming celebration of our Savior's birth.
As a follow-up to my previous post "Feeling the good while remembering the bad," I thought I should complete the beginning story of my diagnosis. I ended the last post with "I could have cancer?"
It was on that list of possible causes for the vision problem, but they tested my blood for markers and all the tests came back negative. Denial. No way. I’m not that “one in three” that the health teacher spoke about in high school. Nope… I’m one of the other two.
So, I call my mom. That’s always the first thing I do. I call my mom. I’m more than thankful for her at this point in my life and happy that I had previously come to the realization after my teenage years that she is indeed not my enemy but quite the opposite. I’m 31 at this stage in my life. She calms me down. Helps me set up my scans and books her flight to be with me. I’m somewhat in a blur, but still functioning properly during all this. The days go by. Not one day goes by without the thought of the possibility that I may have cancer. My neighbor, whom I’m not too close with tells me that It’s in the bone and most bone tumors are benign. She’s not a doctor, nor a nurse, but I’m totally banking on her expertise in this area at this point because it’s all I have right now… “Most bone tumors are not cancerous… they are benign.” I don’t even care if this is true or not, it is for me now! I’ll take what I can get. Benign. It’s nothing.
The tumor in the femur had cracked the bone as we had found in the x-ray and MRI, so my Naturopath had sent me to another doctor for this. He put me on crutches until we could determine how bad it was and what to do with it. Meanwhile, I had a bone scan, a full body scan, and a biopsy set up.
The bone scan is easy enough to do… if you’ve never had one, you just lay on a cold table with some straps on your wrists to keep your arms at your side and a pillow under your knees. They also give you a nice warm blanket, a pillow for your head and then put a giant rubber band on your feet to keep them together. They lower a plate down to your nose and you slowly slide away from the plate. It takes about 45 minutes, unless you forget to pee prior. Then you have to re-scan. Oops, lesson learned… remove everything from your bladder and bowels prior to having bone scan. Won’t make that mistake again. I suppose that’s why they have a restroom attached to every bone scan room?
Like most people, I had to wait to hear from the doctor to get the results, which takes days. Meanwhile, I have a biopsy scheduled for the tumor in my femur. My mom and then-husband escorted me in for the biopsy. I’m fuzzy with my memories already at this point… since the words “tumor” and “cancer” came into my personal vocabulary, but I'm not completely shocked and spaced out… yet. I remember being in pre-op. I remember the nurses being so kind and gentle. I remember my mom teaching me breathing techniques because I was so nervous. I've not yet had a panic or anxiety attack at this point in my life. This was my first surgery. My grandmother had odd reactions to anesthesia I remember, so I’m a bit overly concerned. I feel like I have a lot of similarities with her, but I know I am not the same. The resident doctor walked into my curtained-off section and proceeded to look at his clipboard and told us that he had the results of my full body scan. I asked him to please wait to talk to us until after the biopsy as I just needed to breathe, pray and get through this surgery. He seemed to push the issue... so much so that my mom agreed to walk around the very thin, "not a wall" curtain thinking he must have good news because he was so insistent on giving the results to us after we asked him to wait. Paraphrasing, I hear something like this:
“We found a large mass in her left kidney. So large that it’s pushed the kidney downward to grow. We think we will likely find kidney cancer in her biopsy today in her femur. Your daughter probably has stage IV kidney cancer that has metastasized into the bone and I would suggest she get her affairs in order because at best, she has about 6 months.”
Pure Panic sets in!
Machines start beeping!
Anxiety takes over!
I’ve lost it and am now sobbing and freaking out!
My then-husband was telling the doctor to keep it quiet and trying to calm me down. My mom rushed back over to my side....
The nurses and whomever else all rushed in and immediately put me out. Or maybe I passed out, blacked out… I really don’t know. I just remember waking up post-op from there.
I do know that I will never forget the way that I found out about that second tumor and having cancer. That doctor should not be a doctor. I truly believe that this information and the way it was presented to me has a direct effect on my perception and fear of cancer today... it could be the contributing factor that triggers the panic whenever I go for scans or whenever I have a small ailment or illness. Would my life be less worrisome had I found out in a more compassionate manner?
Be kind. Be compassionate. Be empathetic.