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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finding out I had the "C" word

Let me clear-up one thing before I start this new blog. All the comments said to me during my grieving process, I knew in the back of my head that everyone meant well and had good intentions, I simply wanted to let people know how certain comments made me feel. Having a baby die is different than other experiences of grief. What I mostly felt was loved throughout this long road. I have been truly blessed with the most wonderful family, friends, co-workers, church friends, and the list goes on. I only want to help you out if you ever have someone close to you go through a loss of a baby. I have always been the person that likes to help out others in times of need, but I found myself needing others and I was blessed to have tons of support.

     Okay, so I always run into people who ask me when I am going to talk about my diagnosis. It is still hard for me to say it. I practice saying it in the mirror, because it still really doesn't feel like this is my life. This summer was busy. My doctor had asked me to have an MRI and EGD done at my appt in May. I put it off for a while, I guess I was nervous. You know when deep in your gut you know something is wrong in your body, well, I had that intuition, but I kept it completely to myself. I had been experiencing a lot of pain on my right upper quadrant of my abdomen, lots of nausea/vomiting, I had been having lots of diarrhea, and I felt more tired than I ever have before. No one seemed to notice because I am the world's greatest at hiding my hurt. The only person I know of that caught on the my game recently was my cousin Lisa. We were at my second cousin's birthday party and I was in a lot of pain and she said something to me. She asked if I was okay and I treated her like she was crazy for asking, I lied and said I was fine. I guess all of her years as a nurse taught her how to spot a person in pain, or maybe she has figured me out. She married my cousin Robby, and I hope he knows what a jewel he married that day. I know she loves me and I can trust her fully. Just about a year ago, she knocked on my door in tears. She came to me and she told me that her mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer. When you are a nurse, you know there are certain diagnosis that you never want to hear. I cried right along with her and then she asked me a question that made me realize one of the reasons I went through the loss of my babies. She asked me," How do you plan a funeral, how do you survive it?"  I told her that I didn't know, but somehow you just get through it, God helped me through it, Paul helped me through it. Lisa has no idea how special she made me feel that she came and told me and let me console her, I needed to be on the other side of grieving. I wanted to give back to all the people that helped me, people like Lisa. I want to let you know that her mother is doing amazing and had surgery to remove the lung that had cancer and she is running around Pasadena looking cuter than ever. Lisa is a wonderful daughter, mother, wife, cousin, sister, friend, nurse, person, I could go on. I am so happy that Lisa has her mother with her for another Christmas and I am sure they will spend many more holidays together.

     Okay, I keep avoiding it, I hate that I have this. Summer was busy and I kept avoiding the MRI, but I finally answered one time when St. Luke's called to schedule my appts. I scheduled them for July 15 for my MRI and July 21 for my EGD. I always joke with my doctor that I will keep doing what he asks until he tells me I have to have a colonoscopy.  I went for my MRI, and it seemed to take a long time, this always makes me nervous. I left and the radiology technician told me my results would be with Dr. Ankoma-Sey by Monday. When I saw my doctor on Thursday before he did my EGD, I asked him about my MRI, he told me that it must have been great because I hadn't received a call from him. I was put to sleep and when I woke, I felt good, my EGD was normal, so my mom and I left and we went to lunch and then home. We started getting everything ready for my brother's wedding. We were flying out on July 28th, John's birthday is July 29th, and his wedding is July 30! I  was busy getting clothes washed and I had to work on Monday and Tuesday before we were scheduled to fly out. On Tuesday, July 26, 2011, our sweet secretary at work overhead paged me to say that I had a call at the nurses station. I walked up and picked-up the phone expecting to get report from the PACU on my patient, but it was Dr. Ankoma-Sey's nurse and she said, "Mrs. Bennett, Dr. Ankoma-Sey is on the line and needs to speak to you, I am hanging up." This huge lump swelled up in my throat and I don't know if this makes any sense, but I tried not to hear. I knew when the doctor himself called, it was NEVER GOOD NEWS. He is from Ghana, Africa and he told me the news in his sweet accent. So, in front of a ton of people, I heard him say it, but I made him say it twice. He told me I had liver cancer and I told him there was no way he could know that, I want a biopsy. He said that he did know it and a biopsy was out of the question and that I needed to have some tests done to clear me so I could be added to the Liver Transplant list. I told him that he told me my MRI was okay this past Thursday, he must have called the wrong patient. He said I had to have a chext x-ray, metastatic bone scan, and chest CT done, if all of these were free of cancer, I could be placed on the list. My knees had failed me for the second time, they got all wiggley, I needed air. Hey EVERYONE, stop working, please slow-down, someone help me. Carmen knew something was wrong by my reaction, but she never gets into anyone elses business.  Roxanne, a very godly woman I work with knew something was up as well. I scheduled the tests for the next day, Wednesday, because I was flying to Los Angeles on Thursday. I would see Dr. Ankoma-Sey when I returned on Wednesday, August 2. Dates have always been important to me, I can remember all of these dates like my own birthdate. It is weird, the things I fixate on. I quietly walked down to an empty room, room 713 and I called Paul. He listened and then said something I now think funny because he didn't know what to say. He said, "you really need to eat better?" I was like, HUH? Did you just hear me, I have cancer in my liver, I have a baby, I have plans, I am scared, I don't want to die, I need you, why is this happening, can you call and see if they called the right person, don't tell my brother-I don't want to ruin his wedding. All these thoughts, Paul quickly realized that he just said whatever popped in his head and he apologized and then comforted me and asked a lot of questions, questions I didn't have the answers to. I kept hearing something my doctor had said, he had not expected me to get cancer so soon, I am so young. I called my mom and sister next, then Karen and Neill. I needed Neill to tell me how he could know I had cancer without a biopsy. He explained things to me and I wanted to know why I wasn't yellow. Am I going to lose my hair? I know that seems so vain, but I have felt my head before and I know it is shaped funny. My mind was racing. I got myself together and then I went and completed my work day. I was able to act like nothing had happened, but I told Roxanne because she knew something was up and she has continued to check on my daily and bless me with her kindness. I texted my friend Kelly Bircher, because she only texts, but she called me right back and had a ton of questions. She is a super nurse and immediately was getting a plan together on how we were going to attack this thing. We have an unspoken bond, a common nursing philosophy, we both believe EVERYONE deserves great care, that is why she is saving tons of lives as a lifeflight nurse, I am so proud of her for going after her dream and succeeding.
    What was I supposed to do now? I went for my tests the next day with my sister and since they were ordered stat, we had the results within an hour. NO CANCER IN MY BONES or LUNGS, but I had some nodules in my thyroid and a spot on my ovary. More appts in my future I could foresee. I love my sister, she handled all the insurance stuff for me and she is a ROCK. She never lets me down. I was quiet for a few days, I wasn't sure how I felt. This is something I only recently shared with those I am closest to. The thing I struggle with the most is prayer. How and what do I pray for? I was really frank with God. I had prayed since I was in junior high to never have to be like my dad when it came to my health, I had asked God to never let me have to be dependent on medication or have to go to the doctor much. Then, I get diagnosed with an autoimmune illness and I am told I will have to take medication for the rest of my life, great. Then, I had prayed for my babies, everyday, I prayed for them to live. Then, my babies died. If I pray for healing or for a new liver, or for a miracle, will God do the opposite yet again? These are my real thoughts people, I ask God lots of tough questions because I treat Him like my father. You can ask my brother and sister, I have never been afraid to ask my dad tough questions. My dad probably wishes I wasn't so bold, but I know he loves me just like God loves me, unconditionally. You see, I want God to answer my prayers the way I tell Him to answer them, I realized I am selfish and a little ignorant. God knows so much more than me and His ways are better. He sees the whole picture. I have come to terms with my mortality, I feel the freedom of knowing I am saved by the blood of Christ, I look forward to being reunited with my sons, I realize that I do not know the best plan, I only know my desires. I desire to live, to love, to watch my son grow into a man, I want to continue to forgive people, I want to give compassionate nursing care to others, I want to see Karina get married and become a mother, I want to see Paul achieve all the dreams he has, I want to own a horse, I want to retire someday, I want to do random acts of kindness in the name of Jesus, I want to go to Hawaii, I want to complete my bucket list. I always joke with my family that if I ever go to the doctor and then immediately after plan a trip to Hawaii, I am dying. I want to see that crazy island before I leave this earth. It may sound silly or little, but I want to eat fresh pineapple and run in the water, taste the ocean water, lay in a hammock, see a volcano, walk on hot coals, hula dance, and I could go on forever. In my next post, I want to tell you how I now know that I actually prayed for cancer without knowing that was what I was praying for. You see, my cancer is an answered prayer, a gift if you will.

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