Thursday, May 24, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting a Gertie

Welcome. If you are reading this, it most likely means that you noticed that persistent pain somewhere in your body (for me it was my stomach) and visited the doctor (or, in my case, the ER). Also, by now, you more than likely experienced the joy of being submitted to countless blood tests, X-Rays, scans, and endless questions posed by the various doctors you have seen. And I am sure you smiled and said your date of birth, repeatedly, with patience and understanding, without showing fear or worry over the unknown creature living withing your body that is causing you pain, or at the very least...discomfort.

Now as you sit and ponder your existence (and the tumor living comfortably where it shouldn't be) you are filled with questions and concerns about the journey ahead of you. Maybe you are a loner and do not have any friends to turn to. Maybe you are one of those people that have tons of friends but no one that "gets" you, so you don't really discuss your "stuff" with people. Or, maybe, you are one of the few people who don't know ANYONE who has EVER had a tumor or cancer, so everyone you know is looking at you with pity, but really have no advice to give.

If you are one of the latter, well I am truly sorry. That sucks for you.

But, make no never mind, where ever you are in your walk with your tumor, I am here to hold your hand and help guide you through the twists and turns you will run into on your road to recovery.

First, let me tell you a little about me.

On one particular Saturday, I awoke with stomach pains. My back had been hurting off and on for some time, but I never paid it any attention. You know how it is, you feel a small stab, almost like a little shock to the o'le kidney area, and you dismiss it as soon as it vanishes. I told myself I must need more water. That's it. More water.

Anyways, I carried on with my day. I got my hair done. Picked the kids up from my sister's house. Made lunch. As the day drew on, the pain in my stomach got worse. Lunch time saw me throwing up blood. Twice. Not cool man. Not cool.

After I deposited my precious cherubs with a friend, I drove myself to the ER. And, after waiting six hours, I went to a different ER.

**A word about emergency rooms. They are not all the same. Do not EVER be afraid to emergency room shop. You can always tell if you are in a good ER that will treat you fairly and give you a good heaping dose of awesome medical care. It's easy really. Look to the person who is sitting near you. Take their arm. Feel for a pulse. If no pulse is present, switch hospitals. Follow this simple rule, and you will never go wrong.**

I waited an hour in the lobby of my new ER. After I was taken to the back, I.V.s were started. An EKG was done, followed by an X-Ray and a CT scan. Armed with the findings of these three tests, a doctor entered my little room to tell me that they could not find a blockage in my abdominal area, but there was a 'large mass' on my adrenal gland. I was to be admitted. 

One week later I was discharged with the diagnosis of gastroenteritis and an adrenal gland tumor. I was worried and still in a considerable amount of pain. But, over the past few weeks I have learned to cope and since you have come here, I will share my coping skills with you.

Coping Skills
1) Name Your Tumor.
        I named my tumor Gertrude. Or Gertie for short. Naming it makes it real. Making it real, gives you an object that can be defeated. A 'tumor' is something no one can see. It lives within you. It takes up residence in whatever organ system that decided to create it, and it continues to wreak havoc there. A tumor can only be dealt with by a doctor. A trained physician, that you have no choice but to trust, will look at you and tell you what's going to happen to your body. You sit there, feeling powerless, and nod your head. You listen as they tell you the size of it. (Mine is 7.2cm X 6.4cm X 6.2cm) Naming the offensive critter will at least create control in your mind. It will give you some feeling of power. You will know that you are its host. And you are just biding time til you can serve the eviction notice.

2) Do Not Google Anything
       You have probably already done this. I started to, but quickly learned that I was doing nothing but driving myself insane. Do not, whatever you do, Google your symptoms. If you are anything like me, you will have yourself diagnosed with the rarest forms of cancer known to man. In fact, your cancer will be so rare, that it is still unknown. You will have nightmares where you are standing in the front of a room, facing the entire medical community that EVER EXISTED, and telling them what type of cancer you have. They will even name the disease after you. When you die (because, well let's face it, the cancer is too rare to survive) the medical establishment will not let you be buried; but instead, will steal your body, in the name of science, from the mortuary . Save yourself the heartache. Unless you continue to watch porn, don't even approach Google.

3) Be Kind To Others
       I know. I know. You are the one with this....thing.....growing in you and I am telling you to be kind to others. Well, let's face it, you are probably loved. Somebody, somewhere, is concerned about you. And that one concerned person is going to ask you a million concerned questions. There are times when I get impatient with these people. And then there are times when I find myself having to tell them how much it is going to be OK. It's weird. I know. But, you have to just suck it up and allow people to be...concerned. No matter how much they irritate you, you just gotta smile. Nod. Allow them this little bit of time with you. It makes them feel better. And they need that. And frankly, one day you will need them to make you feel better.

4) Listen
       If you are fortunate enough to have people in your life that have experienced something of this magnitude before, then seek them out. Listen to them. If they come to you with unsolicited advice, take it. Take it and pay attention. They have fought this battle before and you can definitely learn something. As smart as you are (being that you've diagnosed yourself with the rarest of cancers) you still don't know everything. So, listen and take in everything they say. Then tell them thank you.

5) Be Patient
       This is not a race. After the initial discovery of your unwanted friend, it will still be a long time before you see an oncologist. And just for the record, an Oncologist is a doctor that specializes in cancer. Do not be like me and freak out the moment it dawns on you that that's who you are going to be seeing. You have a tumor. They are 'tumor doctors'. Even if your special little tumor is not cancerous, you will still be seeing that particular doctor. And it will take FOREVER before your first visit. During this time, you need to stay as busy as your occupied body will allow. If you are like me, and in constant pain of some degree, then do what you can. Take up knitting......Ha! Kidding. Who the hell wants to knit? But, do something that you can do comfortably. Don't push yourself. You are not a superhero. Relax. And be patient.

Well, that's all I have for now. I will share more with you as I learn more. In the meantime, I will be sitting here with Gertrude and resting. I suggest you do the same. We have a long journey ahead of us. It's one that requires tons of fortitude and humor.

Luckily, I posses both.

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