Tag Archives: abdominal CT

Cancer, party of one

Where do I even begin? (I just finished this blog and apparently I had a lot to say. So grab a coffee and a comfortable chair)

My whole plan when I took a break from blogging back in the Fall was to pick it back up after my scan in March. I had this idea that I could share with all of you my amazeball results of my first, second clear scan and then I could FINALLY share what I discovered my passion to be! Of course that fantasy is just that, a fantasy, and the reality is life never seems to be that easy.

I’ll share my passion another time…

For now, I’m just going to share what has been going on in these last few weeks.

My scan was on March 15th and it was a typical scan day. Drank the crap, joked around with my CT tech, got the IV, scan scan scan, then drank litres upon litres of water for the rest of the day to flush out my kidneys. Normal shit. The only change to the whole routine came with the delivery of the results. Back in the Fall I asked my surgeon if he could save me a trip to Toronto and just call me with my results. He agreed. So later that afternoon he called and said the following;

Liver and lungs – clear

Right ovary – unsure, needs more testing

I’m sorry what? Did you just say now I have to worry about my god damn ovaries?

He proceeded to ask about when my last colonoscopy was, how have my bowel movements been, when was my last period, etc etc. Then he let me know he was off to Whistler but I would be getting an ultrasound appointment in the next two weeks. Perfect.

Then my brain entered into rapid fire mode. It was dissecting every word and pronunciation he said and trying to figure out what the underlying message was.

This is what my brain told myself in less than a minute:

When they were first diagnosing me they told me they thought I had cervical cancer that had spread to my liver. So that means that scan showed the shadow in my colon but then thought it was in my cervix. So this one must be showing the same thing and that’s why he’s asking about my last colonoscopy. That also makes sense because it’s probably just stage 1 or 2 and that can be easily cut out but he doesn’t want to worry me because he’s in Whistler for 2 weeks. This also makes sense because my colon is the only place that when they removed the tumours they did not get clean margins. Yep, cancer in the colon is the logical answer. Or it’s in my ovaries. Or both. Start panicking.

So that was a fun night. The next day (Friday) I received my ultrasound appointment, for the Monday. This further spun my idea tighter around my finger because whhhyyyyy would they book me in so fast!? Yep, shit’s going south.

So that weekend was fun.

Monday comes and my ultrasound tech isn’t aloud to say anything about my exam but does say, “Don’t lose sleep over this.” So that calms me down slightly for the next week and a half while I wait for my next phone call.

The results? Oh inconclusive yet AGAIN. Somethings going on and they can’t figure it out and they can’t brush it off either. My surgeon is frustrated with the radiologist who wants to now send me for an MRI. So he asks if it is ok that he takes me case to the next tumour board meeting.

What is that you ask? A bunch of doctors and radiologists will review cases and give their professional opinion on what they think is going on. It’s actually pretty cool. So of course I agree because why wouldn’t I want more eyes reading my file and trying to figure out the mystery of the ovary.

So that’s where I still stand now. The meeting is on Monday and then I will find out what they said on Tuesday and go from there. Almost a full month after my scan and the results are still slightly unknown.

As you were reading this if you thought, “Well at least it’s just an ovary, you can remove those.” You are not alone. My husband, mother, best friend, and mother-in-law all said the EXACT same thing. And yes, you would be correct, I can lose an ovary. My problem with that is that I am not Swiss cheese. It is very easy now for people just to jump to the surgery idea for me without even blinking an eye. That’s how NORMAL surgery has become for me. This summer will be my first summer since 2014 where I haven’t had any surgery. That is just so crazy even to write.

What you need to step back and think for a second is say this wasn’t a story about a girl who has been under the knife more than she can count. What if this was just a regular ole person? Would your first response from an abnormal scan be, “Oh, well you can just lose an ovary!” Probably not. You would probably be worried or upset and have a tad more compassion.

I am not mad at all at the four closest people in my life jumping to that conclusion so fast. I get it. They are just happy that if it is something, it can be removed – aka non life threatening. But to me, I’m not a cadaver. You can’t just keep slicing and dicing me.

Well I mean you can if it saves my life, but that’s not the point.

The point is, as I have said in previous posts – Every piece they cut away is a piece of me. Literally and figuratively. I don’t want another surgery because I don’t want anything to be fucking wrong with me anymore.

If you are actually in my life and are shocked reading this and are thinking to yourself, “Wow, I had no idea all that was going on.” Surprise! That’s what happens when you go on with your own honky dory life and because I removed the cancer sticker plastered on my forehead, why would you ever think I even deal with matters like this anymore right? WRONG.

Here’s the take away for people reading this who are fighting cancer themselves right now- Cancer is an EXTREMELY lonely disease. The people who rally behind you at first drop off one by one every day longer that you still fight to survive. So YOU have to be the strong one. No one else is there anymore to fight your battles and pick you up when you are down. YOU have to wake up every day and choose not to live in the comfortable dark hole and step into the light. YOU have to remain positive and keep telling yourself that you are just fine. YOU have to put a smile on your face in public and act like nothings wrong. If you solely rely on others to raise you up and motivate you, now’s the time to start finding that voice for yourself. I’m telling you the crowd dwindles fast and when you are left alone, take a minute to be sad, and then pick yourself back up, dust off and continue on fighting.

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Clear

I have played out this day over and over in my head before. Many nights I would lay in bed trying to fall asleep and fantasize about my doctors saying to me, “Your scan is clear.” I thought last year it was going to happen, and then was crippled by the news that all of my cancer was back. This year I was hesitant. I felt good and I know that I have changed so many things in my diet that are positive, but there was always the chance. Saying I was nervous would be an understatement. I was an emotional wreck in the days leading up to my results appointment. When the day finally arrived I walked into the office as he said walking behind me, “So your scan looks good.” Get out. I was shocked. Even my CEA blood levels were only 0.3! Chris cried, and I sat there taking it all in. In my fantasy I jumped out of my seat and hugged Dr. Jay. I cried and wanted to film it so I could share the “reveal” video with all of my friends. In reality, I just sat there almost faking happiness.

I am happy. I am beyond happy. I need a clear scan to then have another, and another, and eventually stop worrying every day about this damn disease. I know I will never be “cured”. Stage four cancer patients always live in fear. But I would love to have one day in the future where I wake up and think, “Holy shit I didn’t think of cancer once yesterday.”

For now, I’m going to try and forget that January is just three months away, and this blissful life could come crashing down.

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The Face

Describing a facial expression is proving to be harder than I originally thought. April 8th, 2014 was what I call “The Day of the Doctors”. First appointment of the day was with my family doctor. I have been going to him since I was in diapers and my parents as well as sister all see him. He knows my medical history as well as my family’s history inside and out. He walked in the room, sat down and said “What is going on with you?”, as he opened up my file and gave me what I call “the face”. He flipped through all of my past papers as he described to me his confusion when he first received my CT results. That was the first real moment I could feel the shift in my life. These “shadows” or what he was now referring to as “liver lesions”, were more serious than I made myself shrug off over the weekend. I kept asking him what he thought they were, and what the worst case scenario would be. He refused to give me anything to work off of, explaining my surgeon will have a better idea.

Second visit was to a blood clinic. Although my family doctor was sure that my surgeon would request a blood test, he ordered me one anyways just in case. I had time between the two appointments so I thought what the heck.

Meeting with the general surgeon was a little daunting. I was going with the thought that he would be speaking to us (I forgot to mention my mother decided to take the afternoon off to come to this appointment.) about getting me a liver biopsy. We are called in, sit down, and he asks, “What are you here for?”. Um, shouldn’t you know already? I pipe up and say I had a CT of my abdominal area and he has the results. He looks down at them, and then gives me “the face”.

After explaining that if they are hemangiomas he will not be able to biopsy them, he begins to explain the next steps. “Liver cancer is rarely primary, so if this is cancer it must have come from somewhere else. We need to rule out all other areas it could be before I will be able to biopsy. Therefore, you will have a mammogram, colonoscopy, chest CT and MRI in order to make sure. Oh, and you need a different type of blood test. There is a clinic down the hall.”

After yet another drawing of my blood, the doctor’s admin books my first exam. Colonoscopy. I need a work up by my family doctor before my Monday procedure, so back to the office I went.

It is now closer to 5pm and I find myself back in the same chair I was in this morning. My doctor sounds shocked that he is sending me for a colonoscopy, since I had one when I was 17 and all they found was a fissure (tear or split in the lining of the anus). He then reassured me that this surgeon was an amazing doctor and he knows what he is doing. He let me know as well that my first blood results should be back on Friday, so he would call me then.

I explained later that evening to my mother and a friend about “the face”. They both thought I was crazy, but they didn’t see the eyes. It is like they all knew I had a death sentence, but no one was allowed to say it until they had proof. Well, even without words, I could feel it in their eyes.

 

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Boom

April 3rd 2014 – CT scan

I have never bonded with a stranger before like I did the day of my CT scan. Chugging back 2 large cups of contrast at 7am will do that. He was old, most likely 80+, and came with his wife. After we both had our scans I wished him the best and we parted ways. I wonder if his news was better or worse than mine?

Like deja vu the phone rang yet again no more than 2 hours after my scan. This time however, I was in my new apartment in Toronto. With no sense of urgency, I let the receptionist know I was not able to drive all the way back to the doctor’s office.

“Jamie, sorry do to this to you over the phone…..seeing multiple shadows on your liver….. when was your last Pap smear……”

“I’m sorry doctor, but what are you trying to tell me?”

“We see a shadow near your cervical area. We think you have cervical cancer that has spread to your liver. I’m setting you up an appointment with a surgeon and you should probably call your family doctor.”

“Sounds great.”

Think about a time when you had devastating news. Your dog died, your significant other is leaving you, anything at all that crushed you to your core. Now, multiply that feeling by 100 and welcome to my first breath after hanging up the phone. I honestly cannot remember the first person I called. I remember I wanted it to be my mom, but it was 2 in the afternoon and I didn’t want to bother her at work. I only made a few phone calls to friends. Some I started calling then hung up because I realized, what was I really going to say? Tell the world the doctors think I may have cancer? Put everyone through a mind fuck of pain and questions? But then what? When they tell me in the end they were wrong, and the shadows are not cancer they are something else. I would have to explain that to everyone? Forget it. Stick to only a handful of friends.

 

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Magic

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iPads look even cuter when they have a little keyboard attached to them. (Is that really going to be my first sentence?)

I find it a tad ironic I am sitting here having a hard time finding a way to start this blog because I am having the worst acid reflex attack. My acid reflex attacks are what started this crazy life I lead today. Returning from beautiful Punta Cana in January of this year, I began having 4 straight days of uncontrollable acid reflex. Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately thought I must have a parasite. After a visit to the walk-in, he gave me an abdominal exam where he felt underneath my right rib cage. It was tender. “Must be gallstones”, he said as he ordered me an abdominal ultrasound. By end of week I was in for that ultrasound. Laying on the table the tech began her examination. The first words out of her mouth were, “When was the last time you had a blood test?”. “Um, no idea”, and she carried on. Two hours later at home I received a phone call from the walk-in letting me know my ultrasound results were in and the doctor would like to speak to me. Obviously, I was nervous. I have never once received results back in such a timely manner. Heading into the office, all I could think of was that I must be pregnant. That would be the only logical reason why she asked me about a blood test….. which I actually have no idea if that even makes sense, but it did to me.

Hemangioma – a birthmark that most commonly appears as a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin (www.mayoclinic.org)

“That is what I believe you have. Nothing to worry about, but I would like to send you for a CT scan just to be sure.”

 

I should probably write the entire first part of my story in one piece. I mean, it would make sense to explain everything that happened leading up to my diagnosis in one blog post, but I am not a writer and this is my blog so I make the rules. I have told my story to my friends over and over so many times I truthfully thought this would be a walk in the park. Surprise, I am wrong. I just found my self staring at “April 3rd, 2014 – CT Scan” for the past 15 minutes. Reliving the day in my head with a vivid memory of everything I felt. No thanks, it’s Friday morning and I need to eat something more than banana bread.

 

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