I haven’t written in a while. It’s been quiet, uneventful. I make lunches, drop the kids off at school, teach, pick the kids up, feed them, get them to bed, watch The Great British Baking Show, rinse, repeat. Life has resumed a kind of normalcy that I craved during treatment, surgery, and recovery. My biggest stressor for the past three months has been getting my grading done.
So I didn’t write. I relaxed into a life free of doctors and pain and nausea and the constant nagging feeling that time was running out, running short.
How very foolish.
Two months ago, just four weeks after my second clean scan and my last chemo treatment, I felt a small lump under my right ribcage. It didn’t hurt but would make itself known several times a day. The lump was right above my incision from my liver resection, so I thought it had to be scar tissue. I know that internal scar tissue can keep forming long after a surgery, and since this lump was sitting right where I had been cut, scar tissue made the most sense. But as the lump grew ever-so-slightly larger and ever-so-slightly more tender, my spidey-sense began tingling.
It’s important to note here that I know how often I preach not ignoring or explaining away symptoms. I know I urge people to see a doctor if something doesn’t feel right. I am not unaware of my hypocrisy. But I committed every crime. I explained away the lump as benign scar tissue. I explained away my GI discomfort as a lasting effect of my bowel resection. I explained away my fatigue as the byproduct of working hard and not sleeping well.
But that lump did not go away, and one day, as I sat at my desk grading papers, I found that I could not sit comfortably. The natural fold in my belly was pressing into the lump, making it really hard to sit for any length of time. I sent a tentative email to my doctor, apologizing and hedging in the very worst way.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” I wrote, “but I seem to have developed a strange lump in my abdomen. It’s probably nothing, and I don’t mean to be alarmist, but I was wondering if maybe we could move up my CT scan. Unless, of course, you think we should just wait. It’s only two weeks. Let me know what you think is best!”
My doctor wrote back immediately, saying that we should move up the scan. His schedulers called me half an hour later and scheduled the scan for the next morning. It took him two excruciating days to get back to me, and when he did, it wasn’t good.
“So, you’ve developed another spot on your liver, in a different place, right between the two lobes.” Though I was not surprised, my heart, which had been beating my throat, sank into my stomach. “And it’s big, much bigger than I would have expected. Seven and half centimeters.”
What the fuck. Nothing to 7.5 centimeters in less than three months? Unbelievable.
My doctor went on to explain that we should get a PET scan to make sure we’re not looking at any other spots and start chemo as soon as possible. We need to shrink the damn thing before we can think about surgery or ablation.
So here we are. Once more unto the breach. I feel devastated. I feel sad. I feel guilty for putting my friends and family through this again. But mostly I feel angry. Angry at myself for not practicing what I preach and seeing my doctor two months ago. Angry at this damn disease for being so relentless. Angry that I will likely never again get a break from chemo because now we know how quickly it will grow. Angry that the rest of my life will be scheduled around treatment. Angry at myself for become complacent and allowing myself to think past the immediate future.
I’ve been here before. I’m not scared. I will get through each chemo, perhaps not with a smile, but with lots of swears and fun socks and plain noodles and white tea. I will see NED again.
Silver lining roll call:
- Liver mets respond well to systemic chemo.
- We’re settled into the new house already.
- At least I’m facing the devil I know.
- I get to watch unlimited TV while recovering from each chemo.
- I won’t ever have to shave my legs or pits every again.
- I’m surrounded by loved ones and ensconced in a kick-ass community.