I'll never capitalize cancer

I have alot going on in my life, more than just cancer and chemo. Sure it's a big part of my life right now, but it's not the most important part of my life. You will never see me spell it with a capital "c".

I'm a Wife and Mom. I love my Family. I have good Friends. We do fun stuff and dumb stuff and sometimes we argue and then we laugh again. We go to work and to the grocery store and we go swimming and have birthday parties and get ready for the first day of school.

I keep saying that I don't want ovarian cancer to define me, but sometimes I just can't help it.

A good friend put it this way for me "cancer may be defining your life for the moment, but it is not your entire life. You seem to just make time for it." That made me feel better.

If you want to see it from the beginning, my cancer story begins in March.

The rest of my story is happening now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Story

I'm going to tell it like it is. I'm going to mention poo and my period and maybe a few other things, nothing horrible, I've said all of this out loud, even in a group, just be aware.

Thursday night, just before Mardi Gras, some friends had us over for a wonderful dinner. We had Brie & crackers, drank wine, Tara made a fantastic baked chicken in her dutch oven - it was fall off the bone juicy with carrots, onions and cute little fingerling potatoes. We had more wine a couple VO and 7's and of course finished off with a King cake.

You know that feeling you have, just after Thanksgiving dinner? All fat & happy, when your belly is full and all you want to do is take a nap & then have a big burp & a poo? Well, that's kinda the way I felt - only I never had the big burp or poo. For the next few days I was feeling kinda bloated and gassy and ... I'm pretty regular, something goes in, something comes out. So this was unusual.

My usual day I have a Meal Replacement Shake for breakfast, that has plenty of fiber and probiotics, but I added extra Fiber Drink and a couple Probiotic Restore to my day as well. I was thinking back to what I had learned about easing symptoms of IBS. I made sure to take plenty of OmegaPlex - fish oil should help things move along, Calcium and Magnesium for intestinal muscle function and ReHydrate.

I also went to the drugstore and got GasX, Colace, Senakot S, Tums ... it had been FOUR days and I was trying anything. My tummy was kinda swollen.

I went to San Antonio the last weekend of February. I had a one day booking, but I brought Abby with me and we made it a long weekend and stayed with my good friend Sally. I still was very bloated. Still hadn't had the "big poo". A couple of mornings there was a little bit, I was burping alot and I had diahrrea, but just not regular like I should be. I had to wear super control top panty hose to work.

I was glad to have the chance to visit with my friend Sally. She had just told me that she had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and every couple of weeks she had to take her pills for chemotherapy. She talked to me about the whole ordeal. Her appointments, how she felt, what she was thinking.

Now, remember, at the time, I still thought I just had some GI issues. Sally talked to me about how she was coping, but it wasn't really sinking in for me. I love her as my friend and care deeply about what she must be going through, but I never really had known someone close to me who had been diagnosed with cancer, so I didn't have have a complete understanding.

Anyway we had a nice weekend, took the Riverboat Tour, then Abby & I drove home. San Antonio to Beaumont is about a 5 hour drive. But when you are uncomfortably bloated and on the lookout for clean facilities because you can't figure out if you're constipated or have diahrrea - it seems like forever. And here's a bonus, I started my period that morning.

We got home late Sunday night. Monday I was miserable and called all over town trying to get a doctor's appointment. Called a Gastroenterologist, they said I need a referral. Tried to get an appointment with a Gynecologist, but they are booked til April! And they can't do the referral anyway, I need to see my Primary Care Physician.

OK, now I have to admit something. During the 4 years that I have lived in Beaumont, I have not gotten a Primary Care Physician. I have had seen a Gynecologist for my annual exams, but I don't get sick. And since I am self employed, i have limited medical insurance, so I just never did it. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, I was really feeling bad. I called Brian and he came home to take me to the Emergency Room at Christus St Elizabeth.

It was still early afternoon, so the ER wasn't too crowded. We got into a room relatively quickly. The nurse talked to me about my symptoms, and asked "Have you tried a laxative?" Well of course I have, and maybe this ER trip is going to be just a really expensive enema, but I need to feel better!

I kept thinking about that show on Animal Planet, Emergency Vet, how someone's puppy is acting strangely and they bring him in and take X rays and find out that he's swallowed a sock. The Vet does surgery and everyone is fine - I am hoping that will be me. But when they took my X rays they were hazy because of excess fluid in my abdomen. The ER Doctor came in to announce this to me and told me that this was called ascites, which is caused by malnutrition, liver failure which could be due to cirrohsis, caused by blood transfusion, hepatitis, sharing needles during intravenous drug use, or cancer.

What?! That would be impossible. Oh no Ma'am, nothing's impossible.

So, here's some Lasix in your IV to help keep the fluid down and here's a prescription for Lasix, a diuretic and a potassium supplement. Be sure to follow up with your Doctor, thanks for stopping by.

Of course I didn't appreciate her bedside manner, but the ER Dr did freak me out enough to be sure to follow up with a personal Physician. Fortunately, one of the best in town had a 230 cancellation the next afternoon. He ordered up some blood tests and a CT scan. I fasted and got my blood tests the next morning. There were at least 7 different tests that were ordered, but a CA125 was not one of them. Google ascites, ovarian cancer will come up on the list. Why not include a test for cancer?

I couldn't get in for a scan for a week. Looking back, I don't know why I waited, I could have gotten a CT scan in Lake Charles, Mid County, Conroe ... hindsight.

Another week goes by, I just want to feel better. Finally, that next Thursday morning, I drank my Barium and went in for my CT scan. Friday morning I went in to discuss the report with my Doctor. That's when he told me that I have a cyst about the size of an orange near my right ovary. Am I understanding you? Should I start crying now? Yes, and there is nothing further that we can do for you here. You need a Gynecological Oncologist and there is not one in Beaumont.

Well, good thing I happen to know a Gynecological Oncologist.

Brian is the first person that I called when I left the Dr's office. The next person I called was Mike Wade at Advocare Corporate. He got in touch with one of the members of Advocare's Sci/Med Board, Dr Judith Smith - a Gynecological Oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

It's Friday afternoon, 10 days since my first ER visit, the one where they told me that I had liver failure, and I really am uncomfortable. I'm bloated to the size of 4 months pregnant, and it has happened over just a couple of weeks. So Brian takes me to Memorial Hermann ER to have the fluid drained off my abdomen.

I took my cel phone and my laptop with me. Dr Smith was in a meeting all afternoon, but left a message to get the appointment process started, and she would call me back. I was in the ER waiting room filling out a patient self referral form on
mdanderson.org. I followed up with a phone call and a wonderful facilitator completed everything for me and had a confirmed appointment for 830 AM Mon March 23. But that's over a week away.

When I got in to the little room to have the fluid "tapped", they drained about 2 liters of fluid - think really big soda bottle!

Of course I was anxious about my appointment at MD Anderson - a week away. But the ER Doctor got on the phone with Dr Smith, they discussed it and agreed that it would be OK to wait the week. The next day, Saturday, Dr Smith talked with me some more about my symptoms, the process, what to expect. I felt better about the wait. It was going to be OK. And I was able to prepare emotionally for the trip and discuss more with Brian and make arrangements for Abby during the day that I was gone.