I’m still kickin! I told myself I would write more through this cancer journey but the truth is I have struggled through a lot of it. Allow me to explain. My first four rounds of chemotherapy I did in Louisiana. I was terrified and had to navigate through all the emotions and side effects of it. Next up was radiation treatment done in Houston at MD Anderson, which, I swear to God, almost killed me. Followed by four more rounds of chemo that I did in Florida (where I now live). Truthfully, when I had my breaks from treatment I was just focused on physically recovering and trying to be with my family, writing wasn’t really on my mind. I also think it’s probably confusing to people why I did treatment in so many different places. I really have had a knack for making this cancer thing complicated! Allow me to explain…
When I was first diagnosed, I was back home in Louisiana to celebrate Christmas with my family. After my initial diagnosis, I never made my flight back home to Florida and I went to MD Anderson in Houston to get a second opinion. My cancer was stage 3C and I thought it was best to go to a large cancer center to get guidance. I will never forget my first meeting with my surgeon, Dr. You. As you can imagine I was quite manic. I cried, I couldn’t believe I had stage 3 cancer. How can this even be real? How could this happen and me not realize something was seriously wrong? As we sat in the room going over scans and treatment plans I kept beating around the bush trying to ask Dr. You a question. Basically I was asking, “I get it, I have cancer, but I’m going to be ok, right? We can get rid of this, right? You can fix it?”. Finally, after doing a dance around that for a bit she looked straight at me and said, “It’s not my job to sugarcoat this for you. You have cancer. You are not walking in here with a stage 1, stage 2 or even a normal stage 3 cancer. You are the worst stage 3 it can get. You need chemo in your blood like yesterday”. I will never forget her looking at me and telling me that. I don’t know if my mom or husband remember that but I swear those words echoed loud and clear in my head. I guess that’s what you want, someone giving it to you straight.
I left that appointment and quickly called (or hysterically texted, I can’t quite recall) my sister-in-law and brother, who are both doctors in Louisiana. I told them what the surgeon said and I needed chemo NOW. What oncologist did they think I should go to? Could I get in asap with someone in Louisiana that they knew? I needed the appointment now! After them making a few calls I was quickly scheduled for my port placement and an appointment with an oncologist they knew. I guess maybe that’s not politically correct to admit, but the truth is I was able to get in quickly with doctors in Louisiana which is why I chose to do my first chemo rounds there. In addition, I was also TERRIFIED OF HAVING CANCER AND HAVING TO DO CHEMO. It all seemed like a death sentence at first and I just wanted to be at my moms house, where everything felt familiar and safe. Plus, my entire extended family (well, most of them) still live in Louisiana so I had a lot of help with kids and preparing food and everything else. My husband and I had a very romantic (insert sarcasm) cry session in the parking lot of Home Depot as we tried to get away from the noise at my moms and figure out what this would look like for our family.
David eventually flew back to Florida to go back to work and I stayed in Louisiana to do chemo. The kids and David flew back and forth a few times for visits as well. Once my first four chemo rounds were complete my doctors wanted to move me onto radiation treatment. Radiation seemed very intimidating and scary to me and after thinking about it I decided it was best to have this done at MD Anderson where the radiation oncologist there, Dr. Minsky, basically wrote the book on rectal cancer. He has a very impressive reputation and only deals with GI cancers, so he was very specialized in that field. I will spare you the dramatic details of how horrible radiation treatment was for me but spoiler alert, I lived through it.
After meeting with my doctors again at MD Anderson I decided to proceed with finishing out my chemotherapy treatment before surgery. I decided to do these last four rounds at home in Florida so I could be with my family. Truthfully, the first four rounds in Louisiana were very hard for me. I didn’t have my kids around and was out of my normal routine, so it was very easy for me to lay around and sulk, which was just not good for my mental state. I wanted these next chemo rounds to be done with my kids and husband so I could at least try and pretend my life was as normal as it could get. Those chemo rounds were completed with my usual hysteria and some complications (I had to get my stupid port replaced and was hospitalized after my very last round) but again, I survived. Next up is surgery.
Since my surgery is much more involved, I kind of always knew I would have it done at MD Anderson. The doctors there are very specialized in each field and I just feel more comfortable having it done at a large cancer center. That is where we sit now. As I type this I am in Houston preparing for my surgery which will happen on Tuesday, August 20th. I have appointments tomorrow and then will arrive at the hospital early as hell Tuesday morning to get checked in for surgery.
Truthfully, I am terrified of surgery. Getting this port placed is the only surgery I have ever had (and you should’ve seen how terrified I was of that tiny procedure). I am worried about anesthesia, I am worried margins won’t be good, I’m worried something will go wrong, I’m worried about the pain, I’m scared to wake up to having a colostomy bag (which will be either permanent or temporary, my surgeon will not know until she opens me up and sees the margins). I’m scared of all of it. However, like everything else with this journey I can’t avoid it. It’s happening. I keep trying to remind myself I am in the best possible hands. This will pass and before I know it, I will be two weeks out, four weeks out, months out from surgery and will be healing. But honestly I am scared of what the healing process looks like. I will be on strict restrictions not to lift anything over 10lbs, which includes my baby. It will be hard and frustrating but I know I will have a lot of support to get through it. I’m also already thinking about IF my surgeon is able to reconnect my intestines, how will that go? What will life be like after that happens?
In a strange way this year has been both the longest and fastest year ever. At the beginning of 2019 I cried and cried that my year was already ruined by cancer. I had nothing to look forward to as I knew this year would be a year of treatments and doctors. But as I sit here now I’m in awe that I’ve already done most of the treatment. I can’t believe it. All the chemo treatments, nausea, GI issues, anxiety, scans, tears … it’s all almost coming to a close. Well, I guess not the anxiety and tears but at least all the chemo is over with!
If you’ve made it this far reading my story I have just one more favor to ask. Please, please, please on Tuesday lift up a prayer for me. Whatever God you pray to please send out some good vibes into the universe that this surgery goes as well as it can. I am putting my complete faith in these doctors but I’ll take all the prayers I can get. I guess I’ll see you on the other side of surgery.