Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cancerversary I am...'s one of my cancerversaries.  I didn't remember yesterday that today was an anniversary, but when I saw the date today - I couldn't but help remember.

Eleven years ago today, on October 15, 20013, I had surgery to remove my left kidney because of a cancerous tumor that had been incidentally found at the end of September.  It was such a shock - I had no symptoms at all - cancer wasn't even remotely on my radar.

On 9/25/03, I had a horrific pain in my left arm, so bad that I could barely use my arm.  This sent me to the ER, where they did blood work and a stress test.  The blood work came back with elevated d-dimers, which can sometimes indicate a pulmonary embolism.  A lung CT was ordered.  Luckily, my lungs were totally clear, but the scan caught my kidneys.  They came in to my little ER room and told me they had found a mass in my kidney and wanted to do an ultrasound.  I said, 'sure'.  When they said mass, I honestly thought they were talking about a kidney stone - I was thinking I must be tough as nails to not know I had a kidney stone!

After the ultrasound, there was a shift change and a new doctor came in and told me that I had a mass - it wasn't a kidney stone - and needed to see another doctor right away.  He gave me the name of a doctor in town and left.

I was in shock.  What the fuck are they talking about???  I couldn't believe what they were saying, but at the same time, I knew they were right and I was in some serious shit.

The doctor I saw was the most incredible doctor I've ever had.  Luckily, a friend of mine's wife was a radiologist and when he found out, he had her look at the scans.  She upped the urgency and the nephrectomy was scheduled.

There was almost three weeks from the time we found the tumor until I had the surgery.  During that time, I named my kidneys - Henry and Harriet.  The kidney with the tumor in it was Henry - because a woman sure as hell wouldn't have done me that way.  It might sound silly, but it gave me a way to depersonalize it so I could talk about it.  Friends and family still refer to it as Henry.

My mother and my sister came for the surgery - I was so glad they were there.  It was important to me that things stay as normal as possible with the kids, so I made hubster go on a field trip with my son and my daughter got to hang with a friend of hers.  My mom was with me during the day and my sister would stay with me at night.  I was in such pain directly after the surgery, but I knew it was important to get up and walk around.  My sister would unhook me and hook me every time without complaint, she would run interference, keep the nurses on their toes, and let me have something to drink...against orders of course, but I was dying of thirst.

One thing they wanted to measure was how much I peed on my own after the catheter was removed - they wanted to make sure the other kidney was gonna pick up the slack.  In my drug-induced haze, I remember it taking forever to get to the toilet and then peeing.  Out of nowhere, an angelic hand with a beautiful cloud of toilet paper would appear in front of me.  It was my sister giving me the toilet paper.  Funniest thing ever - she gave me toilet paper - Charmin no less - for Christmas that year.

Another funny thing that happened was during prep for the surgery.  I was petrified - absolutely petrified, so they let hubster stay with me until they knocked me out.  As hubster sat on the edge of the bed, the surgeon was there just making small talk with us.  The doctor told me I was gonna be going to sleep because they were putting the juice in the IV.  The next thing I know, I say, "Hmmm...I taste purple."  The doctor and hubster laugh and the next thing I know, I'm in recovery.  I can still remember tasting that purple.

After I was released from the hospital, my mother was with us for a week and was a wonderful mother hen.  She made sure I rested and cooked all that delicious Southern food that she's so good at making.

The physical recovery was easy, but the ensuing years were the toughest of my life.  A few scans, another surgery, and five months later, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Talk about bad luck!

Anyway - it's been 11 years and I'm so incredibly thankful that I'm here, that I've been able to see my children grow to adulthood, and that I was able to celebrate a 30th anniversary with hubster.

When I checked my email this morning, my sister had sent me the following:

Ode to Henry

Today is the day they took you away.
Can't say we miss you,
You were not invited anyway.
You came and were found all by surprise.
You filled lots of eyes with tears and cries.
Cutting you out was the best thing that could happen.
You brought sisters closer in a place people crap in.
This ode is for you Henry.
Glad we never actually met.
Didn't want to get to know you anyhow.
Life is good-Its been 11 years now.

How awesome is that?  She really is the best sister ever.

And let me tell you now - I'm thankful I'm here - no matter how much I weigh!

Oh - and by the way - we never did figure out what caused that horrendous arm pain!



  1. Wow, I had NO idea, sweetie! What a trooper you are, and I'm so glad you have such a wonderful, supportive family around you now and then!

    1. Thanks Gwen - my family is pretty awesome - I'm a lucky girl indeed!

  2. I didn't know you had faced such a health crisis. You're right -life is to be celebrated, no matter what the scale says. But, I'm also really happy you got to see the 240"s!

    1. Life IS to be celebrated! I was pleased to see that '4' as well!

  3. I'm so glad that you are still here! I had no idea that you had been through all that scary stuff. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Congrats on the 240's!!

    1. Thanks Susan - I'm glad I'm here too! And I'm glad you're here now!

  4. Wow, that is an amazing story. You have an incredible amount of internal strength to go through all that and still have such a great, positive attitude.

    1. Connie - It's much easier to stay positive - puts you and those around you in a better mood!

  5. You have been through the wringer! But, what a lovely story of how your family came together to support you - really shows the love, plus that poem your sister sent you is awesome beyond words. Congratulations on getting through some really rough times!

    1. Shelley - Thank you! I didn't know my sister was such a poet. When I talked to her, she said she just threw it together! Go figure! I wouldn't be able to do that!

  6. Wow... So glad that you are still here! What a scary time!

    1. Thank you Desiree!! It was pretty scary, but I'm still kicking...and kicking strong!

  7. What a wonderful inspirational post!!! Love your sister's poem ... Ode to Henry! That needs to be put on a plaque so you see it every day to remind you how precious every day is no matter what you weigh. Thank you for sharing that story with us.

  8. Wow, girl ... so happy you are here and still kicking! Loved your sister's poem ... sisters are the best!


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