Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Keeping Secrets

I tried not to mention it. I figured I'd ignore it and it would go away as quickly as it came back. I didn't want to bore you all and sound like the hypochondriac my cancer "survivor" status has forced me to become, but I made a promise when I started my original blog, and that was to be completely honest when I write. 

So I guess I need to talk about the new pains.

Right before I left for Europe in July the pain in my back that, after two MRIs a PET scan and a CT scan, was determined to be a fracture in my pelvic bone caused by radiation damage, finally started to feel better. By the time we boarded the plane for London it was no more than a horrible memory. I was able to walk miles through England and France, climbing to the top of every church, mountain and museum I faced. My bottle of pain pills remained closed the entire time and I thought my life was back on track. When I returned from my trip I started up my routine at the gym again. I handled my regular 45 minute, 5 mile trek on the elliptical with ease and booked time with my trainer, Wayne, to get back into weights. He took it easy on me to make sure I was ready to handle the workout. I felt great until we did some upper body exercises that reminded me of the strain on my rotator cuff that resulted when I fell down the stairs and pulled up on the bannister to save myself from landing on my already cracked pelvic bone. Yup, I'd had a rough month! "We need to stick to lower body next time," I told Wayne and he agreed. Two days later I was down on the mat working my sluggish abs, trying to find the definition I'd lost during my doctor-ordered hiatus. Legs and abs and butt, oh my! That was the routine for the day and I made my way around the circuit four times without complaint. I was thrilled to be getting back into shape since we'd be leaving a few weeks later for our last pre-baby, family vacation to Turks and Caicos. But that feeling was short-lived.

"Owww!" I whined as I got out of bed two days later. "What's wrong?" Jimmi asked, probably sick of hearing me bitch about my body slowly giving out on me. "My back hurts again," I told him as I reached around to massage the same spot on the right side of my pelvic bone that had supposedly healed. Jimmi looked at me with concern, "Really? Maybe it was too soon to go back to the gym," he said. I was a little annoyed, "The doctor cleared me to go back before we went to Europe and I waited almost three extra weeks!" I snapped. "And I didn't even do anything strenuous! Just some abs and legs. Maybe it was the ab exercises on my back?" I thought out loud. Whatever it was it sucked. Since it was basically the same location as my earlier fracture and it hurt slightly less, I didn't bother calling the doctor or announcing it in a post. "It'll go away," I thought. "I don't have time to deal with this now."

A week went by and the pain continued. It wasn't terrible but it was definitely there. My mom suggested I call the doctor, but with a week to go before our family vacation, I didn't have the time or the mental stamina to go through the same crap I went through last time. Besides, I had a follow-up CT scan and MRI scheduled for September 6th anyway. No harm in waiting a few weeks, right? Maybe it'll go away by then and I can save myself the stress of extra tests and appointments. But wait! Our embryo transfer is set up for August 30th. What if there IS something wrong and I don't find out until after Lyndsay is pregnant? Then what? Ok, I can't think about that. It went away before, it'll go away again. I just needed to get to Turks and Caicos and relax.

As our plane made its final approach over the aquamarine water on August 19th, I shifted my seat back to its full upright position. "Ouch!" I yelped as the familiar jolt shot through my lower back. Can't this just go away? When the doors opened, I stood up carefully and pretended to be fine as I hobbled out of of the aircraft into the island heat. Jimmi and the boys carried and wheeled the bags and I lagged behind, though I was walking as quickly as I could. I kept thinking to myself that the last time this happened I couldn't walk at all, so maybe it wasn't that bad. I tried to rationalize that since it was in pretty much the same location I must just have a weak spot in my bone that will be prone to injury from now on and that if it was cancer the doctors would've seen it in the 700 scans they performed in June. But then my mind wandered to the truth about Small Cell Carcinoma that no one wants to think about. It's incredibly common to have a clear scan one month and a body full of cancer the next. It's the nature of the disease. Ok, erase! Erase! You're on vacation!

I popped an anti-inflammatory pill as soon as we got to our room and then we headed out to explore the beauty that surrounded us. "Wait for me!" I had to call out numerous times as my family disappeared on the path in front of me while I tried helplessly to catch up. I pushed through the pain and joined the boys in the pool and the ocean, but I made sure I avoided the water slides. The kids understood but I could still see the disappointment in their eyes. And then I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. "Does anyone wanna go parasailing?" I asked. Justin and Jimmi shook their heads in horror but Dylan answered, "Yeah!" And that was it. For as long as I could remember I'd always wanted to try soaring over the ocean, pulled by a motorboat, but I'd never actually done it. If cancer taught me anything, it's to always try new things once. Dylan and I boarded the boat without a second thought and out to sea we went. I didn't really get nervous until I signed our lives away on the consent form and we were being strapped into the harnesses, which were no more than a few canvas straps around our thighs that connected to a life vest that hooked onto the parachute. Wait...we don't actually have a chair?! Seriously? I'm allowing my 12 year-old to do this? I got ahold of myself and realized that if I freaked out, Dylan would freak out, and the last thing I wanted was to instill fear into my boy. And then the parachute started to lift us up over the boat. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Ok, this isn't so bad. I can handle this. Wait. Why do they keep letting out more rope? There's so much slack. Holy SHIT we're going up higher? "Are you ok?" I asked Dylan while trying to answer the same question myself. "Yeah, are you?" Dylan responded. I nodded my head and hoped he wouldn't know I was lying. I was absolutely terrified. "Do you want to cross your legs?" Dylan asked, referring to the signal we were told to give if we wanted to come down before our 18 minute-long ride of death was over. Yes. YES I DO!! But, "No, I'm fine! Do you?" came out instead. Dylan shook his head and seemed to take his cue to stay calm from me. If he only knew how NOT calm I actually was. Oh my GOD I want to get down! Shit! The wind is picking up! We jolted from side to side and I could hear the buckles clanking against each other. I was suddenly very aware of the fact that one wrong move could send either of us plunging into the shark-infested water below. I can't believe I put my kid in danger like this! Should I cross my legs? No! Hold strong and teach the boy how to be confident and strong! We slowly started to drift down a little lower and I could feel the blood start to flow into my hands again as my fingers began to ease their grip on the harness. I barely had time to release the breath I'd been holding when another gust of wind shot us right back up where we'd been moments before. All I could hear was the wind around me. I needed to see if Dylan was alright but fear wouldn't allow me to turn my head. I forced the words out, "You ok, Bud?" I barely heard the response, "Yup." "We're really high!" I announced, as if he didn't already know that. I scanned the ocean below for the bodies of those who'd ridden before us, but saw nothing. That was a good sign, right? Has it been 18 minutes yet? Each time the wind shifted the chute jerked and jolted and I had to resist the urge to give the "GET US DOWN!!" sign. Truthfully, I'm not even sure I would've been able to cross my legs to give the sign since my body was pretty much paralyzed by fear. After what felt like hours, we were finally lowered back down to the boat. The tension in my body began to release as we were unhooked and able to walk back to our seats. "That was so cool!" I lied to my kid as I forced myself not to kiss the floor of the boat and hug the crew for getting us down safely. "How high did we go?" I asked, not expecting the answer I received. "Five-hundred feet," I was told. I was silent for a minute. Almost speechless. "Wow. Glad I didn't know that before we went up." When we got back to the beach Jimmi was smiling and showing me the pictures he'd taken of us in the air. "How was it?" he asked. I looked around to make sure both boys were out of earshot, "It was absolutely terrifying and I will NEVER do it again!" 

On day three of our vacation a new ailment struck my broken body. When I walked I noticed what felt like a pulled muscle in...how should I put this? My anus? Well, it was next to my anus. Like bordering it. It hurt when I bent over to pick something up or lifted my leg. What now? I haven't don't anything that would've caused this! And to make things more interesting, the new pain was to the left, while the older pain was on the right. I e-mailed my mom to let her know I was continuing to fall apart and she suggested I take Tylenol to see if it helped. A few days later the pain trifecta commenced with a feeling of pressure right up in my butthole. Sorry for being blunt, I'm just telling it like it was. I attempted to release the buildup in the bathroom but nothing happened. A few more tries during and after breakfast resulted in a couple of rabbit pellets and the feeling that I still had to go. I made the mistake of Googling "rectal cancer," because, well, that's what cancer "survivors" do:

Symptoms of rectal cancer include changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation and a feeling of not being able to completely empty the bowel.

AWESOME! I totally have rectal cancer!

I finished up in the bathroom as much as I could, and headed back to where my family was sitting, waiting for our catamaran cruise. "I think the cancer is back in my ass," I said nonchalantly to Jimmi, who looked at me like I had a horn growing out the top of my head. I explained my symptoms and followed with, "What if Lyndsay gets pregnant and then I find out I have cancer again?" He clearly didn't want to think about that possibility, but suggested I switch my scan week with the transfer week, which I'd actually wanted to do from the beginning but couldn't get all the appointments to line up correctly. "I can't!" I whimpered. "She's already taking all the medicines and I don't want to! I just want everything to be ok so we can have a baby and I can be there to watch her grow up!" As much as the reality of the recurrence rate of Small Cell Carcinoma of the Cervix had been drilled into my head, the bliss of denial still took over and urged me to keep my scan appointment where it was, the week after our embryos are transferred into Lyndsay's uterus. But is that fair? What if I'm sick again and she gets pregnant? What will happen next? Will we allow the pregnancy to continue and risk having babies who will never know their mommy? Will we ask her to abort? What a horrible, terrible, unbearable decision we'd all be facing. Why can't the awful part of my life just be over already? Why does it have to keep popping up over and over again, especially when something so amazing is about to happen? 

"First shot complete" was the text I received from Lyndsay that night. Yes, she's been giving herself shots for a few weeks now, but this one was different. Since this is transfer week a new shot has been added that will continue into her eighth week of pregnancy. It's so real now. I wish I could be more excited, I thought to myself as my bowels ached, the side of my anus throbbed and my pelvic bone pinched. This blows. We exchanged a few messages and I let her in on my little secret, though I didn't want to scare her. Maybe it'll be better tomorrow.

With two days left of our trip, things seemed to become a bit more regular in the bowel department. The dull ache to the left of my anus was intermittent and I tried to convince myself that it might be a hemorrhoid rather than cancer. I honestly never thought I'd wish for hemorrhoids as much as I have this week. The pelvic bone pain, while still present, felt slightly better and I enjoyed some snorkeling with Jimmi. Well, I enjoyed it until I came face to face with a barracuda with very large teeth that scared the bejeezus out of me! We finished off our vacation with family photos on the beach at sunset and I was able to sit and move in every awkward position the photographer requested - even the one where Jimmi was belly down in the sand and we all piled on top of him. I wasn't too sure about that one, and even Dylan was concerned, "Are you sure Justin and I should get on your back, Mom?" I nodded knowing that my mom would be screaming at me if she knew I was allowing almost 200 lbs. of tween boys to plunk down on top of me. Luckily I didn't come out any worse than I went into it. 

And now we're home and it's TRANSFER WEEK! I wish I could say I'm back to feeling 100%, but I don't want to lie. It's not the worst it's been but it's not the best either. I'm thinking positively and attributing the pelvic pain to re-injuring a weak spot in my bone by going back to the gym too soon, the left anus pain to a pulled muscle and the bowel issues to hemorrhoids or radiation damage, which could cause poop drama forever. Lyndsay and her mom will be here on Thursday and my mom and I will take them to New York City again. This time we'll see "Wicked," which we should have seen last time. Then, on Friday, Jimmi and I will watch as our little microscopic bundles of joy are placed into Lyndsay's uterus for safe-keeping until around May 23, 2014. I refuse to think about my scans exactly one week later. This is baby week! We need to think sticky thoughts so those little buggers implant and stay put! Sticky thoughts! Sticky thoughts! Sticky thoughts! Everyone...




  1. We did the parachute ride in the Bahamas a few years ago. I was beyond terrified! I recall actually seeing the sharks swimming below us. NEVER, never again

    Great luck on baby girl transfer week. All will be fine. Stay strong, and believe. Julie

  2. Sticky thoughts, sticky thoughts! This ongoing drama BLOWS and I can't imagine how draining it all is. That said, I truly believe that within a few days, you'll be on your way to mommyhood all over again, and hopefully, the joy of that little miracle will power you through to the other side of all this madness. We all love you!!!