c/w – depression, illness, cancer
I have learned through the years to expect the unexpected. I have many types of cancer running through my maternal and paternal family. It was always something I heard about and knew about, and I didn’t know the details as much as I knew that someone else had been diagnosed and died due to cancer. I had a cancer scare when I was about 42 and had some scary biopsies, but it ultimately turned out to be benign. I considered that a bullet missed and went on with life. I wasn’t overly appreciative of the good news; I just felt something else I had gone through that worked out well. I think I thought I was off the hook, and I never expected what was to come. I always told myself to expect the unexpected.
Covid and the pandemic had me, as well as everyone else, feeling displaced. I expect the unexpected was the theme of the year. I have written that I had noticed that my life was not that different from before. Two previous breakups for many other reasons had reduced my friend based substantially. The loss of my second father required more time with my mother, helping her get to doctor’s appointments and spending time with her through her grief. By the time the pandemic hit, my life was very solitary. I worked, took care of the dog, took care of my mother, went to bed. This routine was one I repeated every day. When things returned to normal, I expect the unexpected theme would continue. I would add going to the office to my routine after the all clear from the pandemic was given. That was all that would change.
Through the pandemic, I did what most people did. I waited for the next bit of news. I probably didn’t pay as much attention as I should have because I was trying to calm my mother, who was not feeling good about any of it. Everything is shut down, mixing with people discouraged, I became more solitary. I noticed that the pandemic hadn’t changed my life that much at all. I worked with my Mom to keep things calm, and we both used the mantra, expect the unexpected. I had no idea what that would mean.
I started feeling tired, more so than usual. I was achy and felt unusual pains that were new and uncomfortable. I attributed these things to my being less active. As stated in the schedule above – there was no walking, working out, or self-care happening. I felt compelled to train the new puppy, but that was the extent of my activity. So, I blamed myself for all my new ailments, aches, and pains. Little did I know that something much worse was happening. My brain told me to expect the unexptected, be prepared but optimistic. I wasn’t listening to my brain.
It wasn’t until the pandemic was subsiding before I decided to see the doctor. Some of my symptoms were getting worse and more personal, internal. It wasn’t just the aches and pains. There was a new continual discharge. This was going on for months, and I didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. This had been going on since December of 2020. In March, I started bleeding. My menstrual cycles had stopped long ago due to a procedure to cure my heavy blood flow. It had been at least seven years since I had a period. When I saw blood in March, I knew something was wrong, and I needed to pay closer attention. I called the doctor. Again, the mantra, expect the unexpected. This was fine as long as I didn’t let my imagination go to dark places.
The events that happened next were many and not what I expected. There were many doctor’s appointments, biopsies, decisions, questions, and fear. My primary gynecologist was diligent and testing for everything possible and not once mentioned cancer. I could tell she was stumped when multiple medications did not work. I think cancer was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t allow it much room anywhere else. My schedule continued, running from appointment to appointment, trying to get everything done, and not pay attention to the pain I was feeling. I have a high tolerance for the hurting, but this was on a different level.
When my doctor said she needed to do a biopsy, my mother’s eye surgeon also wanted her cornea transplant. What are you going to do? You schedule both. That day, I took Mom to surgery, took her home, got her comfortable, ran to my doctor, and preceded the biopsy. I had no idea how much this was going to hurt. She needed a uterine and cervical biopsy. I have never cried from any procedure I have needed in the office. I remember screaming and tears running down my face. Once it was over and I settled, I got in the car and drove back to Mom’s because her surgeon needed to check her cornea the same day of surgery. I took her to her appointment and back home. I was bleeding more than I thought I would. I left Mom and went home, only for her to call me a couple of hours later to say she wasn’t doing well. I went to her, and we ended up being up all night. It was quite the day.
I think most people do what they need to do in these situations. I had to prioritize what was going to get done quickly. Mom came first, kids came second, work was third (which was ok because working from home during this was a blessing), my puppy (2 years old but will always be my puppy), and self-care. Selfcare was nonexistent. After everything I had on my plate, I barely had enough time and energy for anything else. I would collapse at the end of the day and hope I woke up the following day with at least a little of my energy back. They were dark days.
When I finally got the call that I needed the surgery and was given all the information to meet the surgeon, I felt oddly relieved. When I realized he was an oncology surgeon, the relief turned to fear. There were many factors to all of this that I won’t go into, but I decided to tell only a few people what was happening. I told my daughter, my mother, and my sister first. After those tough conversations, I felt like I would ride the ride and wait and see.
After meeting with the surgeon, I can honestly say I didn’t feel much better. He looked like he was twelve years old, but he was the best in his field and did the less invasive procedure I wanted. “You need to ditch your uterus.” His bedside manner didn’t match what I wanted, but I understood to him this was a job. To me, it was my uterus and ovaries. We were on different levels. He smiled and said they wouldn’t know if it was cancer until after the procedure, and they tested all the tissue. Great, that sounds like a lot more waiting to me. It was a month from that date that they scheduled the surgery. It was the next available day. Again, his job, my life, and possibly my cancer. I walked out of his office and drove home.
I sat alone in my living room, trying to decide what to do. I don’t know what I expected in this moment. I knew there were things I should be doing. Many things were going through my head, but I couldn’t seem to get off the couch. My brain could not seem to communicate with the rest of my body. I didn’t call or text anyone. I just sat there. Four hours later, I decided that this was not how I should be approaching things. I didn’t know what was right, but I knew it wasn’t sitting on the couch. I had willed myself not to cry, which helped because I did fear that I wouldn’t stop once I started. I told myself it wasn’t cancer (yet), and I shouldn’t live my life for the next month like I had received a death sentence. So I cleaned the house. What else do you do at 2:00 in the morning?
Through all my illness, I didn’t write. The blog was dormant. That bothered me, but I didn’t have it in me to write. My loss for words was unexpected. I wasn’t feeling well, I certainly wasn’t feeling sexy, and all the words in my brain were just jumbled and flying independently, aimless of any structured grammatically correct thought. Writing is a vast outlet, but I didn’t feel like it would help me. That was scary to me, but I didn’t write for a very long time.
Writing now feels good but not great. I wanted to get this down, and maybe it would release the process for other areas. The surgery was successful. The issues incurred during the month of waiting were many and complicated. There was good and evil in that month. Some I will write about, and some will stay buried. I feel like I have things to say, and I feel like the words once aimlessly independent may be able to be lassoed into structured sentences. All cancer that was hiding in my uterus is gone. Some cells remained that they still aren’t sure about, so we are still waiting to see what they decide. I will be scanned regularly. I was told to get back to life as usual.
The thing is, I’m not sure I want to get back to life as usual. I may want to change things up a bit. I don’t feel like I have a new lease on life to the extent of cheating death. But I do feel like I cheated chemo and radiation and putting my family through hell. I felt alone in some ways going through this; while I had friends and family, something was missing. I need to deal with that. There are a lot of things that I am still processing. Hopefully, getting this on paper will help. I continue to expect the unexpected.