how I found out I had cancer

In mid April I was scheduled to have an outpatient procedure for a minor health issue. Because it did require anesthesia, I was sent to pre-op and had some blood tests.

By the time I got home, I had received an email notice from the lab that my blood test results were in. So I looked at them. I saw that my hemoglobin was 8.2 and that normal is above 12. I looked at my test history and saw that I had never had a low number like that before. Some other numbers were off also. I called the nurse line and asked if I should be concerned. The nurse told me to go to Urgent Care as soon as I could safely do so.

So I went to Urgent Care. They tested my blood again. 7.9. It was falling. I was sent to the Emergency Room. In the early hours of the next morning, they tested it again. 7.6. They admitted me into the hospital. Later that day they tested again. 7.3.  I was told that I was bleeding internally and that they would need to find the cause. At that point I began to get very alarmed. They said if it drops below 7 I would be required to have a blood transfusion. They made me drink this awful stuff called golytely. Oh dear, that was unpleasant. The next morning, Friday April 13th, they tested again. 6.5. I was given 2 units of blood.

I was then taken away for an upper GI scope and colonoscopy. They wanted to check everywhere they could. The GI doctor said that if she didn’t find anything with the scope that I would have to swallow a camera pill. It was crucial to find the problem. I was terrified. I had never been under any kind of anesthesia before.

When I woke up after the procedure I felt confused. I asked if they found the source of the bleeding. They said that I would have to talk to the doctor. I asked for the doctor, they said she had gone on to an emergency. I asked if would have to swallow the camera pill, and I could have sworn that they told me that they had already put it in. I went back to my hospital room believing I had a camera pill inside me and that’s what I told my family. Several of my family members were there; my husband, my mom, my daughter and her husband.

Several hours later the GI doctor came in. She asked if I wanted my family to step out or if I wanted them to stay while she discussed my scope results. I thought at worst she might tell me that I was having diverticulitis, both my mother and her father had some bleeding issues because of it. I told her that I don’t have any secrets from my family and that they can stay. I never in a million years expected the words I was about to hear.

Tumor. Large tumor. 5 to 7 centimeters in size. In my right ascending colon. Here’s a picture of it. We’ll have to wait for lab results, but in her opinion it looks cancerous, and she’s seen enough of them to be able to tell. And no, I didn’t swallow a camera pill.

As she continued to talk I just looked around the room at my family’s faces. My husband… We just got married 2 years ago. Our second anniversary was just days ago. He didn’t sign up for this. What am I about to put him through? My mom… She’s been dealing with so much lately, so much stress and worry over the health of my dad has almost pushed her beyond her ability to cope. She doesn’t need this on top of all that. God have mercy on her. My daughter… She just got married March 21st. She’s been talking about wanting to start a family in the next few years. Now she has to worry if I’ll even be around for that? Will I get to be around for that? I’m only 43. Does this happen to people at 43? I thought colon cancer was something that happened to very old people. Today is Friday the 13th. That’s almost funny. Almost.

The doctor left. On my lap was a print out with pictures of the inside of my colon. There it was. It looked big. You know how you can see shapes in clouds? My tumor almost looked like it had a little face. My family sat in stunned silence.

After a while I was whisked away for a CT scan. They had already done one in Urgent Care, but they said that was only a partial one and that they wanted to get a full thoracic scan. As they did the scan I remembered the first time I had a CT scan a few years ago and how frightened I was of it. Now here I was having my 3rd one done. How many scans can a person have before it has negative effects? Could this cause more cancer? How many new frightening things would I now need to endure? Maybe I was looking at it wrong. I was afraid of CT scans at first, but I didn’t have to be. Maybe I don’t have to be afraid of everything. Though I’m sure some unpleasantness lies ahead.

I was returned to the hospital room. Some time later an internal medicine doctor came in. He said the CT was clear and that was very good. “It means the cancer is not stage 4.” he said. “Hopefully we caught it early,” he said, “Have some surgery, maybe some chemo, and get on with your life. You’re young and otherwise generally healthy and a good candidate for surgery.”

His last statement surprised me a little. I never really thought of myself as “otherwise generally healthy.” I’m obese. I have hashimoto’s disease, celiac disease, generalized anxiety disorder and some other stuff going on.

People get through stuff like this all the time. There are plenty of people that survive and are okay. Why not me? I could be one of them. I hope so.

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