My Scare- My Reminder

suzannchili Member Posts: 134 Member
edited March 2014 in Colorectal Cancer #1
This was originally an e-mail I sent to thank friends and family for their thoughts and prayers. Several insisted I share it. And..... I want to go to the next Colonpalooza thing! Sounds awesome.

Below, I have shared my reflections on the hardest 5 days of my life. Although I write with humor, these events are very real and humbling. I honestly have never been so frightened, sad, or desperate for good news in my entire life. If you don't want to read all of this, (and I wouldn't blame you -it's long- and may have way more information than you want to know) don't. It just felt good to get it out, but I don't want to be Debbie Downer. However, take away the reminder I was given that life is too short, so you shouldn't sweat the small stuff, & let those you love know about it!
I went to work last Friday after an 8:00 AM yearly routine CT scan when around noon I received a phone call from Dr. Costanzi, my oncologist, which truly rocked my world. He was not calling to say "hello." The radiologist had immediately called him after I left the radiology center and told him a 1 inch mass was located on my stomach. I was already in a panic after realizing that the oncologist called me- never good, so what I heard him saying was something like this: "dark spot on scan", blah, blah, "upper left quadrant of stomach" blah, blah, "PET scan with radioactive material", blah, blah, "if positive we'll do surgery" blah, blah. Well, enough was enough, so I knew I had to get myself together and start asking questions. So naturally, my fist question was, "Are you sure you are talking to the right person?"

I mean really. At my last visit with Dr. Costanzi a little over a month ago, he told me how perfect my blood work was, how we couldn't ask for anything better, how I could start seeing him every 6mos. rather than 3 mos. now that I've reached my 5 year survivor anniversary, how I was considered "cured", and just go and get your annual CT scan and have a nice December. Well, how could I now be getting this terrible phone call? I wanted to know who missed the damn memo?!

He assured me he was looking at the results for Suzann and that I must talk to the nurse next and schedule the nuclear medicine PET scan immediately for Monday. The next brilliant question that came to my mind was, "Well, what are you looking for?" His reply, "a tumor." I retaliated with, "well, what else could it be- you said it's in my stomach and colon cancer recurs in the liver or lungs." The slap in the face answer was, "Let's face it I'm your oncologist and I'm concerned this is a recurrence which can happen anywhere." Next, Marta, the wonderful nurse, gets on the line schedules my PET scan for Monday at 2:30 which is the earliest I could get in, tells me to fast for the 12 hours prior, and come in at 1:30 Tuesday for the results.

My boss sent me home even after I assured her I could pull myself together. Ha. I spent the weekend throwing up, balling my eyes out every time I looked at my baby boy (who would pitch a tent and sleep out in the yard with him, or have indoor water fights, or build forts, or teach him to cook and plan fun parties, or kiss him good night or fix his boo boos, or hold him like only a Mommy can?- I made JR swear when he remarried he would make sure the **** was very good to Robert and treated him as her own- oops did I say ****?), planning my funeral, making desperate phone calls to good friends and family who could remind me to breathe, and drinking a lot of Coors Light. I know some of you are saying the last part sounds like a regular weekend- smart ****. As for my funeral, you will all be happy to know there will be no forced hike to the top of the mountain behind Little Pond Campground in the Catskill Mountains to spread my ashes in the meadow in the immediate future.

At some point I consulted Jackie regarding my "upper left quadrant"- and whether or not it was my left or the doctors left. It's my left, but she did let me know the mass confusion over this in hospitals. It's not a pleasant thought to think your surgeon with scalpel in hand is standing over you while your knocked out trying to figure out who's left. Thus, the permanent marker come in handy and patients are now required to write on the correct limb or side needing surgery. After figuring out where my left quadrant was thanks to Jackie's help, I developed a terrible pain there which remained through Tuesday.

On Monday, I went to 12 o'clock mass at St. Catherine's with my mother and RJ. It was time to receive communion and I thought it sounded like a really good idea, so I went up and because my arms were full with my thirty pound pumpkin, the priest put the wafer on my tongue. On the way back to my seat, I panicked because I'm supposed to be fasting and what if they don't let me take the test now, so.......
(Before I continue, please remember, I, unlike many of you did not attend Catholic School but my mother sure did).
I fished a tissue out of my pocket and tried to discreetly spit it in there to save it for later- I did learn enough from CCD on Sunday mornings to know I couldn't just throw it out.) Well, Peggy sees this and says" what are you doing" in a horrified whisper-like screech. "I'm afraid I won't be able to take the test if I swallow this," I say. "Give it to me, I'll eat it! It's the body of Christ and you cannot throw it away." "But it was in my mouth." "I don't care, I'm your mother." "But, I want it for later." Ha! I got it in my pocket and she's leaving me alone now. Before mass ends RJ is kind of fussy so we go for a walk to the back of the church where there is a fountain of Holy Water. I take him to look at it and get the great idea, I should probably just dip my hand in there and rub my stomach which is killing me at the moment. It probably looked like I was bathing in the holy water fountain, but at the time I was desperate to make everything okay and would have done anything.

JR meets me after mass, he had to work half a day, and takes me to the radiology center for the PET scan. The technician assures me the radioactive material they are injecting with a half life of 111 minutes is harmless and has no known side effects, but I should not hold the baby tonight or go near anyone for the next 6 hours. The technician breaks out the injection which is injected into an IV because the actual needle could never fit up to my arm being it is housed in 6 inches of lead. She sees the look on my face and tells me the Texas Department of Public Safety requires the radio active material be housed in 6 inches of lead because it is transported all over the state. Right. The harmless, no known side effects radio active injection your about to put in my arm. Super. I then had to lay still for 45 minutes to let the stuff get where it needed to go. Yes, JR and I did turn out the lights to see if I glowed. I did not. Next, an hour through the PET scanner laying perfectly still. While I had an hour I was wondering if my angels were with me- they gave me a sign my tickling my nose about halfway through with one of their feathers. I couldn't scratch it because I wasn't allowed to move, but serves me right for doubting their presence. Figures I would have angels with a sense of humor. We get back in the car to go home and I take the body of Christ which has tissue stuck all over it and ask JR if he thinks the tissue would be bad to swallow. He looks at e like I'm crazy, reminds me I just had radio active material injected into my body, and says a little tissue won't hurt. He's right. I eat it!

The next 24 hours dragged on and finally it was time for my appointment. And, what's with the horrible Christmas song with the boy buying his dying mother a pair of shoes to meet Jesus tonight? They play it every 20 minutes here. What's wrong with freaking Jingle Bells? Waiting room 25 minutes, examination room 10 minutes where by the way they took my blood pressure and temperature- like that matters when you are about to find out whether or not you have cancer, and finally Dr. Costanzi enters and tells me the PET scan came back negative for cancer activity. There is no trace of cancer in my body. He told me the mass on my right side- yes right side- not left as I was told on Friday- still not sure if I got it wrong or if he had one of those "who's left side" doctor dilemma- was definitely not cancer. I wasn't about to argue with him and anyway the pain on my left side miraculously disappeared, so I gave him a big smooch on the lips, told him Merry Christmas, and got the hell out of there. JR did the same thing. We'll check the mass, which could be scar tissue, again in March through a CT scan.


  • alihamilton
    alihamilton Member Posts: 347 Member
    That is the most brilliant post!! It covered so much emotion, fear, anger, confusion while at the same time injecting wonderful humour into the whole traumatic event. I am so glad the results were negative for cancer but you sure went through a terrible 5 days.
    All the best,
    MUGGINS Member Posts: 35
  • spongebob
    spongebob Member Posts: 2,565 Member
    What an awesome post - I love it! Have you ever considered writing professionally?
  • oneagleswings
    oneagleswings Member Posts: 425 Member
    Thank you- I'm smiling - which is very very rare for me these days. Glad everything is fine.
  • kangatoo
    kangatoo Member Posts: 2,105 Member

    Thank you- I'm smiling - which is very very rare for me these days. Glad everything is fine.

    Hi Suzann....I have to concur with the others. BRILLIANT! Filled with everything we have come to expect from those playing the waiting game, and then some.(metinks purrrfectly normal thoughts!) Ok Suzy...mind if I call you that? This 'ol boy has a CT coming up next tuesday and as I have been NED for almost 2 years(next month to be truthfull) I can definately see where you are coming from. I don't think it matters how long anyone is pronounced NED for there is now..and probably will be for a long time to come, that certain amount of apprehension. I don't think that is having a whinge Suzy...I just think that it is the nature of the disease.Then of course being told a "growth" is maybe lurking has gotta send the mind in a spin too. Cancer is not like having a heart valve replaced or a stent implanted( "you're fine..surveillance every 6 months or so..10 to 20 years of extra time"...says the specialist.) Nup...the 'ol cancer cells can leave us alone if we are fortunate, or it can hit us again with a vengeance.
    Who really knows? Now that is not to say that we should become absolute hypo about a re-occurance but it is pretty hard to kick the worrying, especially when test times are about.
    My bloods have been excellent too Suzy, so I will probably be fine....hell..course I will!
    (just somebody convince my subconciuos mind!)
    Absolutely great to hear you are ok Suzy...good on yah gal!
    Ross n Jen
  • Kanort
    Kanort Member Posts: 1,272 Member
    Hi Suzanne,

    Thanks for sharing your innermost feelings with us. I think all of us could identify with parts of your story at different times in our journeys. I'm so happy that PET scan showed that all is well.

    I can't wait to meet you at our next Palooza.

    Stay well,