Strength is a Myth

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”

– Bob Marley


It’s been a little over six weeks since my total hysterectomy. Since being released from the hospital I felt like crap, went to the ER three days after being released from USC Keck Hospital with breathing problems and heart palpitations, and was re-admitted to the hospital (this time Huntington Memorial) after finding a blood clot (or Pulmonary Embolus or PE) in my lung as well as an infection, most likely from inhaling mucous after being extubated after my surgery was over (no wonder I woke up on oxygen). After that, well, recovery was even more of a bitch than usual. I had these weird pulling pains in my groin area. Everything hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I felt worse coming out of the surgery than going in and every day regretted having the surgery. I am now on blood thinners and have the awesome pleasure of seeing a small bump on my knee turn into a big bruise. IV’s taken out bleed fast and furiously. I cannot take any Aleve and am relegated to suck ass Tylenol that doesn’t do shit for me. I seriously wondered if all I was going through was better than what I went through before the surgery. It was all a toss up.

But six weeks out, it’s a little better. I can breathe better now. I can move a little more and was cleared to start training for my marathons again.

While all the healing was progressing, I went in for my PET/CT scans for the mysterious lesion on my liver. I was supposed to have them at the same time but a little snafu with ordering my CT meds (I’m allergic to iodine contrast) made me get the PET on a Friday, push back my results visit with my oncologist which was scheduled for the following Monday for the following Thursday so I could get my CT scan on that Monday. I don’t know if you all know how PET scans work. CT’s show the anatomy of a lesion/tumor, what have you. In connection with a CT, a PET, through the injection of a radioactive glucose solution, shows if the thing they see in the CT that gives the doctors pause is “active”. From what the tech who took care of me for the PET told me, cancer cells feed on sugar. So if there was any possibility of a recurrence, the cancer cells would show activity as it fed on the glucose. You’re supposed to lie still and not exert any energy for an hour before the PET so that any activity on the scan would be from whatever is having a party in your body. The radioactive shit makes it all glow for the techs and docs to see any possible “activity”. It’s simple to understand when it’s explained to you… not so simple for me, a layperson, to explain to someone.

So Thursday after my scans comes around and Matt, Autumn and I all go to Norris Cancer Center to meet with Dr. El and find out the results. We got there on time which is pretty hard when you’re carting around a three year old whirlwind of insanity and was called in before we could even sit down in the waiting room. I thought, “Sweet, we’ll get the results and be out quick before Autumn destroys the exam room or has a melt down”.

No such luck.

We were in there for a good HOUR before Dr. El came in. A few times a couple of nurses came in to apologize for the delay. I was just carefully monitoring Autumn as she slowly slipped into crazy child mode from the semi-decent mode she was in when we got there. I was starting to get anxious just from that. Not counting the insane anxiety I was already feeling from waiting to find out what the damned PET would say…

Dr. El finally comes in and he’s astounded at how big Autumn is. Last time he saw her, she was probably somewhere between the 6-9 month mark. Autumn was pleased to talk to a doctor (as she is obsessed with Doc McStuffins right now) and kept trying to talk to him even though he was trying to break away to talk to us. He chit chatted with her for a bit while inside I screamed “TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH THIS LIVER!!!”. After his niceties with The Child he finally turns to us and tells us.

“Your PET/CT showed that there was activity in that area of the liver we have been scanning. It also showed there was some activity in your thyroid area but it seems evenly spread out (huh???) so it could just be from aging (again, huh???). We also found that in that area there are two lymph nodes that also are showing some signs of activity. We will need to do a core biopsy of the liver using an ultrasound to guide the needle and I would like to also do an ultrasound on your throat, and if they find there is something there, we may need to do a biopsy on your throat as well.” As he is saying this, he has the same smile he always has on his face that says to me, “I know this news sucks ass but I’m just gonna keep on smiling in the hopes you don’t freak the fuck out in front of your kid and your husband”.

By the way, The Child didn’t have a melt down… but came pretty close.

Because of the new blood thinner complication and me now being under the care of a hematologist (oh did I forget that? Yeah, I now see a hematologist for this stupid clot that  came from who knows where and I have to keep taking this blood thinning shit for six whole months to prevent another clot from forming. Clots are bad. We do not like clots), I have to clear the biopsy with the hematologist first, get special instructions for stopping the medication so I don’t overly bleed from the biopsy, which could happen. After that was all taken care of, biopsies and ultrasounds were scheduled. Arrangements for someone to take me and someone to watch the kid were made. And all I can think is “Here we go again.” It’s all so stupid and I can’t believe this is happening again. If I’ve said this before, I apologize, but when I went in for my maintenance scan in November, I REALLY thought I would have gotten the 3 year all clear and went to once a year scans. This was not part of my game plan…

Frankly, to tell you all the truth, after all the scanning, and ultra sounding, and MRI-ing, I kind of expected he was going to say that about the liver. But I had NO IDEA he would say what he did about the thyroid and the lymph nodes. Don’t get me wrong… it all sucks. I was preparing myself for bad… I didn’t expect, more than bad.

I haven’t told many people (til now… and who knows who will read this), but when I did tell one person she told me, and I quote, “You’ve been so strong, keep on going”. To that I ask, have I been strong? I didn’t really have a choice now did I? I had to do what needed to be done so I could see my child grow, so I could continue my life, so I could marry my best friend. I don’t feel strong. In fact, I feel really weak. And I don’t just mean physically (because I am still a little weak)… but emotionally, mentally, spiritually… I don’t feel strong. And how do I keep on going? I cry every day. In the dark. Alone. By myself. When I’m in the bathroom, or watching tv, or walking to my room… or wherever I am. I think dark thoughts. I feel myself sinking into that region of despair where I question everything. I haven’t even had the biopsy yet. I want to hope for the best. And I am. But honestly… “activity” in the liver on the PET? I can’t help but feel despair. And if the cancer is back… if my NET has spread… how can I hope for anything when I thought I had everything just half a year ago…

I’m afraid of the biopsy/biopsies. Have you ever had one? It sucks. I love when doctors say, “Oh it’s nothing… they give you something to numb the area and then it’s quick.”. No it’s not. Sure, taking the sample could be quick. The prep, the anticipation… that’s LOOOONG. The shot to numb your shit? Yeah, that’s for the outer skin area of where they stick in the needle. They don’t numb the part that’s getting biopsied because that’s inside. They say “oh people get scared because of the click of the instrument taking the sample.” Bullshit. People get HURT because the shit chopping a section of your organ and taking it out of your body. To me biopsies HURTS LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER. And then you cramp for a couple of hours after that. If your lucky, you don’t bleed like a stuck pig. Biopsies hurt. I don’t care what anyone says. They can suck it. Hey doc… you want to be able to honestly tell your patient how a biopsy feels? GET ONE!!!

I’m scared of the biopsy. I’m scared of the result. I’m scared that once again, I’m in for the fight of my life. And dude… I’m tired as fuck.

No. I don’t feel strong. I am not strong. Right now… in this whole unknowing… this “hoping for the best, expecting the worst” situation I find myself in again, I can honestly say…

Strength is a myth. And I am not strong.


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