Since I’m at the beginning of my own cancer carousel , I was thinking about this instead of my own mortality, which is a subject for a different day.
I have a lot of experience with people getting/dying/living with cancer.
My mother found a lump in her breast about a week after my da passed away. She calls me “Chloe, I have this weird, it’s-really-probably-nothing, can you come check it?” So off I go and sure enough, she has a lump the size of a cantaloupe in her breast. Good thing telephones had been invented or we would have been camped out at her doctor’s office. Within the week, she had a myriad of tests and then had surgery. I knew it was cancer, She knew it was cancer. But when the doctor and a nurse came down to see us after he got the results from the lab and my mother was still off in la-la land, HE FELT AWFUL. I could tell that he felt personally responsible for giving us such awful news. And it wasn’t so awful because I figured that was what it was.
What I didn’t count on was how sick she was going to get during recovery. Remember the scene in whatever movie it is where Shirley McClain and Debra Winger are in the hospital and Shirley throws a huge fit about pain medication? That was me. I don’t remember what it was–I think she was getting some pill, which she promptly threw up. Then she would start to cry and then just lie there, weeping and looking like a miserable three year old. Right before she started puking in earnest.
All they needed to do was call the doctor and get the medication changed from the puke pill to an IV liquid and some Zofran and let her stay in the hospital and sleep. What finally happened was my husband, who looks and sounds like a maniacal serial killer, specializing in nurses went down for a little talk at the nurses station. Evidently he convinced them to “bother” the doctor. She lived for ten more years and the word cancer was never again mentioned.
My Da had prostate cancer. Had surgery and he died 22 years later.
My sister, Marnie had ALM when she was four. She was killed in an accident just a few days before we got the letter from where ever we had gone to to see what was wrong. At least my mother was spared the torture that was childhood leukemia treatment in the early 50’s.
My Uncle John had leukemia and lived another 50 years.
Aunt Peggy and Uncle Free…25 years living with the curse.
So in my family, we all get it and we all get better and we live until we are 90. So the word cancer is not the death sentence it is for many people. It’s a blip where we feel crappy, crappier, really crappy and then we get on with it.
A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer; the same kind that killed her mother. Ten years later her husband was diagnosed. Chemo is not the kind of conversational keynote that you can share within your family, much less with friends. It is what it is and you just get through it. I didn’t handle the news appropriately, so we no longer speak. And I understand why. NO ONE can get what is going on unless you are in the middle of it. It is a very long and scary middle before you start treatment which in and of itself is horrible, hideous and scary. So our friendship was just part of the unbelievable awfulness of it.
I’m still being tested to pin down exactly what the heck the next step is. I’m going with my two most trusted doctors who both day it is probably lymphoma 1a. I’m really tired. I’m really emotional. My list of important things has shrunk to almost nothing. (I went to the market today and could not find one thing that sounded good. Not one single thing.) My lymph glands are swollen and I’ve been puking since May. That is a long time.
I’m throwing up blood now–little vessels in my throat get ripped open and then pool in my stomach and I throw that up too. It is a really unattractive disease. I have blisters on my stomach from digging holes in myself because my stomach hurts. During the night, I think I’m trying to let the heat out. So I clipped my nails to almost nothing but I have so many blisters that they weep during the night, get stuck to my night gown and rip themselves off. So I have a wee bit of staph to worry about.
I live in the Central Valley of California and there is a fungal spore called Valley Fever we get here, I think everyone gets it. Until recently, the only cure was to rest until you got better. I had it about 20 years ago, when my daughter and my mother had it. We were just tired and then one day we were fine. But it makes your lymph glands swell up and wreaks havoc on your liver, pancreas and spleen. My spleen has nodules (great big ass lumps) that concern my doctor, as do my inflamed and swollen lymph glands. He hesitates to label this cancer, because cancer is a very scary word.
AND RIGHTLY SO. YOU CAN DIE FROM THAT.
So for now, I have what is most probably lymphoma…which can be benign. Which I don’t think it is only because I’ve been throwing up since MAY.
So in the midst of all this, I went out and got my hair cut and had hot pink high lights put in, Sort of a Cyndy Lauper look. Just in case I get misplaced in the hospital, they can find me again pretty damn quick.
I have some scary glow in the dark test on Friday and then some IV fluids Friday afternoon. Then I go in for pre-op on my rotator cuff and have them fixed in a week. If it looks like I can stand the surgery.
I can tell you right now, I will see Joseph, little baby Jesus and Mary, Holy Mother of God during this little laproscopic surgery that won’t even leave a scar. It hurts. The nurses are mean. They just want you out of their hospital.