We all have moments in life that railroad us. That make us think. That make us pray. That make us grateful for what we have.
A few months ago I was experiencing abdominal pain, was nauseas, and ultimately stopped eating for a period of time. My thoughts were everywhere… Did I have appendicitis? Was it the stomach flu or some kind of viral issue? Was I pregnant?
Logically this was disconcerting and worrisome to both myself and my husband and I went to an urgent care where they ascertained that I almost certainly had pancreatitis. They sent me in to have an abdominal CT scan to provide the definitive proof they needed that I had pancreatitis caused by gallstones.
They were wrong.
And thusly I received what I have now called, the good bad news.
The good news was that my pancreas was fine and completely healthy. My gallbladder was also perfectly healthy and normal. But there was something that shouldn’t be there, a small lump on my right kidney.
The doctor that called me with the news spoke to me in a tone I’ve never heard from a doctor. It scared me. Legitimately. He went in between listing that the lump could be a cyst or a hematoma of some sort, and then also using the phrase ‘early stage’. This had me worried and confused. He urged me to see a urologist immediately, as they could interpret my scans far better than they had access to via an urgent care.
So I found myself in a urologist’s office for the first time, surrounded largely by a geriatric population of very quiet but kind people clearly wondering what a young woman like myself was doing alone in the waiting room. It was a bright, crisp morning and rather nice considering it was in the peak of summer. They had orchids on the front desk that smelled heavenly. But I could be horribly biased, I do love orchids.
When I met with the doctor, he was nice and calm and asked if I knew what had brought me in there. I mentioned that I knew there was a lump… and that was about it. And that’s when my world flipped, when what I was sure I wasn’t going to hear came about in the most casual matter of fact way possible.
“Well, with these types of cancer…”
At 30, I was crying in a doctor’s office with a man I’d just met. Being told that I had cancer. I couldn’t process much at that moment. He was concerned I was going to faint, apparently that’s common. Go figure. They gave me water and some tissues as I regained my composure and attempted to ask the questions I thought I should be asking.
Was he certain? How could they tell? Did I need a biopsy? Was I headed into chemo? What did this mean for me, for my life? And oh God, how was I going to tell my husband? How was I going to tell my mom and aunt? What about my job, my coworkers? Thoughts of life and financial and emotional burden were hitting me like a ton of bricks.
He recommended I meet with another doctor who specialized in partial nephrectomies. That is, the partial removal of a kidney. While he could remove my whole kidney, the size of the tumor made it capable of a partial removal, which means I can maintain more kidney function for the rest of my life. I dazedly agreed to a second meeting with a doctor, dabbed my eyes and made my way to my car.
There, in my car, I had the most cinematic cryfest ever. I was gripping my steering wheel and sobbing my eyes out as I rocked back and forth in my drivers seat. It felt like I was living in a moment I’d seen in the movies, except it was real — and happening to me. All my thoughts and fears were on the surface of my mind with the most prevalent one being that I had to go home to my husband, the man I’ve been with for 10 years and look him in the eyes and confirm the fear that he’d had. The fear that I had pushed off in my optimistic can-do attitude. It was just a small thing and nothing to worry about, I’d assured him.
The pressure and emotional pain of having to tell my loved ones was unbearable.
But I pulled my big-girl pants on and soberly drove home, albeit with a leaky face. I had to be the strong one, I had to have the strength to get through the hardest conversation I’ve ever had with my love. And I did it, and it sucked. A lot. And then we, together called my mom.
Days followed and we met with the second doctor. I had a more alert, and thought out discussion with him. I had a list of questions from my mom to ask, to help me drive the conversation, to find answers amidst the confusion and muddled thoughts. My husband brought up points and interjected as well when needed. There I found out that I had a 65% of it being malignant cancerous tissue. Which leaves me with a 35% chance that it could be benign, or even potentially not cancerous in any way. But we won’t know until it is removed since there are too many risks involved with a biopsy.
I’ve had more doctors visits in the past few months than I’ve had in years. And they have all given me the reassurances that with what they think it is, that once it is removed that will be the end of this journey. No need for chemo, radiation, or immunotherapy should be needed. But that doesn’t absolve the underlying concern and fear of what is to come, the unknown aspects of surgery and recovery and all the things that go along with it.
As all this has been happening I have found myself more emotional as of late. I’m a frustrated crier, not a get weepy or leaky over simple trivial things kind of crier. But that’s shifted.
After a period, I just accepted that I’m going to have good days and I’m going to have bad days… and I’ll simply need to roll with it as it comes. But it’s difficult, weird, and in some ways isolating. Because at the end of each of my days right now, I just don’t know the answer to the question I need.
Do I really have cancer?