What do you do when the devil attacks? Today, I feel like the devil attacked us… again… We could have crawled into bed and cried all night but we went swimming instead.
After my “probably cancer” diagnosis
I had this brief feeling of mourning. You know that deep sadness you get when you hear that someone died? I felt like that. It was like I was mourning my own inevitable death, but then that feeling just pissed me off. I wasn’t dead yet and I wasn’t going to go without a fight. I was preparing for this battle that was happening between my mind and my body. It’s like mentally preparing for war. I knew the odds were against me but I couldn’t just lay down and die. It would be painful and it would be ugly but I had no choice. This is the Truth About Cancer: Part 3.
My dad was standing in the driveway as we pulled up. I couldn’t look him in the eye. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. We sat everyone down and I opened my mouth to deliver the news but nothing came out. I physically could not say the word “cancer”. I didn’t want my kids to think their mommy was dying so I tried my best to protect them from that thought. In fact, they never really knew the seriousness of the situation. I didn’t know the right way to tell them. There is no manual on how to tell your children you have cancer and I didn’t have time to Google it! Maybe I should have prepared them for the worst and hoped for the best. Who knows what strategy would have been best but I didn’t have the heart to even mention the “C” word. I just held them and cried as these words kept playing in my mind:
“My babies need a mom. Why is this happening to them? God, please save their mother.”
Two days later, I went into the hospital for a biopsy.
I’ve never had a biopsy and I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed that I would go into surgery under General Anesthesia and wake up after it was all over. Instead, I was taken into an imaging room where more images of the mass were taken and markings were being strategically placed on my back. I was completely unaware of what was to happen next. They gave me IV medications that were (according to them) supposed to sedate me. One nurse held my hand as they took these long needles and started to jab them through my back and into the tumor. It felt like they were hammering a knife into my body. One apparatus wasn’t working sufficiently so they repeated the procedure again. It was so incredibly painful as I felt every single hammering stab. I wanted to kick and scream but I couldn’t move or they would have stabbed my liver or lung or whatever organs were nearby. So, I held my breath, I moaned and I squeezed that nurses hand as hard as I could until the brief torture was over.
I was quickly referred to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona where the real work began. There was a lot of blood work and then there was more blood work. Imaging was done from my head to my feet and everything in between. I felt like I was literally a lab rat. By the end of all these tests we discovered that I not only had the one giant tumor in my pancreas but I had one small tumor in my brain above my eyebrow, one in my neck inside the spinal cord and several smaller tumors further down my spinal cord. These are tumors that are different from the Neuroendocrine tumor in my pancreas.
So basically, I have two different types of cancer. Awesome…
as if having one type of cancer isn’t enough. Our obvious decision was to deal with one thing at a time. My abdominal surgery would be primary concern as the tumor was taking over my entire body, restricting and distorting all of my organs. The plan was to perform a Whipple Procedure to remove the tumor. This procedure would remove the tumor and the part of my pancreas that it was attached to along with removing my spleen and gallbladder. They would also remove part of my stomach and intestines, reconstruct the bile duct and portal vein which is the main vein that feeds blood to the liver. Our main goal was to leave part of my pancreas intact so I wouldn’t become an insulin-dependent diabetic from one day to the next. The surgery was was planned to take around 8 to 10 hours.
At 5 AM on October 20, 2015
I kissed my babies and their chubby cheeks as they slept so cozy in their bed. I had no idea what life had in store for me or if I would even survive the surgery so I softly touched their sweet faces and whispered into each of their ears, “Mommy loves you so much. I’m so proud of you and I will always be with you.”
I didn’t want to leave them. They were so peaceful. I wished time could have stood still forever but I wiped the tears off my face and I walked away not knowing if they would ever see me again.
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The Truth About Cancer: Part 3
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I’m going to backtrack a little bit here
I hadn’t been feeling myself for a very long time. In fact, I had been suffering from migraine headaches almost every single day for over a year. I had avoided doctors for as long as I possibly could. Of course, moms are always too busy to take care of themselves and I always seemed to have an excuse. Truthfully, I was afraid to know. Of course, it was always in the back of my mind but I didn’t want to know the truth about cancer.
Feeling tired and fatigued more than usual, I would see all my friends posting on social media accounts about working out, running, healthy living and having so much energy while I’m over here struggling to get out of my pajamas and feed the kids. I remember thinking “is this what thirty-something feels like? This can’t be right.”
At this point, I even sarcastically told a friend, “I feel like I’m dying”
It’s not so funny now, but at the time I looked completely healthy on the outside and even the doctor mentioned that I was probably just feeling “motherhood stress.” It was hard for me to explain my symptoms but I knew I just didn’t feel right. He suggested that I start with routine blood work and go from there.
Dr. F is quite a different character
You know, the type of doctor that is always in a rush and starts talking to you before he even walks through the door. He’s quite the “textbook” doctor who tells it like it is and walks out of the room. Dr. F always left me wondering if he actually answered my questions or if I forgot to even ask. I didn’t care for him much, but he was available and I needed a Doctor so I made that shoe fit. He said my liver levels were ridiculously high and that I needed further testing to rule out Liver Disease and walked out of the room. (Insert WTF moment here!) Naturally, I Googled…What is Liver Disease? Then I freaked out and thought I was dying of Liver Disease.
An ultrasound of my liver was ordered STAT
As I was laying on the bed, the tech turned her computer screen away from me and seemed to be attending to a certain area of my abdomen. She then started taking a lot of pictures and measurements. I curiously asked if she saw anything. She hesitated and stuttered, “your doctor will have to give you the results.” After the ultrasound was complete, I received a phone call from the clinic while I was leaving the parking lot. They said that Dr. F wanted me to go straight to the imaging center for a CT Scan of my abdomen. I went back inside for the orders. The orders read, CT Scan on abdominal mass. So much for, “your doctor will have to give you the results.”
After the CT Scan, the tech came out of the computer room with her eyes fixated on my abdomen. Her eyebrows were squinted with concern and her face looked like she was in utter disgust or in disbelief of whatever she was seeing on her computer screen. She asked, “does it hurt?” At that point, her eyes were even more fixated as she was trying to figure out how it was even possible to have such a huge mass inside my body. (Remember, I still haven’t been given any “results” yet from Dr. F.) Obviously, at that moment I knew… The Truth About Cancer.
Wait! Let’s back up, again…
I went in with symptoms of headaches and fatigue. What does this have to do with headaches?
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Okay, so here’s the Truth About Cancer blog
I wasn’t going to do it, but I realize this blog is sarcastically named after my “amazing life” and this is definitely a part of my life. Lately, I’ve had many friends tell me that I should blog about my journey through Cancer. I always smile in agreement that maybe one day I would but it’s taken me a long time to talk about what really happened. It’s taken me a long time to even understand what happened. In fact, no one really knows the horror that went on behind the scenes. Cancer is sad, gross and painful. It’s not funny or sarcastic. Cancer is an asshole and the truth is ugly. No one really wants to hear the truth about cancer. This is The Truth About Cancer: Part 1.
The Truth About Cancer: Part 1
When someone asks, “how are you doing?”
The automatic general response is to always say, “I’m good! How are you?” I know that most people ask how I’m feeling with complete sincerity in their hearts but to this day, I’ve never given an honest answer. No one expects for you to say, “oh I feel like I’m literally dying and the pain, vomiting and diarrhea are unbearable.” It’s really hard to be honest when the truth is so ugly. Most people knew I wasn’t okay just by looking at my 90 pound body, but to get through the small talk I had to come up with my own honest truth. So, if you’ve ever asked me how I’m doing I probably said, “I’m getting stronger everyday.” That was quite truthful and probably the only thing that I could say that was not horrifying and awkward. I wasn’t good or fine but I was getting a little bit stronger with each day past. Plus, that’s what people want to hear anyway… No one wants to hear the truth about cancer.
On September 11, 2015 I was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer.
My exact diagnosis at that time was, “you have a giant tumor in your abdomen. I don’t know what kind and I don’t how long it’s been there but it’s big and it’s probably cancer.” Then he started to choke up and walked out of the room before he lost his composure. I sat there staring at the wall in disbelief. Disbelief that this was happening. Disbelief that my family would have to go through this and disbelief that there could even be a tumor of such a magnificent size inside my tiny body.
How do I tell my parents? Am I going to die and leave my 7 and 2 year old without a mom? I wasn’t done mothering them. I wasn’t done with life. There was so much more I needed to do… I wasn’t done… And, what about my husband who was sitting next to me in complete terror?
My eyes welled up with tears but I wouldn’t let them fall.
I couldn’t talk or move. My heart was beating through what felt like an empty chest but I couldn’t let him see my emotions. I didn’t want him to think I was weak. If I held back my tears then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for him. On the way home, he told me it was okay to scream and cry if I wanted, but I refused.
At that moment, I decided that I wasn’t going to fight this battle through pity. I knew I wasn’t the first person to have cancer and I wouldn’t be the last. I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself and I didn’t want anyone else to either. On the other hand, I did feel sorry. I felt sorry for my family and my friends. It’s not fair to them. It’s not fair that they have to see this and feel this. My heart hurt so bad for them. This is just not fair…
This is the The Truth About Cancer: Part 1…Click here for Part 2!
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The Truth About Cancer: Part 1