Sunday, April 24, 2011

a year later.......

 As I sit here today on Easter Sunday, I praise God.

 Yes, for Him, but also because modern medicine was wrong last year on this date.

 I can hardly believe that it has been one year since my doctor told me that I had cancer. What a strange trip it was.

 What happened was that I had lost 86 pounds, which made things like feeling a lump on my back more possible (that normally was covered in fat). And I did one evening at work. My back felt funny, and I went to scratch it and felt this lump on my back.

 "Oh wow, guess I need to go to the doctor" I said to myself.

 When I went to see my primary doctor, he wasn't concerned and thought it was a lipoma (hardened fat cells). Still though, it was big, and so he referred me to a general surgeon.

 I was so angry when I had to make the appointment with the general surgeon (who is with the big medical group in town associated with the local hospital) because I had to wait on the damn phone 45 minutes until I could schedule the appointment. Still though, I did. I knew another general surgeon though who was in practice by herself, so I made an appointment to see her also.

 When I got to see her, she said that no, it wasn't a lipoma, but that we'd just extract it and take care of it. No worries, just do it. I'd wait for the call from her office to see when we'd schedule the appointment. That should have been my first clue that it was all okay. (Sadly enough though, she ended up closing down her practice a short time later, so she never removed anything.)

 Still though, I thought it couldn't hurt to see the general surgeon who my doctor recommended. So I made my way to the new building that housed these doctors and was impressed with the surroundings. I made my way to the exam room and the doctor sees me. He feels the area, looks at me concerned and says the words I would not forget.

 "This needs to come out quickly, understand?"

 Um, okay........

 He wanted to know what he was dealing with, he said, so I had to get a CT-scan done. The worry set in right then. He saw that I had a history of AVMs and so he tried to reassure me before he left the room that it was probably that. He told me later on though that he was very concerned.

 The doctor's assistant calls me that afternoon and says that the CT-scan is scheduled for the next week. I take time off from work and go that next week. I go to the new building again and am impressed again with the facilities. I get on the table and they insert an IV in me and inject me with iodine. I was clueless as to what they would find.

 Results would be ready in a day, I was told. So check back with your doctor then. No need for me checking back with the doctor! That evening at work I get a cell phone message from the surgeon's assistant telling me to call them pronto. It was a Friday evening, and I needed to get to the doctor's office Monday for him to tell me what the CT-scan results would be. I called her back, and weirdly enough, she didn't get the message. When I got home from work that evening, my primary doctor even leaves me a message.

 "KIM! I DON'T CARE WHEN YOU CALL ME, YOU'VE JUST GOT TO CALL ME! THIS IS URGENT!"

 Since my primary doctor works Saturdays, I called him. He is very personable and responsive, so even though he was with a patient, he called me back pronto.

 "Why don't you come on down so that I can tell you in person?" he said.

 "No," I said. (Hell, I've been up the whole night worried about it, so just tell me, I thought to myself.)

  "Okay," he said as he took a deep breath. "Oh boy. Well, your CT-scan came back with a few things. You have a mass on your chest wall and one in your spleen. Kim, we need to get you to an oncologist this week."

 I sobbed right then.

 He kept on talking and told me that the report showed that this was liposarcoma. The doctor had to look it up. (Is that good or bad?) He told me that his grandfather had it and that it responds well to chemo. He spoke with an oncologist he knows, and they would call me and get me in by Wednesday at the latest.

 "Are you going to be okay?" he asked.

 "I need to pray right now," I told him.

 "I'm going to pray for you too," he said. (He and his dad, who is also a physician, are very strong Christians.) "I'll call you this week to see how you're doing, okay?"

 We hung up. I called my parents. My mother was calm, but told me to call the oncologist's office. (What on earth for?? LOL.) The doctor gave me the number, but of course I got it wrong during my sobbing. I called him back and he gave it to me again and asked for my e-mail. He e-mailed me and gave me the Web site to the oncologist's office and tried to reassure me that I was in good hands with both the general surgeon and the oncologist. He would call me to see how I was.

 I called the oncologist's office and of course got the exchange since I was calling on a Saturday.

 "Um, yes," I said through my sobs. "I would like to discuss my treatment with the doctor."

 Okay, the exchange said. They would give the doctor the message. I doubted he would call me back.

 He did!

 The oncologist was very nice and told me that he was dealing with a lot of unknowns with me, but that I would get in there early in the week and that he'd talk to me about everything then.

 I was just shocked he called me back!

 I didn't take a shower that day or get dressed. I e-mailed my whole address book and put my status on FB that I had cancer. One of my neighbors that I was on my association board with came over as soon as she read the e-mail and hugged me and told me I wasn't going to die as she cried. She knows when people are going to die (LOL!), and she didn't feel that with me.

 My e-mail inbox filled up. Friends called me and were shocked. I had a lot of prayers lifted up for me. I sobbed some more.

 I talked to a family friend who is in partial remission from cancer also. She was Stage 4 and not given long at all to live when she was diagnosed almost ten years ago. She was very uplifting and told me to fight. She gave me lots of advice also. Both she and another cancer survivor said that I needed someone with me at appointments.

 And so, my mom went with me to the oncologist's. He is a part of a huge practice that now looking back, I can see was run extremely poorly. Cancer patients were screaming at the staff. It took forever to get in to get anything done. When they took me back to weigh me and get my blood pressure, I saw that it was in the same room as where chemotherapy was administered. The people sat in nice leather chairs as poisons entered their bodies. It was chaos though. Pure chaos.

 I got to finally see the oncologist, and he said that he was dealing with a lot of unknowns because there was no biopsy. He did not think it was liposarcoma, but was in fact lymphoma. (Oddly enough, my dad's cousin had lymphoma and was successfully treated. So, I believed the oncologist.) He had spoken to the general surgeon and they were deciding on where the biopsy site should be, because after all, I had so many sites that showed up on the CT-scan as masses.

 My primary doctor didn't tell me everything. There were in fact many spots in my chest area with masses. My thyroid, lungs, lymph node......I didn't cry as the oncologist said this, but put my head in my hand. The oncologist had the look of a deer in the headlights at that moment. He did not know that my doctor didn't tell me everything. He told me that I had to have felt the lymph node spot with the mass. No, I said. Without lifting my arm, he went to feel it and felt nothing. (That should have been a clue to switch doctors right then.)Still though, he said that he knew we had questions, and he would answer every single one of them. What were they? I asked if he thought this was a Stage 4 cancer. Yes, he said.

 I had no further questions. I told him I was scared out of my mind as I cried. He took my hand right then and told me that I had to think of this as a comma in my life and not a period.  He needed to do cancer marker blood tests on me, so I waited for that.

I thought I needed to prepare my funeral at that moment.

 My mother kept saying I needed to fight as we drove home. I know when I'm down. And right then, I thought, I'm down. We got back to their house (the oncologist's office was close to their house and by the nearest hospital to them), and I said I was going to lie down. I couldn't take it anymore. I had to sleep to forget.

 I was woken up by the phone. A friend of my mother's called (the mother of one of the women in partial remission from cancer). For some reason, my mother told her to pray with me. The sweet thing did. I went home and I got ready for work. My mother thought I needed to quit my job. Instinct told me not to though. I said I would wait until after the biopsy results got back. I told my boss at work what was happening. She was sympathetic.

 And so, I get in to see the general surgeon to talk to him about the biopsy. He looked scared as he asked me if I knew the results of the CT-scan. Oh yeah..... He said that the thing on my back that started it all was a tumor.  He agreed that it was probably lymphoma. I told him that the oncologist couldn't feel the lymph node. What? He put on rubber gloves at that moment and told me he'd find it. He felt the armpit with my arm down. Nothing. He told me to lift my arm. Voila. That would be the biopsy site. (Like I said, that should have been the clue to switch oncologist's at that moment.) They would schedule the surgery for next week, he said.

 "Doctor," I said matter-of-factly, "How soon can we do this?"

 He looked at me and knew I meant business. I could tell.

 "Tomorrow?" he said. "Hang on, let me talk to my scheduler."

 And so, the biopsy was scheduled. I got to the same building where the doctors are, and a nurse even prayed over me after she stuck the IV in me. The surgeon was on the phone as they wheeled me out and they stopped me, because the doctor didn't initial where the surgery was going to be. (Isn't that sad about surgery today that they have to initial where they cut??)

 I think the surgeon was on the phone with my primary doctor, because I heard him say, "We're going in now. Okay. I'll do that."

 He walked over to me then and initialed the site. He put a comforting hand on me then. It was almost as if he was saying, "You poor thing."

 They wheeled near sighted me down the hall then. Too bad I didn't have my contacts or glasses on, because the new facilities looked nice! (LOL!) I got to the operating room, and was out in moments. I woke up with my right arm packed with gauze and in a sling. My mom came in and told me that she spoke to the general surgeon. Good news, my lymph node had no masses. It was to the side of it.

 I go back to worrying when three days later I get a call from my primary doctor that made me jump for joy at midnight.

 "HI KIM. THIS IS THE BEST NEWS EVER! CHECK YOUR E-MAIL! I'M E-MAILING YOU THE PATHOLOGY REPORT!"

 I did. The biopsy site was a hemangioma! I called my doctor the next day and thanked him. Still though, I wasn't out of the woods, he said. They had to figure out what the rest of these masses were. He and the general surgeon thought I needed the mass on my chest wall taken out next. (Yes, I said ouch to myself.)

 The oncologist was in shock. He wanted me to have a PET scan done and to have City of Hope do a second biopsy of this.

 "I have a history of hemangiomas," I said to him. "Does that matter?"

 Oh really? He apologized and said he should have asked me that at my first visit. (DUH!!!!)

 "And what about the cancer marker blood tests you did at my last visit?" I asked. (I seriously think he would have never told me if I wouldn't have asked.)

 They were all fine.

 Praise. God.

 He still wanted to figure out why I was getting so many hemangiomas all over and said he would do some research for me. Would that be all right? Yeah sure. I don't have cancer, so that's all that matters. Bless his heart, he did and I had some blood work done (which got lost and I had to re-do). It was all fine.

 The general surgeon was doubly shocked when I went back for my post-op visits.

 "I am shocked! I cut that open in the operating room and it was a necrotic tumor!" he said in disbelief.

 I told him that the oncologist thought that City of Hope should take a look at the biopsy. He said that wasn't necessary, that the hospital pathologist was very good. Still though, he wanted to know what was on my thyroid and also wanted to do a CT-scan of my pelvis. Fine. Whatever. I think I couldn't believe the good news either.

 And so, I went in for the CT-scan and it was different this time. In addition to shooting me full of iodine through an IV, I also had to drink an iodine solution. I also had an ultrasound done of my thyroid. My thyroid is a multi-nodular goiter, which my doctor showed me on the report is all hemangiomas.

 "Can't do much with that" the general surgeon said.

 My pelvis was fine. And the masses on my chest? They were also hemangiomas, he said, and also said that the thing on my back that started it all was also a hemangioma. He could see the blood vessels due to what I drank. I was still doubting that I was okay, and said the oncologist was wondering if I should have a PET scan. No, he said, because that shows blood pooling in different spots, which would show cancer. I would have been worried for no reason.

 Now I can breathe. Now I can live.

 "Well, you had a good scare," he said when all was said and done. He told me to come back if I wanted the said hemangioma on my back taken care of .

 That's okay.

 "Your life has to matter now," one of the cancer survivors told me. "You have to live with purpose."

 That is true. What a roller coaster that was, and I really hope that my life is lived with purpose.

 Happy Easter, all. We are all risen. We are risen, indeed!

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story...glad you are well!! You will live your life with purpose!

    ReplyDelete