Diagnosed with Cancer – Part I
I’ve been wanting to write this article for a while now but wasn’t sure if I should share this with the world or even if I could write it without a stream of tears running down my cheeks. I decided that maybe I should share my story with others so they get checkups and go to the doctor when something doesn’t feel right.
I’m a Mom of five children all grown up now and for most of the time when they were young I was single. I worked 2 or 3 jobs and went to college to be able to get a good job to support them. It was always a struggle to make ends meet, but I was determined to give my children a good life. As years went on and time flew by, I wondered where the time went. I seemed to be obsessed with doing better, working harder and pushing myself to be the best I can be. I was a work alcoholic and continued with this pattern for many many years. I can honestly say, this is not important, this is not what matters in life. I’ve learned this now, but it took way to many years to learn this.
Fifteen years ago, I met the man of my dreams. Something that I always thought about since I was 12 years old. I thought he existed, but was beginning to believe it was only a dream. We are soul mates and with him, we enjoy each others company, share the same passions, and experience life together.
When I was young, my parents would put my sisters and me in a car with our caravan and we would drive all over the United States and go camping. I guess you could say, and if you ask my Mom, she will tell you, that’s where my travel bug, an addiction if you call it started. I have seen 48 of the 50 states in the US and traveled into Canada before meeting my husband. I even packed up my 5 children and took them camping as much as I could. I always enjoyed the getting away from the pressures of life, even for a little bit just to enjoy and relax. Yes, I enjoyed camping with my 5 kids, and yes, I could relax and enjoy this time.
My Husband is from the Netherlands in Europe and he opened up a new world for me. Together with him, we have been to 21 countries and now my desire, passion, and addiction have increased. I’ve seen things in the world that many people dream about, things I never thought were even possible. People from other countries are just like us with different languages, different cultures, different beliefs and I love to learn about them, see and experience other walks of life. Everything is new and exciting to me. I finally feel alive.
I’ve been fortunate to work for an International Company since moving to the Netherlands. I’ve been at this company for almost 10 years now. Although I love my work, I finally got the job that I’ve always wanted. I get to travel for work, have the freedom to be a bit of a nomad and work from several locations. However, my first day of work I had to go to the doctors for a checkup. I’m not going to go into gory details for the men out there, but what I can say is that I’ve been in the menopause stage for 3 years now. When I went to the bathroom, I saw a little bit of blood that shouldn’t have been there. I was actually shocked and said, what the heck is this? I really wasn’t going to make a big deal about it, but told a girl at work. She kept pushing me to go to the doctors for a check-up. I am not one to go to the doctor’s over stupid stuff, I felt it was a waste of time and I had work to do. Yes, I told you I was a workaholic, but because she was so persistent, I said okay. I have utmost gratitude for this girl and will never forget it. As I sit here writing this, the wave of emotions I feel is quite intense. As I wipe my tears, my husband comes home and wonders why I’m crying. He hands me one single rose and tells me he hopes this makes me feel better. He puts a smile on my face and I can continue on.
I went to my normal doctor a week later and she told me I needed to go to the hospital to get an Ultrasound with an OB/GYN, so I made the appointment. Of course, this was the day I was to start my new job. I’ve had 5 children, so I thought I knew what an ultrasound was. No, it’s not where they put get on your stomach. I won’t say any more for the ones with a weak stomach. But it surely was uncomfortable. The doctor kept saying, this is not good, she took measurements and said she needed to do a biopsy. Oh my god, a biopsy? Seriously, a biopsy? My mother had ovarian cancer, my sister had uterus cancer at 23, my cousin just died of breast cancer and uterus cancer, my aunts, cousins. I’ve lost so many people in my life to cancer. My Mom and sister are still alive, but we still think biopsy = cancer. We’ll I wasn’t going to think about it. Not now, this isn’t going to happen to me. I’m strong, I’m a fighter, I’m a survivor, it’s not me that gets cancer. So I push on and head to my new job. I walk a little uncomfortable and meet with my new boss. I inform him of just a little bit but am not worried. The results will be back from the lab in about 2 weeks.
I honestly forgot all about it until my phone rang while I was sitting at work. I answer the phone, not knowing who was on the other end and was surprised to hear it was the doctor from the hospital. I remember looking at the date on my laptop and thinking, why is she calling me. It’s not 2 weeks, it’s only 1 week. She informed me that they got the results back and wanted to tell me I had cancer. What, did she just say I have cancer? I don’t know what to say. The only words that came were, Okay. She asked if I could come in the office in 2 days, again, I say, Okay. She gives me the date and time. Again, I say okay. I’m in shock. What do I do now? I immediately call my husband but only get his voicemail, I hang up and call again. Still nothing, I hang up and text him. CALL ME. I think what am I going to do? I can’t sit here at work, I have to get out of here. I want to go home. I send my boss a message that the results came in and they aren’t good and I have to go home. I don’t wait for his reply. I pack up my laptop and feel like, a crazy woman throwing everything in my bag. My husband calls me back. I can’t talk, I begin to sob and he says should someone come and get me, I gulp through tears and spit out, no, have to go home. He says he’s on his way. I don’t recall if he knew what was going on, but I believe we don’t always need words to understand each other. As I get in the car to drive home, I call my best friend. She doesn’t pick up either. I call her man and say I need her right now. He’s known me long enough (even through the language barrier) to know that something was wrong. He says I’ll get a hold of her for you. I manage to say thank you.
I don’t remember driving home, it’s like your floating outside your body and it’s not really you. I think back to this moment, and believe that any human doctor should never tell someone on the phone they have cancer. She didn’t ask where I was or if I was alone, nothing, just bam, you have cancer. I shouldn’t have been driving. She should have said the results are in and can I come to the office to discuss them. I would have known something wasn’t good, but as I’m usually a positive person, I wouldn’t think I had cancer. To me, the word cancer is like a death sentence. As soon as I walked in the door, my phone rang. It was my best friend, I began to sob and she said, “The doctor called?” I said yes and she said, “I’m on my way”. I don’t know what I did until she arrived, I was in a state of shock. I do remember hugging her and sobbing. It’s strange a number of thoughts that run through your mind when you hear those words. I will tell you my first thought, “I’m going to lose my hair”, well at least my best friend is a hairdresser, she’ll fix me up. I know, it’s crazy, but I have very long hair and I didn’t want to lose it. My friend says, if I lose my hair, she can’t style it but can help me with a wig. This at least got me to laugh, but then turned again to tears. Then I think, is this my last Thanksgiving, my last Christmas. Oh, my god, my 15 year anniversary is in 8 months. Will I be here for that? We recently lost 2 really good friends to cancer within 6 weeks of being diagnosed. Then I think of my husband, what is he going to do without me. He can’t even remember the pin number to our bank. He would be lost. I tell my best friend to take care of him. I think of my children, at least they are adults now and aren’t left without their mother at a young age like my cousin’s daughters.
My husband comes home and we cry together, a couple of hours later my best friend’s man comes over and now it’s only the four of us that now, besides that human-less doctor. It’s really quiet in the house, no one knows what to say. A few sobs here and there, small talk and the time drags on. I have to wait 2 days to hear what the doctor has to say. My daughter isn’t home right now, she’s on one of her Cos Play trips. What am I going to tell her? She’ll be home shortly. She’s 20 now and still living at home. I think about leaving my husband and daughter alone and I need more time. I’m not ready to die yet. I’m sure everyone that gets this terrible news thinks those things. You never really know how you’ll react until it happens. We decide to tell my daughter but wait on my boys until we have more details.
The next day comes and I have an important meeting at work, so I put my best face on and go. I did mention I was a workaholic, didn’t I? I felt since I had a lot of input on to share for this meeting and spend weeks preparing for it, I needed to be there. Plus I could inform my boss of what was going on. At least at work, I could get my mind off it for a little while. After the meeting, my boss and I had a chat. I am so fortunate to have a boss that is caring and supportive. He told me to not worry about my career, he told me that my health is more important and to put myself first, my job was safe. I can also say I am lucky to be able to work from home and call in on conference calls when needed. My husband went to his mother’s and sisters to inform them of the news. He is very close with his family, they have done so much for us, especially when we first came to the country. They all came over that evening to be show us love and support.
The day I was dreading, to meet with that human-less doctor and hear what she had to say. My husband, best friend and I listen to the words, but can’t remember the details. We only know it’s uterus cancer and I need surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries within 6 weeks. What she says next is alarming. In most cases, it usually spreads to the lungs and I need to immediately go get a chest x-ray and more blood work. As I cry through making my next appointments, getting the blood work and x-rays, I think about the coughing, bronchitis, the phenomena I had over the last 2 years. I’ve had several tests, but could never find out why I was coughing so much, that even led to throwing up and food lodged in my throat where I couldn’t breathe and had to go to the hospital. I was alone with my daughter and she called 911, here it’s 112. I pictured her watching me die and couldn’t help me. My mother always told me I had an active imagination, but I really thought I was going to die with my helpless daughter watching. If I was coughing for 2 years, maybe it did spread to my lungs. We all thought this, but no one spoke the words out loud. We had to wait for the results until the next day. As I lay in the bathtub this evening, I think to myself that there is so much I haven’t done yet. I always wanted to visit Dublin, Ireland. I’m half Irish and my grandfather was born there. Then I think, does it matter if I go, when it will be my memory and then I’ll die, so does it matter anymore? I try to think about what is important in life and for the first time, I realize, I don’t know.
This became D-day. Waiting became unbearable, it was like, I was waiting for the “Kiss of Death”, my soul mate to tell me it’s over. I did mention I have an active imagination. When the call came, my husband came upstairs, pure white and said I needed to come downstairs that they wouldn’t talk to him, only me. As I walked into the living room, I saw my in-laws, my daughter, and my best friend and talked into the phone. It was on speaker and as I waited for the dreadful news, they said it didn’t spread. Oh my god, thank goodness, the tears in the room was now of joy. It’s strange to look back at this and think we had good news on top of bad news, but at least we had some relief.