I feel like I’ve been living a double life – smiling, celebrating, traveling, cooking and appearing to live the dream. After a really hard eight weeks, it is time to rally the prayer warriors and share what has been going on.
I wrote this post on August 9 but didn’t have the courage to publish it then:
On June 30 I went for a baseline colonoscopy. My primary care doctor, who I adore, has been at me for over a year. I had a gazillion excuses of why I let that order sit in my desk for 13 months – primarily that I was only 46 and, up until recently, colon screenings didn’t start until 50. Dr. D knows how to light a fire under me and, when I showed up this year for my annual check and hadn’t done it, she looked me straight in the eye simply said “do this for your boys.” I’ll be thankful for those five words forever.
The colon prep was horrendous and even worse than I imagined. It was coming out of all ends and was absolutely NOT easy. I said all sorts of hateful things about it, about doctors, about medical care and about how barbarically I was being treated. :-) I can be dramatic y’all. I was in a foul mood when Honey dropped me off and said he’d see me afterwards. The last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist saying “well aren’t you just disgustingly healthy” as he checked off my chart and sent me to lala land. If only we had known.
When I woke up Honey was sitting beside me, as white as a sheet. The doctor was standing next to me. There was no question that something was wrong. Dr. S very kindly and sincerely began to tell us what he found. I have a 4cm polyp in my lower colon. He said things like “rare”, “unusual”, “too young” and, most horrifically, “cancer”.
We waited four excruciating days for biopsy results: pre-cancerous. But he cautioned me this is just very tiny sample of a very large thing. He made his best guess at the procedure that would be needed to remove it and referred me to two surgeons for next steps. At this point we were days away from our Italy and Switzerland trip and he said there was no reason not to go – that this is a slow moving ship and nothing was going to happen quickly. And so, we went. And it was so special to me on so many levels. Everything in my life felt uncertain, but I had 9 glorious days with my 3 guys and I treasured every single moment of that.
Back home, we met with Dr. SG first. He was extraordinarily kind and I loved him almost instantly. But, he works out of a hospital I am not completely comfortable with and he recommended a surgery that I wasn’t entirely sure was the right path.
Dr. C was the second surgeon out of Emory Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. S told me he is “the best” and that he is able to do a much less invasive surgery and that he hoped I’d be a good candidate for that. He made multiple calls on my behalf and we never heard back. I understood he is a very busy, sought after surgeon.
And so, Honey and I went off on our own path. We found another well regarded surgeon out of Piedmont – Dr. R. After many, many, many calls, we were able to get an appointment with her. Dr. S sent over records. She did a check in her office but could not feel or see the polyp. So, she scheduled me for yet another colonoscopy. She wanted to see with her own two eyes what was growing inside of me before making a recommendation on next steps. I didn’t love her, to be honest, but I respected how thorough, cautious and methodical she was in her approach. She also took three more samples for biopsy. The latest biopsy results came back last week and all are pre-cancerous. And, once again, I heard “rare”, “so young”, “unusual.” Of all the things I’ve ever wanted to be, medically interesting is not one of them.
From here, Dr. R referred me to another surgeon at Piedmont named Dr. M. I know this is super confusing. Dr. M trained under the elusive Dr. C at Emory and they were recommending the same surgery that my original Dr. S. believed I’d need.
Honey and I spent the week trying to get the next appointment scheduled with Dr. M. We each made at least 10 calls back and forth from Dr. R to Dr. M trying to make sure records were sent, orders were made, etc. etc. etc. We weren’t getting anywhere and I shed a LOT of tears of fear and frustration. We also could not find even one patient review on him, even after feeling like we had searched to the end of the internet.
Thursday night my phone rang at 6:35 PM. I wasn’t going to answer, fearing it was a work call, but something made me click accept. Lo and behold if it wasn’t Dr. C’s office (Emory, “the best”, ‘hard to get”, “extremely busy”)!!!! I was in shock. Honey ran across the room to speak because I just sat there. And, just like that, I will have the surgery on September 7 with Dr. C at Emory.
Between now and September 7, I will be traveling to Paris and Scotland for work. This is such an amazing opportunity and one I was fearful I wouldn’t be able to accept as the weeks marched on and uncertainty grew. I expect you’ll see a lot of smiles and enviable experiences and delicious food, but know that behind the smile is a girl carrying a lot of heavy things but doing her best to live every single day with joy. It is true what they say – you never really know what someone is going through. (Of course, you can’t know if they don’t tell you!)
I want to sincerely apologize to my dearest friends, family and co-workers that are reading my story online. Please know that I still don’t have words to speak about this aloud. And, while I realize this makes no sense at all, I didn’t want to burden or upset you with a story that was unfolding and didn’t have some glimmer of hope at the end. I can count on one hand the people that I have been able to tell. I didn’t even find the courage to tell my parents until about 10 days ago, which also made me feel horribly guilty. We just told the boys this weekend.
I also kept this tremendous secret because I desperately wanted to get my boys started on their new school years and celebrate their first days without this looming over everyone around me. I wanted to do Raider Ball and Senior Breakfast and scrimmages and open houses without my friends and acquaintances feeling sorry for me or like they couldn’t chat with me about the mundane things in our lives. I just wanted happiness. In fact, I told a few of the doctors along the way that I could be available for anything on any day EXCEPT for the first day of school. (Honey said – oh, she can be available that day if you need her. LOL) It was really important to me and I thank God that I was able to be fully present, get the boys settled into their new routines, and celebrate all the fun things the past couple of weeks.
And, here we are on September 12:
I am five days post surgery and in wonderful spirits. I feel such a tremendous sense of relief to have that behind me. Sister spent the surgery day at my house making sure the boys were cared for, Honey spent the day in the hospital with me. My few friends that I was able to tell have rallied around us. I’m only mildly sore but extremely tired. Yesterday was my first day alone in a quiet house and I waffled between napping and working. Life feels good and happy.
I would be grateful to have you pray for clear final biopsy results over the coming days. There are, of course, scenarios other than the best one but I have not let my mind wander there. Think of the happiest thoughts!
I also urge you to go get that colon screening. Do it for all the people that love you, if not for yourself.
DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED