Words change everything.
“You have cancer, Stacey.”, I thought I heard the doctor say. “We need to begin chemo-therapy before we can think about surgery.”
One little extra word (NOT) would have made such a big difference in what was about to happen to me. You do NOT have cancer. We do NOT need to begin chemo-therapy. We do NOT have to consider surgery. I did NOT return back to my classroom that afternoon.
I think I must have floated out of the Royal Victoria Hospital that day because I have no memory of what happened next. I do remember a few talking heads and I do remember yearning to be home.
“What do we tell the kids?” I asked my husband.
“The truth.” he replied.
And only seconds later our daughter arrived home. The look on her face told me that she had it all figured out already without me having to speak any words at all. It was that both cars were home in the middle of the afternoon that gave everything away. “You have cancer, don’t you!?”
The words were like knives in my mouth. I wished I could have said I do NOT have cancer.
The memories of that day are lost in the haze of chaos. What did we say to her? What did we say to our little boy? What did we say to our oldest son? I really am not sure if I can remember or just block it out in an effort to not return to that moment.
We shared our news with family and then friends. Their faces, too, told it all. We were all in shock. I am healthy. I eat well. I exercise. I am too young! What were the signs?
“Did you have any signs?”
“No. Well, not really. Well, I thought I had had a burst ovarian cyst in November and a gall bladder attack in February. My liver has been hurting me – but I thought that was gall bladder. I went to the doctor to have a wart removed from my foot and asked him to check my stomach since it continued to give me pain. Thank goodness he sent me for an ultra-sound and blood-work that revealed a problem in hormone levels and my liver.” I replied.
I was referred to a gynecologist who referred me to an oncology gynecologist (who knew that even existed?) who scheduled me for an hour-long appointment. Not knowing why it would take an hour, I told my class I would likely be late that day, but to start without me and I would be back.
I would NOT be back since that hour-long appointment was purposed to tell me the news. My husband had come with me that day – not really because I needed him but because he wanted to come. Did he know more than I did? In any case, he was there with me when yet another of life’s major events transformed our lives. We would NOT ever be the same.
It was only several days later that I received my first chemo-therapy treatment. And my husband was with me. That’s when we met Mark and Bea. They were a couple my husband and I would NOT forget.