By Paula Bianchi –
If there was ever a ‘cross that bridge when I get there’ moment in life, it’s when you find out you have cancer. Our bodies and our health are often taken for granted. We never plan on becoming sick, so when it does happen, it’ll knock us for a loop. Even when we consciously abuse our bodies, we’re still surprised to learn the abuse caused us any illness or injury. There are some of us who do everything right for our bodies and health, but for some reason, sickness still befalls us bringing us to a bridge we never thought we’d encounter. Well, I came to that bridge in late October, 2005, and it sent me back into therapy.
We were getting ready for a wedding reception, for one of the twins, at our house. On a Friday, two days before the party, I was planting some pansies in our front yard to freshen things up. After being crouched down for a while, I stood up and stretched. All of a sudden, I buckled over in pain coming from the right side of my body. Luckily, my doctor’s just a couple of blocks from my house, so he fit me in right away. He gave me one push on my right side. It just about sent me through the roof. He told me to go to the ER right away because he thought I had appendicitis.
My husband takes me to the ER, and they do a CAT scan. The scan showed something large on my right side, so they take me straight into surgery with me thinking I was going to have my appendix removed.
My poor husband was beside himself and all alone, until my childhood friend came to sit with him while he waited for the doctor to come and tell him how my surgery went. He was told an appendectomy should take 30-45 minutes. After an hour and a half, he couldn’t take it any longer and went to see why he hadn’t heard anything yet. They told him he would have to wait for someone to come and give him an update on my surgery. Thirty minutes later, someone came out and told him it wasn’t my appendix. They found a mass. He was told the doctor would come to talk to him when he’s done. Almost an hour later, the doctor finally came and explained what he had found when he opened me up.
When I woke up after surgery, I had a small tube that went down through my nose, down my throat and into my stomach to keep it empty. My husband told me the doctor found a tennis ball sized mass that was attached to the wall of my abdomen and it grew from my colon. The doctor removed the mass and 12 inches of my colon with my appendix, which was normal. Now my husband and I were a matching set because he lost 12 inches of his colon too due to diverticulitis. When my husband saw that I was okay, he went home. On top of being so concerned about me, he was left with the task of informing everyone that the reception had been canceled.
Saturday morning, the doctor came in and explained to me, and my friend, what he had found and to inform me he had sent the mass to be tested for cancer. Next he asked about my medication, which I hadn’t taken since Thursday. I told him they’re meds that my Psychologist had my primary doctor prescribe for me. He said he wasn’t familiar with these medications and left.
From Saturday thru Monday, I was healing well and looking forward to eating again, but everything changed on Tuesday after they removed the tube from my nose. I immediately started feeling nauseous and had a terrible feeling in my stomach. Any food or drink I tried to put in me, I would throw it up which hurt so much because of my incision. I was so hungry but fearful to put anything in my stomach. In the meantime, still no word if I have cancer yet.
As the week stretched on, my condition didn’t change. I couldn’t eat or drink anything without throwing up. My husband was so worried about me. He would go home to an empty house and wonder if he was going to lose me. His mind game convinced him that the doctor couldn’t fix my throwing up, and he still didn’t know if his wife had cancer or not.
When he came to visit, I could see he was so miserable and thinking the worst. I was scared too, but I tried not to show it. By Friday, what was supposed to be a 5 day stay in the hospital had turned into a week. I was still throwing up, and I still didn’t know whether I had cancer or not. My friend was very worried about the both of us, and she did all she could to keep our spirits up, but the only thing that made me feel good was my husband hugging me. I know it was hard for him, and he didn’t have any energy to spare, but those hugs gave me energy and hope that everything was going to be okay.
Saturday morning comes again, this time with nurses and a student nurse, all busy around me on my eighth day in the hospital. The student nurse was assigned the task of asking me questions. During the questioning, she asks me about me having cancer. “Wait a minute,” I said, “No one has told me I have cancer.”
Her face turned as white as a sheet. She quickly glanced at the other nurses, then, they abruptly left the room stating they were done.
I felt my husband take my hand, and he squeezed it tight. Tears started rolling down my cheeks with the realization that I had cancer. We were both very upset with how we found out, but at least we finally knew the answer. Now, they have to figure out why I’m throwing up.
A short while later, the doctor finally came to see me. He confirmed what the student nurse had let slip. I had stage two colon cancer. He said the test showed he’d gotten a clean margin around where the mass was attached to my abdomen. He felt I should have chemotherapy just in case there were any cancer cells left behind. Then he tells me that he can’t figure out why I’m throwing up. He said he ran 3 pregnancy tests on me, even knowing I’ve had my tubes tied since I was 25. The way he was stating this to me and the look on his face, gave me the impression that he felt it was all in my head. He didn’t say it in words, but it was sure how he was making me feel.
After he left, I was in tears again. It was not in my head. I am physically sick. I looked at my husband. “It’s not in my head! Please, go call my doctor. I need to talk to her.” He left so fast. Within a few minutes, the phone by my bed rang. It was my doctor.
I explained what I had gone through this past week, and how my surgeon was making me feel like it was all in my head as to why I keep throwing up. The first thing she asked me was when was the last time I took my medication. I told her it was eight days ago. She couldn’t believe it. She told me that if you abruptly stop the medication I take at night for sleep, it’ll give you ‘flu like’ symptoms because you have to slowly reduce the dose to wean yourself off of it. She immediately hung up with me and called the nurses station on my floor.
Next thing I know, nurses are coming in my room checking on me and giving me the medication, I should’ve been taking all along. I took the pills with a small sip of water and hoped I would be able to keep them down. It was 3pm when I took them. By 8pm, my stomach still felt nauseous, but I kept the pills down.
My husband was so tired, and I could see the worry in his eyes as time ticked by with nothing changing. I finally talked him into going home and getting some sleep. He gives me a big hug and kiss, then reluctantly leaves while his mind game is making him think the worst.
It was around 10:30pm, when I started to notice a change in my stomach. The sick feeling that pushed everything out turned into a deep hunger. I had to get something in my tummy. I got out of bed and pushed my IV stand down to the nurse’s station to see if they had anything I could eat. They searched the floor and all they could find was 3 small cartons of milk and a lime Jell-O, but it wasn’t enough. I was still so hungry.
It was 2am in the morning, and for some reason I felt so antsy. I couldn’t keep staying in bed. My arm was hurting and swollen from my IV. I stopped a nurse in the hall and asked her to remove it. This was my first feeling of freedom, and I knew I would be going home that day. I was so sure of it that I started packing up my belongings and was ready to go by the time the sun came up.
They finally brought me a breakfast of cereal, toast, and a fruit cup with coffee, in the morning. I wanted to eat all of it, but my stomach had shrunk leaving me feeling full with just a few bites. I finished the fruit cup and a half a piece of toast, but I could only eat a couple bites of cereal. Now I was worried they would keep me if I didn’t eat enough food. With this in mind, I took my cereal and flushed it down the toilet. I was going home.
Come back to read part 2 of My Cancer Story. Thanks for the visit. Bye for now.