Friday, June 29, 2012

When You're Expecting a Gertie: The "C" Word

So, you've had tests. You sat patiently while they drew vile after vile of blood. You smiled and told everyone how fine you were. You went back to the doctor, over and over again, just to hear the same old line.

"We won't know anything until we run more tests."

And since this IS the doctor who will be operating on you, you try very hard not to give him the finger and tell him to insert his mighty stethoscope where the good Lord did not intend for it to go.

You try to be patient. You do breathing exercises. And if you're in pain (like I am) you concentrate on not feeling it. You try, in vain of course, not to live your life by the rotation of pain meds.

Even though that is an impossible feat.

Finally, after what feels like years of doctors appointments, you get your questions answered. The doctor will come into the room. By now, ya'll are old friends. There's really no need to even shake hands or do that whole-sit-up-at-attention thing we all do when a person in a white coat walks in. You just sit back and wait.

"There's a good chance you have cancer."

Try to breathe. Try not to let your heart stop. Your palms will get sweaty. Your breathing will increase. And your eyes will roam the room, refusing to look the man in the eye that has delivered this God awful message to you.

"The size of the tumor, along with the shape and the fact that it's solid gives every indication that it is cancer. I am going to order more tests to see if it's spread."

After a while, you will lose the sound of the voice speaking. It will begin to resemble the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. This is why it is very important to always have someone in the room with you. Someone who will be able to answer the questions that will pop up once you regain the ability to speak.

And it is perfectly OK to react this way. Your reaction is earned. Just remember not to panic.

A test that you are sure to go through is a PET scan. This is where they will inject you with radiated sugars. Cancer cells will feed off of these sugars and cause the areas where they are present to light up. There's nothing to it, really. They insert a port (IV) and inject you. After about an hour or so, you will lay down in a machine that resembles a huge....tunnel....  The test only takes about 15 minutes. During this time, the people running the scan will offer to play your favorite music.

I chose Madonna. It's OK if you wanna judge me. The little Asian girl running the scan sure as hell did.

The day I found out I had cancer was the day I also got  my surgery date. My tumor does not respond to chemotherapy or radiation. I have no recourse but surgery. I have mixed emotions about this day. One, because my tumor is about the size of a softball, I require a large incision. Two, because I may leave the surgical table minus a few organs that I have grown fond of. And, third, well let's face it, it's surgery. A serious surgery that requires at least four hours to complete. A surgery that runs many risks.

The doctor will go over the list of risks associated with surgery.  It is a long list that you will just nod your through as he recites them by memory. The last risk, the biggest one, is death. And when the good doctor reads that risk off, you will look up at him. Shocked. Because while you are still trying to wrap your head around the notion that you have cancer, you are now forced to face the fact that you may die.

I'm not ready to die. I'm not quite done living yet.

The doctor scheduled my surgery for two weeks out. As I write this, I am still six days away. This has been the longest two weeks of my life.  I assure you, no matter how far out a surgery date is for you, it will seem like a life time. Try not to dwell on it.

I know it's impossible. But, try.

Now, a few things about cancer. These are not facts I am about to present to you. These are just my observations. These are the things that have occurred since I got the news.

1) Everybody will immediately feel sorry for you. You will get so many pitiful looks that you will have to fight the urge to arch your back like a proud peacock and stare these people down. You're not pitiful. You are a person carrying around a disease that millions of other people have had and successfully fought. Of course some have died. But, we all die. We. All. Die.

2) Some of your friends will take this opportunity to exit your life stage left. Let them. There are some people out there who just can not deal with the ugliness of life. These are the people who were only meant to be with you for a season. That season is over. Say your goodbyes. Morn them if you must. But, whatever you do, do not dwell on them. You can not afford to spend the energy doing so.

3) People will want to do things for you. Help you in anyway. This is not the time to be proud. If you need something, voice it. Whether it's bill money, grass cutting, babysitting, or just an ear to listen. These are well meaning people. Genuine people who do care. And believe me when I tell you that you will be surprised at the amount of people who do care about you.......and your cancer.

4) Last, but not least, it is OK to cry over this. It is OK to stomp your feet and proclaim life to be unfair. Because it is. Life is always going to be unfair. The good people will always suffer while the bad people, the ones who never have to try and never have to be sincere, will continue to shit gold from their ungrateful asses. But, don't dwell on this thought too much. Because while you are living with cancer, someone somewhere is dying of it.

And that is one hell of a difference.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Keep your head up, and we will continue to be praying!