I couldn’t talk about this a year ago. Today I can.
Last year on Thanksgiving Eve 2011, I finally went and had the CT Scan my doctor had been pushing me to have. I left the hospital stressed and irritated, certain I had just wasted part of my holiday weekend and a great amount of money on a test I really didn’t need.
I headed straight home from the hospital, a 25-30 minute drive depending on traffic. About 10 minutes from home, my cell phone rang and my doctor’s number showed on the display. I answered, hoping they weren’t going to tell me something had gone wrong and I had to go back to re-do the test. The conversation I got instead was much different.
A round of questions about how I felt right that moment immediately concerned me. I tried to temper my responses because both kids were in the van with me. I didn’t want to alarm them.
After a ton of questions he told me they called immediately after reading the scan with the results. A “spot” had been found on my bladder. The doctor’s office had already tried the specialist’s office, but they were already gone for the holiday. It would be at least the following Monday before they could even get a hold of anyone to schedule me a consultation.
I was then given a list of symptoms that should send my immediately to the nearest ER if they should occur over the holiday weekend.
Mind you, I was driving my van home, with two kids in the back, while talking about a potentially life-threatening health issue on the cell phone with my doctor.
I totally held it together and gave nothing away to my kids. I thanked the doctor for calling and wished him and his family a happy thanksgiving before I disconnected.
The kids and I stopped and got groceries before we continued to the house. We unloaded groceries, put groceries away, and Chris and I started cooking.
All before I even told Chris what I had found out.
I didn’t want the kids to know. I didn’t want my potential fight to ruin anyone else’s holiday.
I had taken the time to research my “spot”.
90% of growths in the bladder are cancerous. Those were my odds. I knew it within minutes of the initial phone call.
I calmly told Chris in the kitchen while we cooked. He couldn’t believe they would call me with something like that on the phone.
I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I wanted to attempt to enjoy the holiday. Well, that’s what I told Chris, but the truth is I just didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to share my struggle. I didn’t want anyone, including him, to know I was scared.
That was the longest Thanksgiving weekend I have ever experienced. I wanted it to be over so I could find out what the next step was. I wanted to know just what I was up against. I wanted a plan of attack.
I didn’t want to tell anyone. Chris wanted me to even tell the kids. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to tell anyone that it was even a possibility until I knew I for sure.
I knew the odds. I knew it was very likely I had cancer. But I didn’t want anyone to have to worry about my problem. Especially not one minute before they had too. So I kept it all inside me.
I researched in secret. I would minimize computer screens and log out of chat sites when Chris would walk in the room. I pretended the possibility didn’t bother me, but in all reality the not knowing was driving me to obsession. I learned everything I could possibly learn about the disease. I learned about known causes and risk factors, and I had none. I learned about all the stages and degrees. I learned about all the different forms and degrees of treatment. I knew best and worst case scenarios. I researched the best doctors in our area.
I was prepared to do my part as a patient. And then they told me they couldn’t get me in for over a week and a half. I got sick. The doctor’s office told me I was handling the stress of not knowing for sure well, but did go over the reports with me. Did re-verify that growths were very rare and typically cancerous. And even asked me how I was so calm.
I looked the doctor, filling in for mine, right in the eye and said, “I want to raise my kids and grow old with my husband, but I am a Christian and if this kills me, well, I know where I’m going and I’ll be much better off there.”
He nodded to me once and wrote a prescription to get me through until I got in to the specialist.
I continued in my obsession for information until my appointment. I did finally tell a very few family members, close church family members, and a very, very, very few co-workers before my appointment. Most of the people who knew I was having some tests done didn’t know the extent or specifics. And I still hadn’t told my kids the possibility of the “c” word.
At my first appointment with the specialist I expected a biopsy. That’s not the way the place I was referred to handles it. All they wanted to do that day was talk. I waited three weeks from the first phone call for a specialist to talk to me.
Then they tried to tell me they couldn’t get me in until after the New Year to do the test to see what the “spot” was. I was absolutely appalled. I hadn’t cried in front of anyone at this point, but I was close.
I looked at Chris, not the doctor, and said, “I’ll start making calls to other doctors. That’s unacceptable and I won’t wait that long.”
The doctor asked us to excuse him for a moment. While he was gone I just kept repeating that it was unacceptable to expect someone to wait that long to find out if they have cancer or not. What if it was their wife, mother, or daughter? They would not wait that long for a diagnosis. They would insist on the earliest diagnosis possible.
When he returned he let us know that they had a cancellation for the very next week. Would we be willing to come in that quick?
I still wasn’t happy with having to wait that long, but at least it wasn’t until after Christmas!
I got sick again that week and had to see my regular doctor. Again they went over reports and possibilities. Asked how I was holding up.
The day of the test nothing went according to schedule. I imagine the day was hardest on Chris. That’s his story.
The end result, however, wasn’t even close to what we expected.
The test found NOTHING inside my bladder. No growth of any kind. There was some irritation in a different spot. There was some sign of damage, but no growth at all. Samples were still taken and sent off and it would be several days before we had a final all clear.
That all clear did come, though. And before Christmas I got the call that said no cancer.
What happened? I could tell you the original CT Scan was wrong. I could tell you whatever the “spot” was came loose and flushed out before the test. I could tell you maybe the test missed it, and later on they’ll discover I do have a growth.
But instead I’m going to tell you God. God showed up and healed whatever it was His way.
The lesson, the test, was for me. I kept on doing the things I was doing. I kept believing that even if I had cancer it was for a purpose and everything would work out.
I won’t tell you that I wasn’t scared. I was terrified. The what-ifs were eating me alive. I was more concerned about my husband and kids than myself.
But I also have no problem looking you in the eye and telling you my salvation is secure. Cancer, a car wreck, or old-age…when my time comes I am prepared to meet my Maker. I am not afraid to die.
I am thankful today on Thanksgiving that I had the opportunity to celebrate another year. This year I did it without the fear of the “c” word hanging over my head. This year I know just how quickly things can change.
We only have one life to live, and there is no guarantee how long that life may be.
Thanksgiving is not just one day of the year…it’s a way of life. It’s a decision. I will choose to be thankful each day for another day to invest in the lives of those around me. I will choose to be thankful for another day to be alive.
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