“There is a complication, Stacey. I need to speak to you about something” cautioned the nurse as I walked to take my alleged turn at the Endoscopy Clinic.
(Crap!) Of course, this is not something I wanted to hear after having not eaten for a day and a half and having purged my bowels with yet more chemicals.
“We don’t usually take patients that are unhealthy. I’m so sorry. Whoever processed you made a mistake. You should have been referred to the hospital. You are high risk. We are going to try to see if they can fit you in at RVH. I don’t know why this mistake wasn’t picked up.”
(Shit) And another slap to the face. I have not really ever thought of myself as unhealthy – quite frankly. Even with cancer, I still don’t call myself “sick”. I guess I am … maybe more diseased. When I think of being diseased I think of a tree and how a diseased tree usually has some sort of black fungus on it. I don’t think I have that.
“Usually, people who are sick are sent to the hospital for their colonoscopy.”
And with that comment, she ushered me into the back room where there awaited, “the consultation chair”. There was only one chair. It was comfortable, I will admit – but my heart was racing so hard that I barely paid attention to the scenery. (Oh – good grief!)
“Just wait here, please. The doctors will be with you in a minute.”
Kevin was just on the other side of the wall. I knew he was there. I wanted him so much to be with me right then. Neither of us have even ventured to guess that I would not qualify for my procedure today.
I sat still – not knowing what to look at (patients in recovery were laying in their gurneys just in front of me) or what to listen to (doctors were clearly reviewing my file and repeating my first name along with “cancer” often). Okay, I am telling a fib. Of course I was listening to the doctors since I wanted to know what the heck they were planning to do.
“Stacey is sitting right there” said the nurse finally to the two doctors. I waived. What else do you do? Not quite a celebrity but it seemed I had attracted some controversy at the endoscopy clinic.
I watched as the doctors walked towards me. I sat – in my lone chair. They stopped. One on one side and the other flanked me on the other. They were courteous enough, for sure. They reached to shake my hand and introduce themselves – my chart in hand. “Stacey, we have a few questions for you” said one of the doctors.
“Okay” I responded politely – hoping good manners would convince them I should be looked at today and now.
“When was your last chemo? How often do you receive chemo? Are the tumors shrinking? How are you feeling?”
“I feel fantastic” was my last response. “I eat well, have gained weight, and exercise.” (Please take me!)
“Well”, announced the anesthesiologist. “You look much better in person than you do on paper.”
“Well, good. But I must confess no one has said that to me before” I smiled.
After what seemed to be an eternity, they announced they would take me. “We don’t normally accept cancer patients. You look good, though.”
(Should I be flattered?)
“Thank-you” I breathed.
And then my heart-rate shot up as the nurse assisted me to prepare. I had never been sedated before – nor had I ever had a colonoscopy. My vital signs pointed to my anxiety. The nurse was so very kind as we both looked for something we had in common upon which to develop a trusting relationship to calm me down. (What if my chemo reacts to the sedation?)
“My mom was a nurse” I finally announced. “She worked in the operating room at the old RVH.”
“I worked there too”, exclaimed my nurse. And there it was – the common thread. I was calming down.
In walked the doctor. “I just need to warn you that there are some dangers with your procedure. Cancer can make your bowels stiff. This may be a problem as the scope needs to have wiggle room. If I don’t have wiggle room the scope could puncture the wall of the bowel and then “poof” off you will need to go to RVH for emergency surgery. So – I will not continue with this procedure if I find I can’t navigate the scope easily. Do you understand the risks and reasoning?”
(I’m going to die!) “Yes. That’s fine. I understand.”
Off we went. On went the oxygen. (Didn’t know this was coming – reminds me of “House”) In went the needle. (A pediatric needle since my veins were so small) Squirt went the anesthetic into my mouth to prevent me from gagging (I was also getting a stomach exam). “Turn on your side please with your knees up.” (I know why) “And here comes the sedation. (What if it doesn’t work?) Here we go.” Bam! I was out. I know I dreamed. I felt so peaceful. I don’t even remember waking up. But all of a sudden – there was Kevin. Thank God. I was alive! (What the heck happened?)
“You’re done” smiled Kevin. (I’m done??)
Toute suite, the doctor was beside me with his report. This was the moment I had been anticipating for so long. This was the moment I feared. I imagined I would be told that I was filled with bowel cancer and that was the source. After-all, Mom had it. How many polyps did I have? How long did I have? What kind of chemo would I need now?
“All clear. Your test was normal. You are free to go.”
And that was that. All clear. Normal. There was nothing! There was nothing! I was “normal”. Seriously?! I looked at Kevin and tears (again) welled up. I could not have asked for anything better! Not only was I , the sick one, examined, but I , the sick one, was normal! That was the best news I had heard in a very long time! I was normal – well, my bowels were normal. That meant the cancer was, in fact, ovarian. That meant the chemo was the correct chemo and should have been working to reduce the tumors.
I was cleared to leave. (Seriously!) Still in disbelief, I got my clothes on and grappled with the unexpected good news. It was odd to now be processing good news. Why would I struggle with “good” news? It had thrown me off guard, but I was ready to burst into song. The weight of the world had been temporarily lifted. I guess the anticipation of bad news had occupied me more than I had thought. I nearly floated out of the procedure room to the exit.
“All the best, Stacey. I wish you all the best for good health and full recovery”, said the nurse in a very kind voice as I left the room. We had, afterall, found our common thread.
Kevin and I rode home on a very high note. We were filled with hope. And I – was hungry! A list of foods ran through my head. I wanted junk food! Yes. Chips! No! (The inner struggle began) “No! Be healthy. You still have a battle to win, Stacey” I thought. “I have some good soup at home I’m going to eat, Kevin” I announced to almost convince myself.
“Okay, Stacey. Let me know if there is anything else you would like” Kevin offered.
(I’d love a greasy burger!) (I need a healthy meal!) Soup and salad won out. I was determined, once again, to win against cancer. Now – I felt optimistic that things would go my way. I felt I had a future, after-all. I felt we had a future.
That night, I went to sleep without needing the distraction of the television. I was exhausted from the elation of the day. It had been a gift and I was grateful. I counted my blessings once again.