It’s official, cancer scares the c*** out of me! I’m so floored right now! The ups and downs are exhausting. Even more exhausting? The way things creep up on you!!!
Yesterday started like a ‘normal’ day in cancer land. Nerve/bone pain was winning as it has been for the last few weeks. I half dragged, half limped into the car at 9am. I dropped T off at nursery and made my way to my second acupuncture appointment. Yup, desperate times call for desperate measures. After having the worse night on Monday, Tuesday night wasn’t so bad in comparison so I was in a pretty chirpy mode. Tried calling a few friends and family on my way to the appointment.
Acupuncture was painful as I couldn’t lie in one position, the treatment was aborted about half way into it. Next stop was physiotherapy. Painful, got some stretching exercises in and I was done about an hour later.
Stopped briefly to get some grocery shopping done, yup I limped up and down the aisle liked I totally belonged in there! Got a call as soon as I got back in the car that they wanted me to come in for a spine MRI at 4:30 (quick update…had an appointment with my Oncologist a week ago and told him how unbearable the pain was and how it was starting to increasingly keep me up at night. He suggested a spine of the MRI to see if we could identify the source of the pain). Told the radiology technician that I had a blood transfusion booked for 1:30 and will make my way to the MRI center as soon as I was done.
Blood transfusion was long but uneventful which is never a bad thing. Didnt get done till 4:30 and it took me another 15 minutes to get to the MRI center.
This is where it starts to get very interesting. MRI was the worst thing ever mostly cos the one thing you are supposed to do during an MRI scan is to stay still. Well, that was the one thing I couldn’t do! I was balling my eyes out in the machine and had to plead for a break about 7 minutes in. Took a break, tech mentioned how all the crying made the images blurry – oh well, there’s nothing I could do about that.
Next was the scan of the thoracic spine. That had to be the longest 15 minutes of my life. After that and a bit more tears, we were done. I had to wait whilst the tech called the doctor to see if he’s got enough images to go on or if he waited her to subject me to even more pain. I waited and waited and waited and the call didn’t seem like it was ever going to end.
The tech made her way to me eventually and said “I’m sorry but I think we are going to have to keep you for the night”. ‘What?!’ was pretty much my response and she said “I’m afraid I’m not in a position to tell you more but your spine is pretty bad. No wonder you were in so much pain during the scan”. Thanks!
I made a quick call to hubby as my phone was flat and I gave him a synopsis of what just happened. I also made a couple of quick phone calls using the hospital landline before taking a deep breath and waiting for it all to sink in. Next thing were loads of questions running through my head… ‘what does this mean? ‘, ‘is the chemo no longer working?’, ‘is my spine fractured?’, ‘how am I still standing?’ and about a million other questions.
30 minutes later, another tech explained that a resident radiation oncology doctor wanted to have a chat with me on the landline.
In summary, she said things looked pretty bad. I had a soft tissue tumour compressing my spinal cord and she was very surprised I drove myself to the hospital. She said it was an emergency and they would have preferred to place me on immediate admission. However, they couldn’t find a bed for me so the plan would be for me to go home for the night and come back to the radiation department at 10am. I will then see a radiation oncologist who would discuss treatment plans with me but she suspected I would need about 5 rounds of radiotherapy.
Went to bed, stayed up for most part of the night and patiently waited for the day to break.
Right now, I’m seating in a consulting room following a long chat with a radiation oncologist. Gist is, spinal cord is pretty much compressed at the T12 vertebrae. He estimates I’m only about a month away from paralysis and he can’t believe I’m still standing on my feet! He thinks immediate surgery is the way to go. Problem? I’ve got only one fully functional lung and it would be very tricky putting me under general anaesthetic.
However, he thinks spinal surgery is the recommended way forward in order to ensure I remain on my feet for a while to come. I will still need some rounds of radiotherapy after the surgery but he doesn’t think having only radiotherapy would provide the solution we are looking for.
He’s gone to have a chat/convince the pulmonary doctors, spine surgeon and anaestheticians. He’s not even sure the anaestheticians would want to take a risk on me as I’m apparently considered to be very high risk. If they do decide to go ahead with the operation, I might need to have a chest tube inserted into the pleural space to help with draining fluid and possibly encourage oxygen circulation during the surgery.
So….that is kinda where we are at the moment; waiting to find out what the next course of action is and trying to put my thoughts into words as the last 16 hours have been pretty much insane.
I try so hard to get on with cancer, I use words like ‘pushing through’ etc when I’m asked about the pain but right now all I want to do is shout from the rooftop! Cancer scares the crap out of me! I feel like I could just ignore it, stay happy, push through, try not to complain, take it all in my stride and maybe somehow, ignoring it would make it go away. “Stay positive” they said, “Keep being your happy self” they said, well that doesn’t mean anything to cancer. It rears it’s ugly head and bites you when you are least suspecting. Seriously? A month at the most from paralysis?! You’ve got to be kidding me! I have even more questions that answer and will try and I have a chat with my oncologist before I leave the hospital.
In the meantime, excuse me whilst I go have a sob/pity party in the bathroom…
I will start by saying I haven’t shed a single tear and no one attended the pity party, not even the host! I’m sure the tears would come at some point but for the moment, I am more focused on the solution and a way forward. In the end and after a few good hours at the hospital, here’s the summary of the day:
I had a ‘Pulmonary Function Test‘ to assess my lung function, this will form the basis for the anaesthetic plan to be put in place for surgery.
I had a brief chat with Dr W (my regular oncologist) and he was so sorry that this is happening. We discussed concerns around the latest finding. “Does it mean the chemo therapy I’m on is no longer working?”, “could the tumour have been in place for a while but I just didn’t feel symptomatic?”, if yes, “what changed?”. We cannot get answers to these questions and a few more until I get another CT scan done. Plan would be to get this done whilst I am in the hospital next week.
I go in to the hospital at 8am on Monday morning to be placed on admission for surgery. I will have a chance to speak to the Spine surgeon and the anesthesiologist to have a better idea of what the procedure would entail. Also, it would be useful to discuss the associated risks that my collapsed lung would introduce to the procedure and to get a feel for how comfortable they are about placing me under general anesthetics.
If all goes well, recovery is estimated to take the form of a 4 day long hospital stay and maybe another 2-3 weeks recovery at home.Once the stitches and ‘screws’ are out, we can then focus on a radiotherapy treatment plan to get rid of any stray cancerous cells.
I think that is about all the clarity I have at the moment. In terms of my state of mind, I feel much better than I thought I would feel. So much so that I managed to convince hubby to let us go ‘new car window shopping’. There’s something about the smell of car showrooms that remind me of health; the newness of the car, the smell of leather, the expectations that buying a new car suggests promise or assuredness of health and vitality amongst other things. I wanted to feels those things more than ever and visiting a few car showrooms definitely helped.
Plan is to go ahead with the weekend as normal as possible; go with the lil one to gym in the morning but hubby will be the one doing the activities with her as her gym classes are parented. Next would be to keep my nail appointment – my finger nails are overdue a polish change, what better time to go crazy on colours than when you know you are going to be stuck in a hospital room for a few days! )
I have been completely overwhelmed today by the outpouring of love from friends, family and newly acquired friends of friend. Your love, support, encouragement and prayers mean the world to me and I would definitely not be feeling as optimistic as I am if not for the confidence I have that a whole lot of people are praying and sending positive vibes my way. I love and appreciate each single one of you!
It’s 3:05am and pain and numbness have kept me up for more than 3 hours now. Time to put the laptop down and make a feeble attempt at seeing if reciting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi….” would aid the process along!