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.

 

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.