“I can’t find it.”
“Maybe it’s gone.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had chemo last Tuesday. Maybe the chemo killed that growth. It’s possible right?”
“It is possible. Maybe. Or maybe it’s hiding behind your bowel.”
Crap. “No, I prefer to think it’s gone.”
This is the hope I hold onto as I move through my second week of post-chemotherapy stress disorder, or PCSD for short. I wake up and think, “I wonder if it’s gone.” I eat breakfast and think, “I wonder if this fights cancer?” I shower and target the heat on the would-be tumors. I drink water and imagine it rinsing the cancer from my body. Down the sewer pipes it goes. I heat my food on the stove – microwaves may be bad. An apple a day keeps the cancer away and so I eat apples. I lay down to rest to give my immune system a chance to do its job. These are all signs and symptoms of PCSD and I have it bad!
Not that that’s a bad thing. It is hopeful. It puts me shot-gun beside my chemo so that I feel I am co-piloting my recovery.
“Stacey, it’s time. We are ready to take you for your biopsy.” said the nurses as they prepared me for surgery. I was anxious. I had never been under the knife before. Okay, it was not a big cut and general anesthetic I was to receive, but it may as well have been. I tried to play it cool.
“Great – let’s go.” I said in my outside voice. “Crap, crap, crap!” I said in my inside voice.
And away I whooshed at warp speed on my hospital stretcher. I must confess I always wondered what it looked like from the perspective of someone who is lying down in a hospital gown being wheeled through pedestrian traffic in the hallways of RVH. Now I know – surreal. It’s like a shot from a GoPro – you are there, but you aren’t there. There is no periphery, only frontal because you don’t care what’s off to the side when you need to know what you are heading into. The nurse navigated some spectators who were probably wondering, “what is a good looking girl like that doing in a place like this”… or something like that I’m sure. I did fix my hair that morning, after all. And I had on clean underwear. This was something my mother ALWAYS insisted was important and on days like that day – her advice became paramount. There were bends and turns in the road until we came to “The Door”. It is a little intimidating to be passing through the door with the radiation symbol on it. I’m pretty sure I was always advised to avoid anything that had that sort of symbol on it. Radiation is dangerous. Right?
Through “The Door” we went and I was rolled up to a young man who looked no more than 20. I think I lost my filter because I felt the words escape from my mouth, “Wow – you are young!” And the game was on.
Mark, the radiologist who introduced himself by both first and last name and whose last name was so complex he said, “call me Mark” said, “How old do you think I am?”
“Geez, this biopsy is more difficult than I thought it was going to be!” I replied. “I didn’t know I had to answer skill-testing questions.”
“Seriously, how old do you think I am?” he chided, clearly observing my nervousness at the imminent dissection at large.
“I thought this was a woman’s game?” I evasively suggested.
Seeing that he was not giving up, I looked at his glasses. They were trendy and I guess of the fashion genre: hipster. I looked at his eyes and only slightly bashful laugh lines appeared in the corners. I looked at his neck and it was clear. The neck is like the rings on a tree – it tells you everything! “You are in your 30’s.”
“High 30’s or low?” he continued.
Geez. He did not give up. Nor did I notice the nurse was wheeling in the mega ultra super sonic sound machine. “You are in your mid 30’s.”
“Not bad. Now give me a number.” He really must not have known how much I hate math, but I took a shot in the dark.
“You are 34.”
“Not bad. I’m 35. Now, we are going to try to biopsy the mass in your omentum. The jelly is cold. Sorry. Hmmm. I can’t get it. According to your CAT, it should be right here. No, no luck. We are going to have to take a sample from your liver. This red dye is to steralize the area. You will feel the needle that will numb the area and then maybe some pressure. Deep breath in.”
“Uh-oh. What the heck?” I thought to myself. “What is he jamming in there” I worried. “It feels like there is a wedge under my lung.” I panicked.
“Okay. The needle is in and now I’m going to take a few samples. There’s one.”
“Fire in the hole!” I yipped to myself.
“Is that okay?” he inquired.
“Go for it!” I encouraged.
“There’s two. Let’s get another. And “clip”, there’s three I think that should do.”
“Snap!” I thought. That hurt!
“Do you feel that?”
“Yes. But keep going. It’s okay.” I just wanted it to be over!
“Deep breath in…. and relax.”
“HA! I can’t relax – I can’t friggin’ breathe” I said to myself in my inside voice. “Okay.” I said in my outside voice.
Finally, the needle came out.
“Oh, good. I thought I was going to be left permanently feeling like a wedge was stuck under my lung.”
“Ha, no Stacey. That was just the needle I hadn’t removed until just now. Are you okay?”
“Yes.” I affirmed. I am relieved it is over. “You did a good job. Thank-you.”
“You are very welcome” He continued talking, but I didn’t hear. I thought I felt slightly drunk and that they must have slipped something into my while we were playing the guess-my-age game. They hadn’t, but I wonder if the body gives something to you all on it’s own as a way to let you escape from moments like these.
I was wheeled back, once again to my little cubicle in imaging where my husband and son were waiting for me.
“How’d it go?” my husband asked.
“Good.” I responded with a slightly slower enunciation than normal. “I was very giving.”
An hour later, I was released and wheel out, once again, but this time in a wheel chair by the hands of my oldest boy.
“They couldn’t find the mass on my omentum.” I suggested to my husband. “Maybe it’s gone. Or maybe it was hiding behind my bowel. He is 35.”
“Who is 35, Stacey?” my husband inquired.
“The young man who did my biopsy. He is 35. Mark. His name is Mark. Mark my words, he was young. He was re”Mark”able.” I continued.
My husband got the car and off we drove home. I was never so grateful to be able to crawl into my warm little bed. I made it. We made it. Another hurdle. I did my part. The tears welled up in my eyes and I sobbed.
It had been more of a challenge that day than I had anticipated, but moreover, it was such a relief to have come out of the liver biopsy without incident. No bleeding, no nausea, no vomiting. Once again, I counted my blessings… and wondered if the cancer was all gone? Maybe they took it all out with that sample? What should I eat? Should I walk? Should I rest? My PCSD arose once again. But that’s a good thing! Afterall – I am the co-pilot of my recovery and I better damned-well know the direction to “cure”.