Thursday, January 18, 2007Cancer Stories: Christa and her Mom
Christa from Awful Souls is sharing the story of both her mom and herself.
She sent this in a few days ago, but I have had a bit of a cold and didn't post it until today, so I want to say sorry to her. If you have a story to share, please feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for submission. - Lynda~oOo~A lot of people know about cancer, but a lot of them are too scared to actually talk about it. There's even grown up people out there who believe it's contagious, which is crazy. So there's still a lot of ignorance going on.
My story is long and spans over two generations. First out was my mom.
She was one of these happy creatures that could spread a smile in a wink. She always had something good to say about everyone and she was not a smoker either. However, she was a passive smoker. Dad was puffing away around us all for as long as I can remember.
Anyway...my mom's cancer began with breast cancer. They thought they found it in an early stage and she went through both surgery, chemo and radiation. This was between 1975 and 1977, but I believe that the odds are about the same today when it comes to survival. She was doing good after the surgery and the treatment was done and over with, and we all took a deep breath and we were glad it was over.
Then, about a year later, in 1976, she got this stubborn cold that wouldn't go. Her cough was getting worse and worse, and she was complaining about a pain in her right side, just under the ribcage. Dad finally got her to the docs again when the cough was so dry and so intense that she could barely breathe. And it didn't take long before she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
I didn't see her at all during the last 3 months. Dad wanted us to remember her the way she was, which is something I'm very thankful for today. She passed away on August 16, 1977. The autopsy later showed that her whole body was full of tumors and that her cancer had started in her brain. So the breast cancer wasn't the first physical place where it settled down, even if that was the place where it showed first.
That was my first experience with cancer and I was 13 years old when we lost her.
All the way throughout my teens I was scared to death to get cancer myself, but by the time I was in the end of my 20's and had my own family since years back, I'd forgotten all about it.
So when I had what seemed to be a stomache flu, it didn't bother me more than it done before. It really didn't ring a bell anywhere. I ended up at the ER with my flu however, and that was my lucky star I guess. The stomache ache I had made them set up an emergency appointment with the gynecologist since it was impossible to say what was really wrong.
The day after I was up in that horrible chair and they did an ultrasound scan. What they found was a simple inflamation in the tubes, but bad enough to require surgery. I already had a son, so the loss of the tubes was not a big deal at the time. That it would literally save my life, I had no idea about at the time.
So I went in to take the tubes away. It was a laparoscopic procedure and I was back home and back to work within a couple of days. And everything went just fine.
A couple of days after I arrived home, I had a message on my answering machine when I came from work late on night. It was the surgeon who took out both my tubes that wanted me to call back no matter how late it was. Just that in itself scared the poop out of me, but I had to make that phonecall.
When I talked to him, he told me that they've done some tests when they took out the tubes. The tests were routine and nothing strange at all. It was just that mine were not good. So while I was still catching my breath, watching my 13 year old son sitting in front of the TV set, this guy told me over the phone that I had an aggressive form of cervical cancer and that they wanted me to show up on Friday to discuss this. A bed at the ward was already available for me and I was planned on getting admitted the following Monday.
This was Wednesday and after that phonecall I was completely numb for days.
I had my best friend coming with me to that meeting on Friday, and I got the picture pretty clear of what was going to happen and why. The tumor was located very close to the back of my spine and it was growing very fast. They would do a radical hysterectomy, which in practise meant that they would remove the cervix, uterus and also the upper part of the vagina and the tissues around the cervix. The pelvic lymph glands was to be removed since the cancer could spread to these glands. It was a big surgery that took nearly 8 hours and 2 teams of 4 surgeons each to do. And it became a bit bigger than expected. They removed more glands than they first thought they would and the appendix went as well...but they left the ovaries since they were not affected at all. The ovaries were moved up in level with the hipbones however, just for the sake of eventual radiation later.
I never had to go through any chemo or radiation. And I was damn lucky. Just before the hysterectomy, I asked the doc how long he would give me if I didn't go through with it, and he gave me a qualified guess that limited the rest of my life to about 2 weeks. That time frame and how close it had been didn't hit me until months later while I was still in remission.
There is a lot of emotional bits and pieces in surviving cancer that is very difficult to both explain and handle at the time. I guess you could say that it's changes a lot. Especially the view on life around us. And that is something that most cancer survivors have in common. I was trying to find a reason why I was still alive and not my mom. Silly things like that. Didn't feel guilty for surviving, but a purpose for still being here would've been nice at the time.
The cancer that I had you can get a shot for today, which is amazing. I just hope that it will save some lives in the future.
I was young when this hit me, only 31. This spring I will be 43 and so far so good. I will be in the same age as my mom was when she passed away in about a year, and for some reason that bugs me. I just hope I will pass that limit in time without any more incidents like this.
The side effects from this hysterectomy have panned out in a chronical pain syndrom on my behalf. I had a lot of nerve damage at the time and later it showed it's ugly face in a burning pain. In the beginning it was skin deep, but today, 12 years later, it's a deep roaring pain that can hit from nowhere. Morphine will take it out, but I'm trying to stay away from it if I can. The hallucinations are too icky to handle on a daily bases. My nervous system is confused and indicates injury even if there isn't anything wrong.
But no matter the pain that followed this, I'm still very happy to be alive. And I'm aware of how darn lucky I was back then.
What I would like to change in awareness around cancer is the fear. Yes, it can be scary as hell...and yes, sometimes it goes very wrong. And cancer usually don't see the difference between people and people, what age you're in or how much money you have. We're playing Russian Roulette every day when we leave for work, or sometimes just by leaving bed. I find life very precious these days, but death doesn't scare me either. I've made peace with both of them.
And maybe most important of all - I don't take life for granted anymore. And no one should. Enjoy it while you can. The amount of control we have over our own lives is nothing but an illusion.
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 11:51 AM :: 2 people are more aware ---------------------------------------