It’s been a while.
I’ve had more recovering to do. More than I realized I would need and more than I wanted to admit.
And, even now, I’m not finished.
We visited Nashville in October. It was my first time to experience Music City. We were bound for Belmont to attend the Storyline Conference. After surviving two battles with cancer and moving home from St. Louis, we’d signed up as a sort of “new beginning.” We want to live more intentionally; we want a better story. And, quite honestly, we just wanted to go – get out and do whatever we wanted! (It’s really a phenomenal event; I’ll have to give more detail in another post. You can read about it on their website here.)
The sad thing is, we only got to experience half of the conference, and even that half was only partially absorbed. I’d been having a minor battle with my belly that began a couple of weeks prior. Pain would come and go, but that weekend, it reached a new level; I ached with every move. I couldn’t sleep because it was so constant. What had been a tummy ache had grown into a full-on threat of explosion from my appendix.
Lengthening the Nail “Tour of Hospitals,” M toted me to Vanderbilt ER (literally, across the street) and we checked in. They were quite efficient and at 1:30, after only half an hour, I was in a room.
We were relatively calm. All of this felt routine, normal. I told the doctors what was wrong and what I thought the problem was. They did blood work, told me they thought it was something other than appendicitis, did my CT scan. I jumped through their hoops until they came and told me that I was right after all. (It seems to be a trend, but I’m not sure I’m glad about it.) They scheduled emergency surgery. By 8:30, I was letting go of M’s hand as they wheeled me into the OR. I remember crawling onto the table.
Because I don’t bounce back so well from anesthesia, I would spend the next two days at Vandy. Their rooms were nice: spacious with neutral tones and a big window. M had a corner to himself that could be closed off with a curtain. The nurses entered through sliding glass doors, which makes so much sense. No door handles means no touching doorknobs and spreading diseases…and, as a patient, I can people-watch with ease.
They took good care of me. Because they found my appendix to be perforated, I was awarded two weeks of mighty antibiotics: Flagyl and Cipro. (Gag.)
I could tell by reading his face, but M told me how weird it felt to switch roles. He’d taken care of me in St. Louis after both surgeries and my RAI treatment, but those were each fairly quick and in a place we’d come to know and love, with my parents as back-up. Now, he was having to stay with me in an unfamiliar place and with no reinforcements.
He was splendid.
Now, that should be the end of that story. We come home, I get doted on as I finish recovering and all is well, right?
My doctors at Vanderbilt discovered something else during my CT scan.
This one, a large “multi-cystic mass,” is taking over my spleen.
Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe it’s not.
Do you want to know the worst part?
I can feel it.
Yes. In my back. I can feel it when I move. It tingles and aches. Sometimes, the whole area goes numb.
There is no pretending it isn’t there or just “forgetting” about it for a while.
I’d felt “something” for a while, but had treated it like a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve. That is, after all, what I’d been told it was. It just…hadn’t gone away.
My doctors at Barnes are trying to set up a scan to determine what this new tumor is, but, it’s had to wait. My one year post-thyroid check-up and full body scan was planned for early December. The radioactive iodine used as contrast for that scan would interfere with the results of any other scan we could do on my spleen. Since this is standard procedure, and as thyroid cancer is confirmed to have been in my body, it takes priority. (The full body scan measures iodine uptake and only detects thyroid cancer/cells. It wouldn’t detect any other type of cancer, if present. So, there’s no killing two birds with one stone here.)
We didn’t anticipate, though, that the body scan would actually show regrowth.
Yeah. Regrowth. As in, “could-be more cancer” regrowth in my thyroid bed.
So, to nuke it (hopefully), I had another full throttle radioactive iodine treatment.
This also meant that because the radioactive iodine concentration in me was higher than anticipated, my spleen scan has to wait longer.
I don’t really know how I should feel about it. On the one hand, M and I have already encountered so much…and emerged victorious. I don’t know if that should add to my vigor or if it just plain exhausts me. I think I’ve been leaning toward the latter.
Since I’ve spent the last month recovering (slowly…) from treatment, my mind and body have been out of whack. Mix that with the waiting game and the result is quite heavy.
For example, I suspect that having attempted to explain all of this to you out loud would’ve had me looking like a nut case. I’d likely have stuttered over my words and not been able to focus on what I was trying to tell you. The words would escape me. Then I would cry and get depressed after fumbling through a half-efficient story.
This is mostly what happened when my case manager called last week. (I don’t have insurance per se. I have Medi-Share. They are wonderful. My case manager calls to check in on me and prays with me over the phone. Incredible, right?) She called to see how I was doing after my one year scans and to ask when my next appointment is, which lead to the whole long story. I did well to not sound like I was crying through the whole phone call. When she started praying though, I lost it. She could tell it too. All of my fogginess and hypo depression seemed to have been amplified that week and my mind raced with “what-if” scenarios. It was taking its toll.
I just… don’t want cancer again.
My point in pulling you through this lengthy post is to explain why I haven’t written since July. I’ve been resting. Wrestling. Worrying. Resting some more. Crying. Praying. Planning. I’ve been taking my time. I have to remind myself that it’s OK to take time; I need it. This week, due in large part to assistance from my beloved groom, I’ve turned a corner. I can tell there is progress: energy is returning, my hope is being restored, my personality is re-emerging. I’m able to write again.
And, obviously, I have lots to tell you.
*Update: After more talk with my doctors, we concluded that what I was feeling in my back couldn’t be the mass on my spleen, but is instead caused by some other minor issue. Amazing, though, isn’t it? How our brains run crazy in fear. Sometimes, getting lost in my head is the scariest thing.