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Ebbs and Flows

I’m an optimist. At least I try to be. But when something bad happens I am an uncontrollable worst-case-scenario sort of person. This is not applicable to all things. I selectively sew the silver lining onto anything unrelated to health. In almost all circumstances I will search for, and successfully discover, a “this isn’t so bad because--” moment. But when health is involved I resort to the immediate resolution that I have met my undoing. There isn’t hesitation, not at first, at least, and I find myself examining every possible domino that will fall, one after the next. This continues until I am told definitively that my neuroses, while entertaining (or hair-pulling, depending on who you ask) are unreasonable, and most likely, impossible.

These are the ebbs and flows I have mentioned previously: when I rationalize the irrational and try to make sense of nonsensical imaginings.

When we left the endoscopy center two weeks ago, my husband and I went straight to pick up our son from preschool. I wrapped my arms around his bouncing body as he bounded from the gym door and breathed him in. I couldn’t lift him, so I settled back into the passenger seat while my husband strapped him into the back. I bit my bottom lip to distract myself from the tears that were forcing their way to the surface, turned and smiled at him and wondered how many more times I would pick him up from school. When I tucked him into bed that night, he asked about his birthday party only one month away, and I wondered if it would be the last I ever see. I toggled with these sorts of thoughts for days, and then a few nights ago, as I was putting him to bed, he asked for a huggie and wrapped his arms around my neck. He squeezed tightly and pressed himself into me before saying quietly into my ear, “Momma, you’ll always be there when I need you, right?” His words sliced like a sword into the absurd ramblings in my head. Of course I will.

I had also wondered about my tumor. I have heard others say their tumors were full obstructions. One woman told me about how she was unable to keep any food down and had to go in for emergency surgery. Her surgery required the removal of a significant portion of her colon. Other people have told me about their tumors being greater than ten times the size of mine, but I recognize that how much cancer you have does not depend upon how big your tumor is. Small but mighty began to take root in my mind, and I started imagining an iceberg in my rectum, the tip of which had emerged, seemingly small, but below the surface was a mass so large it had latched onto my bones and started feeding on my hips. I was experiencing some lower back pain at the time, which fed my theory and made me feel more rational. It took two CT scans, an MRI, and two doctors to tell me flatly, “no” when I explained my hypothesis before I laid that idea to rest.

About that MRI, in order to get a clear picture the nurse had to inject something into my IV that paused my colon from operating. It is a strange feeling, the sensation that is produced as your bowels begin to move again post-scan, but I can most easily describe it as a general uneasiness. That, coupled with the fact that the MRI had not detected anything, welcomed a brand new theorem: maybe the MRI had failed and cancer was everywhere. I imagined having to do the scan all again only to discover that within the confines of that tubular mechanism, its inner-workings pounding like the bass at a 90s rave, my entire body would light up with evidence of disease. It was a long weekend. The doctor’s office was closed on Monday.

This morning the surgeon’s office called. The MRI’s unremarkable findings tells us simply that the tumor was too small to be detected. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t snuck its way into my lymph nodes, but it does mean that it is not detectable in any of my other organs. This is consistent with the two CT scans. We have done enough procedures (and even tattooed the tumor to locate it more easily in surgery) to know where it is and how to get to it. My surgery is officially scheduled for June 10.

We still don’t know the stage. We don’t know whether chemotherapy, radiation, both, or neither will be necessary. Staging of this will occur after the surgery when the lymph nodes are tested, but for now I can rest easily knowing that the surgeon can remove this thing. And the moment it comes out, healing can begin.


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