My procedure was scheduled for the week of July 14th at UCSF. It consisted of five treatments, each lasting for about an hour. I was told that it would be painless, easy and supposedly with out side effects. Dustin took that week off of work and we decided to make the most of it.
The machine the radiation source is mounted on is actually a, “precisely controlled industrial robot.” Think any kind of Sci-fi movie with robot arms on an assembly line… and then think about lying down and letting it move all around you. It was AMAZING and frightening at the same time.
On my third day of treatment, I noticed that I had a sharp pain right under my ribs, kind of like what it feels like when you drink a huge glass of water and then run -- that dull, achy kind of pull that increases with deep breaths. (Any self respecting person who was once a kool-aid drinking, Nick-in-the-Afternoon watching, summer vacation loving, tag-a-thon starting kid, knows that feeling.) I shrugged it off, as the Doctor who was over seeing the procedures said that it was normal to be a bit sore and tired. I finished my treatment and began what I thought was the beginning of the rest of my life.
I had started, in June actually, eating very much like Kris Carr – mostly vegan, with an emphasis on raw, whole, organic foods. I followed a diet called the Budwig Diet, which used a mixture of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese (it was edible – I made fruity smoothies!). There is a whole big science to the mixture that’s actually quite interesting.
Now, let me tell you… I hate hospitals. I HATE “going in.” Dustin had to bribe me to go see my doctor that day. My super awesome general practitioner, Dr. Sym., was worried about my fatigue, but he thought that my ongoing stomach pain was the result of an ulcer. He sent me to get my blood drawn and then we went home. Two hours later, Dr. Sym. called and urged me to go to the E.R… my blood counts were dangerously low -- I was bleeding from the inside.
Now, like I just told you, I hate the hospital. I HATE-HATE going to the E.R. *frustrated sigh here* I went in (reluctantly) and I’ll tell you this, that night was one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was honestly the worst night of my life. There was no peace -- That’s that best way to describe it. The E.R. was crowded, dark and buzzing with fear... fear so thick you could smell it. To keep it short, my night was filled with nausea, a moaning, senile woman next to me, bad soup, the phrase, “It’s just dry heave,” from said woman (over and over again), bad drugs, good drugs, a stiff nurse, I.V.s, a tired, worried husband, not getting into a hospital room until 7a.m. and all of this while I was bleeding internally and feeling like death. Ugh. The next week included an Endoscope test, nothing by mouth, spending time with my poor, frazzled Mom and the news that I had a huge tumor right outside of my stomach, which not only preventing food from passing, but it was also bleeding… and it was cancer.
How many times can a girl get cancer? Seriously? Wait, I take that back. I don’t want to know!
To make yet another long story more petite, I went home to Dustin’s parent’s house where I tried to eat and keep it down, deal with the pain that now needed narcotic pain killers and prepare for what might be my end. How do you do that? How do you, at 24, prepare yourself for leaving this world and all that you love? Sleep. Tears. Hand holding and preparing a will on Microsoft Word. I still have that file, tucked away in a folder on my desktop. My in-Laws were wonderful and helped in any and every way possible to keep me happy, comfortable and functioning. My Mom took time off of work to come loaf on the couch with me. My sister let me kick her ass at Battle Ship over and over again.
I was admitted into the Hospital, after two weeks of being stubborn and fighting as hard as I could to live with the lump growing in my belly. I remember my sense of smell was insane and I couldn't handle the smell of anything not from nature. All visitors were told that they stunk. What a pill I was! I also recall seeing my sister cry in my hospital room, a memory that makes me cry, to this day.
We were told that on top of the lump growing in my belly, I may have multiple spots growing on my liver. What does that mean? That means, that if there really were tumors growing on my liver, they’d try to “make me comfortable.” We all know what that means.
As luck would have it, after a five hour surgery, I DIDN’T have anything on my liver or in any of the lymph nodes in the surrounding area! I had a Whipple procedure, which basically means that they took 1/3 of my stomach, 1/3 of my pancreas and my entire duodenum out and then pieced it all back together again. Mind blowing!
That was August 18th. I spend a week and a half in the hospital and then came I went home to my Mother’s house, where she cared for me for the next two weeks. It’s sad and lovely at the same time that such a crappy situation can bring two people closer together. My Mom took on walks around the neighborhood, attempted to cook me what sounded good (I love you for trying, Mom!) and held my barf buckets. Having a stomach that was starved for two weeks and then cut apart and pasted back together made eating or drinking anything a real job.
Oh! Did I tell you that I had my leg amputated? *checks previous post* Yep. Well, normally I wear a prosthetic leg, but since the tummy incident, I’ve lost a little weight and now it doesn’t fit. It's really sad, actually. My sad little fake leg is sitting in the closet with the shoe and pants that I wore the day I took it off. Poor dear in the corner.
That’s me. I’m just a girl in a wheelchair with one leg, one lung and half a tummy… but I'm also a girl with a lot of heart! That's got to count for something, right?