Monday, April 20, 2015
September 9--13, 2013: Homecoming. Post-Op. Staging.
On the Monday following Thursday's surgery, I was released from the hospital.
"No driving, no vacuuming, no lifting, and no eating leafy greens or nuts" were among the restrictions I was given. None of that mattered to me in the least. I just wanted my freedom.
I got home in the early evening. I claimed the recliner, and sat with one little boy perched on each side of me. They had been watching "The Princess and the Frog," and I snuggled with them and pretended to watch, too. I couldn't focus on the story though; my head and my heart were too full.
On Tuesday, the pathology report was released. I don't remember now how I got my hands on it. In big bold letters the report read: "***Attention: Positive Report***". There was no mistaking that it contained bad news. As I read through the items in the report, I recalled my surgeon's voice in the hospital when shortly after informing me that he had removed 8.5 inches of colon, 20% of my bladder, 21 lymph nodes, and an artery, he assured me in his trademark confident tone that I'd "never miss 'em."
Friday I met with the surgeon in his office. After a quick exam, his expression was solemn. Though he was frowning, he stated how "ecstatic" he was with my progress. We discussed my need for a medi-port to make receiving chemotherapy easier. That procedure would happen in the hospital under anesthesia in a few days.
Almost two weeks to the minute after hearing that I had cancer, I sat in an oncologist's office to learn what treatment she had planned. A hematologist worked with her, and it was he who sat down with me and Patrick in one of the exam rooms that day.
As discussion of my case progressed, it felt to me like the doctor was talking about someone else. His words did not sink in. It was all very interesting from an academic standpoint, the TNM system that oncologists use to describe cancer. He had staged my case as IIIc, only because metastasis wasn't proven. "Tiny spots in the liver and lung are suspicious, but because they're not proven, we've put you at IIIc." I knew this was very serious subject matter, but I couldn't absorb it. It wasn't until I looked across the room at my husband's ashen face and mournful expression that I began to understand that this news was hurting him. I had never seen him so sad. My heart ached for him.
Slowly, the information crept into my consciousness. This could kill me, even though the tumor is gone now. Cancer could still kill me. It could happen soon. How could it be?
The doctor went on to explain that they were going to pursue a "curative intent". I'd be scanned periodically, and would receive chemotherapy. When he described the horrible side-effects that might happen--at this point there was some debate about whether I'd be on irinotecan or oxaliplatin--diarrhea starting immediately upon infusion ("You'll take two Immodium before each treatment," he cautioned), baldness, mouth sores, fatigue, nausea. All I could do is stare off into space.
Eventually, I managed to deliver the most ineffectual understatement ever uttered, "This is really going to suck."