Shoot for the Moon #4

The Turning point of my life-

Funny thing , I was laying in the back yard near the pool in the spot where out to little Bijons would do their business! All I could think of was YUCK! I had a stabbing pain in my upper abdomen and I was once again burning up with fever. I got myself into the house and told Gary and I manage to get settled and relieve the pain/fever with some healthy doses of Tylenol and Motrin. Gary scheduled a Doctors appointment immediately.  Off I went to the doctor the next morning early and she sent me to Howard County General for some tests, scans and   that same morning. Still fever ridden and in discomfort I succumbed to a battery of tests, poking and prodding. I waited patiently in the ER for tests results until mid afternoon. This was the really bad part. Gary had been by my side every minute. The kids were at some sort of sporting event and had to be transported from point A to point B. Gary left for just over 30 minutes and while he was gone a physicians assistant came in and I asked if she knew anything. She said to me in a flip voice – Oh yeah – they found a large mass in your pancreas. It looks like pancreatic cancer. I could not process her words. The world stopped and I hit replay in my head. I literally could not make any sense of what she had said. After the spontaneous lapse of coherent thought I blurted out – what do I do about that? She again responded in a glib tone “….Ahhhh Book a cruise?” My mind was a big tangle of thoughts and feelings and questions, mass confusion. After a few minutes the words cancer, pancreas, cruise, surfaced in my mind. I looked around the empty sterile cubical I was in and realized I needed to call Gary. I dialed the cell phone and suddenly a started to tremble uncontrollably. The rest is a blur. I know I told him and Gary rushed back and called our close friend who is a Doctor at Hopkins. She came over to the ER and made calls to her contacts to get clarification and to get some attention on my grim test results.  It is, even now numbing to recount those first few hours in the hospital. I do recall they ordered a spinal tap. I also recall the Doctor on call was a crackpot who poked my spinal column for a good forty five minutes before she finally hit the cord. The pain was excruciating. Anytime anyone head for your lower back with a big long needle you know there is going to be hell to pay. That was the first of many spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies I would get in the coming year. My good friend was overcome with frustration watching the Doctor poorly attempt to find the right spot. She is an anesthesiologist and she was a breath away from asking her to step aside so she could do what she so routinely does in her job on a daily basis. Finally it was over. The final diagnosis was, while they originally thought it was pancreatic cancer it appears to be a large 6 inch mass around my aorta and several (too many to count) small tumors in my liver, lungs, etc. Then I was released and instructed to  remain flat and motionless for 24 hours to avoid headaches from the spinal tap. Flat on your back is not the position I yearned for after the day I had. I wanted to go home in my room, curl up under a big pile of quilts, cover my head and just sleep to let my mind catch up with the chaos. Many calls were made and we got an appointment with the best solid tumor Doctor at Hopkins in Baltimore. I was scheduled for a biopsy in 10 days. (That was very quick for Hopkins with this top Doctor).

Off to the Beach!

So what was next? We went to Rohobeth Beach, DE and stayed for a week at a condo we had rented months before this whole mess emerged. We did not tell the kids. We knew it was bad but were not 100% certain what was to come.  I had been functioning for weeks with these fevers and pain – so why not a few more days and let the family enjoy the prepaid planned vacation week before we entered a the unknown.  We arrived at a beautiful condo on the beach called Sea Pines.  It was very nice and like a little home away from home. After arriving I needed to nap. I pitched camp in the master bedroom with my large bottle of water, heating blanket and stack of pajamas.  The family went out to explore the new surroundings while I entered in to a cave of long days and nights in that foreign bedroom in Delaware. The Hopkins Doctors had prescribed some sedatives and pain medications which I used to ease the pain, the fevers and the confusion in my head.

I remember not being strong enough to get out of bed much more than to pee and get a drink. I had no appetite. I had lost a good 15-20 lbs since before the motorcycle accident. That all makes sense now – but a few weeks prior to Memorial day I had joined Weight Watchers to loose a few pounds to not look like the overweight middle aged mom with 3 kids for the summer. I also recall thinking Weight Watchers was amazing! The first week I lost 3-4 pounds. The next another 4-5  and so on until I was back into a size 4.  I do recall thinking – man – Weight Watchers is amazing! After I went I had no appetite and was dropping weight like nobodies business! Needless to say it was cancer that was the appetite suppressant.  Through all of the horrible ordeal, I do remember the silver lining of getting thin! That was a good thing – I thought. I also recall sitting my our local pool one morning at a home swim meet and I was in sweat pants and wrapped in a blanket while the temperature soared to over 90 degrees. I could not get warm. I also remember people asking if I was okay. This was before my backyard collapse. I also remember people saying that my skin looked grey. How odd. I did not see the foreshadowing of the upcoming trauma until months later when I was in the midst of doctors, chemotherapy, ER visits and many other trials.  I tried to participate in the Seaside vacation, but it was just not possible. I just would lay in bed listening to an audio CD of “The DiVinci Code” and trying to make each moment pass quickly. I also listened to Marianne Williamson – a uplifting motivational and spiritual teacher and occasionally I would listen to a self hypnosis tape on relaxation. I wanted to get to Hopkins to see that oncologist and get a clear picture of what was happening and then again I wanted to just stay there in bed under my heating blanket cranked up to the max. It was a week of chills and fevers of 102- 104 degrees. I would shake and shiver for hours, fall asleep and wake up with my entire body soaked in sweat. That pile of pj’s came in handy! I also remember Gary bringing me huge broiled scallops and a chocolate shake from a wonderful restaurant up the road. It was the only thing I was able to eat. Finally the week ended. The kids were getting quite concerned. We went home and arrived at Hopkins and did a biopsy of the large tumor they found and got a diagnosis.



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