Trigger warning!! This post is about cancer and the mental viewpoint of a new diagnosis.
It’s 2002, I was 20 yrs old. I had received a call from my gynecologist that I needed to come back into the office. The next afternoon I’m sitting in the hardest, most uncomfortable chair as my doctor is telling me my latest test results. “Ms. @#$%, your test results show some abnormal growths. We need to do a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. Can you have someone come pick you up today?” I stare at him blankly. I didn’t hear him right, “ummm, I’m sorry, what did you say?” I swear he was talking underwater. He sounded like the teacher in Peanuts. He repeats himself without rushing, “Can someone come get you today so we can do the biopsy now. I have the afternoon open in my schedule.” I manage to call my roommate and she picked me up after the procedure.
Fast forward to a week later and I get another call, “Ms. @#$%, it’s Dr. Blah, I have your biopsy results and we need to schedule surgery. You have squamous cell carcinoma in situ.” I swear he is underwater again. “Umm, excuse me.. what?” “You have cancerous cells in your cervix or Stage 0 cervical cancer is what it is called. We need to do surgery. It’s a laser treatment and I’m fairly certain we can get all of it. There are a few risks. We won’t know for sure until we are in, and depending on how much we take out.. you may be unable to carry children. I need you to tell me you understand what I said.” I repeat it back, but I’m not sure I got it all. Apparently I understood enough as he had me talk to a scheduling coordinator.
Next step, the one I dreaded more than the surgery, I had to call my mom. I was numb, I didn’t know what to do or fully understand what was happening for that matter.
My mom flew out to be with me. Did the “mom thing” and took care of everything. She kept asking me “are you sure you are ok to stay here, you can come back home you know.” I held my ground, I refused to leave my newfound freedom. I had been living 2000 miles away from my family for 2 years, I wasn’t going to let a cancer scare take me down.
I went through the surgery, they took out more than they thought, but it was successful. Only catch, I could get pregnant, but I wouldn’t be able to carry on my own. There was a very high chance of miscarriage due to my cervical length not being long enough. So I resigned to not having children. There was always adoption.
2007, another abnormal test result. I was waiting for an appointment with my doctor. This time I was having horrible pain in my pelvis and right below my bladder. It started a month prior, but I was in the middle of moving and a job change so I put it off.
I worked third shift in the ER and the doctor that night stops me in the hall. “Hey J. Are you ok? You’re white as a ghost.” I smirk, “I’m good.” I turn to walk away and the pain hits hard. I double over and black out. When I wake I find myself on a bed in the the back hallway of the ER. The doctor glaring at me. “Care to tell me what is going on J.?” I sigh, tell him about the pain, the abnormal results, the history, and that I was waiting on a call for an appointment. “Ok, I’m going to make a call and I’ll be back. I’m sending you for an ultrasound now.” He can tell I’m not at all happy with his decision. The perk of working with doctors is that they always have favors to call in.
I get my results, more abnormal growths, the pain was caused by endometriosis and adenomyosis. This time a more invasive surgery. Everything abnormal was removed and I’m told I have a blocked fallopian tube, which was causing the pelvic pain on one side. So again, my chances for children takes a hit.
2008, I got pregnant. I was going to see my boyfriend as he traveled a lot for work. The morning of my 3 hour drive to meet him I miscarry. I call him to tell him I’m going to be late and what happened. He is silent on the phone. I started crying and he says, “J. it’s ok. We will be ok. Go to the doctor and call me when you are out. We will have our weekend together just like we planned.” The doctor confirms the miscarry and gives me information for a therapist. With my history and then this, he thinks I should talk to someone. Numb again, I leave the office. I made the 3 hour drive because I needed to. The physical pain was bad, but mentally it hurt worse. I felt broken. No one would want to love me after all of this. I couldn’t ask him to stay with me, I was a walking time bomb.
When I arrived he took me up to his hotel room. The door clicked shut and he held me. He could tell I stiffened up and he held me tighter. He kissed my forehead, held me out by my arms and said he was running a hot shower for me. I was numb inside and out now. I remember him undressing me, guiding me in the shower and getting in with me. He held me again and I cried. I have no idea how long we were in there, I just know I cried until I had nothing left. We got out, he dried me off, dressed me and dried my hair. We laid down on the bed and he held me until I fell asleep. We didn’t talk about it that weekend.
He took me out to explore the next day and kept my mind busy with our adventure. Before I left for home he did say this, “I love you, nothing has changed that. I know this is hard, and I am a little sad as I thought I was going to be a dad. It will be ok. We will be ok.” He was right, we made it through it and he still loved me.
In 2011, after a very hard and high-risk pregnancy, I had my beautiful boy. He is my light. My shining beacon, that even after a cancer diagnosis, reproductive problems, and a miscarriage, it is still possible!
6:34am, today, my Facebook messenger rings, it’s my friend from overseas. I figure it’s just to chat about her latest adventure. “Hey, do you have a minute? I know you are getting B ready for school, but I need to talk to someone.” I stop everything and sit down. “Of course, what’s going on?” She never calls this early and she sounds forced when she speaks. “I got a call from my doctor last night. My biopsy results came back. I have Stage 0 Breast Cancer. I know that means it hasn’t spread, but my medical background is failing me right now.” I get it, I know what she means, her mind is numb. She knows what the terms are and what she has to do, but nothing ever prepares you for this. “Ok, stage 0 is better than the others. We know you have many clusters, but they haven’t spread. So this is fixable. Surgery first and see what they find, correct?” She says yes and that she is scheduled to come back to the states and will have it done.
She is my glass always full person. I normally say half-full, but she has always been so optimistic, even at the worst times. Even now she swears she is ok. I know it’s a cover though. She is numb now. She can do this though and I know she will. I know she won’t let this diagnosis or treatment keep her down. And for those off days, when a little negativity slips in, she has me. She knows I’ve been there.. numb, scared and very unsure.
Nothing about cancer is funny, but the ironic part of this… she said, “I swear it sounded like my doctor was talking underwater!”