June 22, 2018
Once I received confirmation that I did indeed have cancer, I mentally prepared myself for surgery, chemo, and radiation. I mean…I have had family members with cancer so I was already aware of what it all entailed. Looking back now I realize I only knew how it effected the caregiver. Not the patient! The day of my appointment I vividly remember walking into my daughter’s bedroom. She had turned eighteen six months prior and had just graduated from high school. We chatted quickly as we prepared to head off to my doctor’s appointment to hear just how bad my cancer was. I remember she and I both agreeing that I was either stage I or II. My husband had to work that day. He wanted to take the day off and go with me to my appointment but I didn’t think it was necessary. I really thought it wasn’t going to be that bad. My mom, my cousin Chanel, my cousin Kelly, and my play daughter Aurora (my daughter’s best friend since 3rd grade) all came with me to my appointment. I don’t think any of us were prepared to hear the results. My Oncologist walked into the room and I took a deep breath, waiting in anticipation to hear what she had to say. I had been here before with loved ones. Waiting to see their Pet scan results so I knew the drill. She pulled up my images and turned the monitor to face us. The 2 cm tumor wasn’t the only area the cancer was at. It had spread to numerous lymph nodes within the abdomen area and to one lymph node in my neck. I remember years ago someone told me once it spread to your lymph nodes it was supposed to be really bad. My heart dropped. Thankfully it had not spread to any major organs. However, the way it looked to me was like an enemy surrounding its target and preparing for an invasion. My Oncologist looked at me and said those dreadful words, stage IV. I have heard the expression “time stood still” and never ever felt like that until that moment. I could hear my Oncologist talking but I felt like I was in a daze. I was in so much disbelief. I mean I had been exercising my butt off. I even got down to a nice size 6 from a size 14. I was eating healthy. My husband had bought me a new wardrobe to celebrate my weight loss achievement. We had bought a house. Life just seemed like it was heading in the right direction for us. The Oncologist told me I had Gastroesophageal cancer. There are two common types Adenocarcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma. I had Adenocarcinoma. My cancer is located inside the junction of my esophagus right where the stomach and esophagus meet. I was told that was a good thing because it opened up more treatment options for me. Meaning, since it was so close to the stomach I could also be treated with chemotherapy that worked on stomach cancer. My mom had done some research on the different treatment options and she and my Oncologist discussed what she had learned. My Oncologist said I would be on a combination of three medications. They were Oxaliplatin, Fluorouracil, and Leucovorin. Later I learned this combination is called Folfox. We discussed the average life span for this kind of cancer and I was told 13-15 months. I didn’t ask how long without treatment like some other people do because I already had it set in my head that I was going full force ahead and doing whatever it takes to beat this. I was told I needed to go to the ENT department to have a biopsy done on that one lonely lymph node in my neck that showed up black on my scan. My Oncologist had already set up an appointment for me to go that same day to have the biopsy done. We headed over there and my mom and I go into the room to wait for the ENT doctor. The doctor came in with a Resident and explained to me that there were two needle options. One needle was smaller than the other. She gave me a choice and let me pick the needle saying that if they use the smaller one they might have to poke me more than one time but the larger needle would mean “maybe” one poke. I went with the larger needle. The Resident did two pokes and then the ENT doctor went in and did a third poke. I don’t know which poke did it, but when I stood up and walked out of the room I barely made it 4-5 feet from the doorway. I suddenly had severe pain in my back and I could barely breathe. We went back into the room. I don’t know if it was the nurse or the Resident that came back into the room. I do remember people surrounding me and hearing someone say “her lung might be collapsed”. A stethoscope was brought to my chest and I was told to take a deep breath. Were they for real? I couldn’t even take a normal breath. I felt like I was breathing through a tiny little straw. I heard someone ask my mom if she could walk me across the street to the ER. My mom looked at them and said “do you have a wheelchair because I don’t think she is walking anywhere”. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the ER. Now at the ER, another doctor comes in with a Resident. An x-ray was done and it was confirmed that my lung had indeed collapsed. Apparently when they did the biopsy on that lonely lymph node in my neck, they went too deep and punctured the Pleural (the lining to my lung). This allowed air inside which pushed my lung down thus making it collapse. The treatment plan was to make another hole, put a chest tube through the hole, and suck the air out with that. The tube was connected to a box that was laid down onto my chest. They put a bag of some sort on one end of the box and sucked some of the air out of my chest. Finally, I had some relief. I was able to get up and go use the restroom. Unfortunately on my way back from the restroom, I started having trouble breathing again. Another chest x-ray was performed. The lovely device that they installed to correct my collapsed lung problem was not working. They said it was working but yet my lung was collapsing again so I say it was NOT. They decided to leave the box and chest tube there and admitted me. I had to stay over night. I had x-ray after x-ray done on me because they kept watching to see if my lung would come back up. By now my husband had made it to the hospital. We stayed over night at the hospital and for most of the next day. We watched TV while we patiently waited to see what they were going to do to fix this. In the mean time I had to keep an oxygen mask on and lay on my back. I am a side sleeper and I love to talk and that mask got in the way of my talking! My husband pretty much spent the day telling me to put the mask back on and to shut-up because obviously if I didn’t have the mask on and I am talking…my body isn’t getting enough oxygen. My husband also made it very clear to the hospital staff that he didn’t want anymore Residents working on me because of the the biopsy mishap and now the chest tube fiasco. I was finally taken down to the Radiology department and the chest tube attached to the box was removed and another chest tube (without a box) was put into me. My lung came up instantly and I was finally able to breathe normal. I had to keep that in for about a day and a half then returned to have it removed. Unfortunately when my lung came up it pressed the chest tube onto a nerve and I had severe pain in my left arm the entire time it was in. I couldn’t roll over or lift my arm. The pain was just too excruciating. When I went back to have it removed, once out, I was perfectly fine. Pet Scan Result Day definitely was not what I expected it to be. I walked into the hospital perfectly fine only to be wheeled out the next day. As upsetting as it was to go through all of that, I knew I had way more ahead of me. Pet Scan Day was nothing compared to what I was about to face.