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The Unwelcomed Alien and other bits of Medical Trivia

Three months ago my Google history was filled with mundane searches. I wanted to know where to view the upcoming eclipse; I needed a recipe for blue cheese dressing. Now, I am looking at big words like ascites and lapachol tea. I have even asked Mr. G for the best way to keep a wig on a bald head. I guess I am still vain. Let’s face it: my life has been undeniably altered. And from this moment on, everything will be measured by its relation in time, having occurred pre or post diagnosis.

I have been asked about my symptoms. Perhaps I have become Everywoman, as my friends look at me and wonder if it could happen to them. I am a firm reminder that none of us are immune to the tragedies of life. And for the record, let me say that I am atypical. I am healthy with no previous medical issues and no family history of cancer. My first symptom was a bit of bloating in the fall that grew with each passing month. I thought it was a combination of cheese cake and stress, both of which I had in abundance. A kidney stone landed me at the doctor’s office in January. I had a CT scan and blood checks, along with some rather bizarre tests for things like tropical parasites. They missed it. I was diagnosed with an intestinal issue and sent for a colonoscopy. A polyp was removed, which I was assured would solve the problem. It didn’t. I had a complete physical a month later. And in spite of my ongoing complaint of belly bloat, nobody suspected ovarian cancer. Or tested me for it. Finally, after months of being uncomfortable, I returned to my doctor and insisted on another CT scan. Something was wrong. My intuition had shifted into overdrive as I searched for answers. Apparently, this is not unusual. Ovarian cancer is hard to diagnose until symptoms appear. And when, they do, the flood gates have already been opened, the disease often having progressed to a point where you are filled with panic when you turn to Google to see what the odds for survival are. I wonder if things would have been different for me if Susan G. Komen had had this instead of breast cancer. We would have bumper stickers for our cause, too. (I am not going to tell you my idea for one, but let's just say that it is epic.) Instead, OC is largely ignored, referred to in hushed whispers as “the silent killer.”

Gee, this is a somber post. Perhaps I should throw in a funny story just to lighten the tone. I have a whole repertoire of blonde jokes I could share.

Yesterday, I had the accumulated fluid removed from my belly. I looked over to see a gallon and a half of toxic mess on the counter of the CT surgical room. I expected for my stomach to be flat again. It isn’t, in spite of losing ten pounds. The latest scan confirmed that the alien within is 5 inches long. There is a reason why I look pregnant. I also had a biopsy designed to determine definitively the stage of my cancer. I salute the pathology folks who will study my abnormal cells with their scopes, using a formula to deliver my fate. I await the magic number. For a brief moment I allow myself to consider the “what ifs.” I think of the possibilities that this was all a mistake, that the alien is really just a benign cyst incubating in my belly. I suppose that it is infinitely human to hope, to bargain with God for a reprieve.

Monday, I meet with the oncologist who will map out a plan for pumping poison into my body, killing my immune system in the process. The idea is to shrink the alien so that it can be safely removed, incinerated. I am anxious to have this bugger out of me. But that will take time. Patience was never one of my virtues. This is one of the many lessons I am destined to learn on this journey. Tuesday, I get a port so that my veins don’t collapse with repeated treatment. I will have an octagonal shaped bump under the skin, a reminder that my body has become one big medical experiment.

I have good days and bad ones, but so do folks who are perfectly healthy. I just happen to be fighting for my life. I am acutely aware of the kindness of people, and appreciate the simple gestures that make my topsy-turvy life a little easier right now. There really is so much goodness in this world. And love abounds. I am fortunate that I get to see it. In some ways, this really is quite a gift.

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