Yesterday I had one of the every 3 month checks for my bladder cancer. The result of yesterdays cystoscopy is that there are no new tumors present. YEA!!! The next appointment will be in August. If at that visit there are still no new tumors, I will be able to go to an every 6 month schedule for cystoscopies. Another YEA!!! I am grateful for the prayers of friends and for the peace of God.
After my appointment yesterday, I stopped and visited with my Daddy & one of my brothers. On my way home afterward, I reflected on the start of this journey, back in February 2008.
Raymond, our dogs, Katie & Greyla, along with my two of my brothers, Vinny & Dave and I had just spent a week in the Northern Outer Banks. We had been vacationing in a rental home on the 4WD beaches. I love going to the beach in the winter. There is something very peaceful and reinvigorating about the winter beach for me. This particular time, I felt a great sense of peace and commented that for me, this particular vacation felt like the best we had ever experienced.
The Monday after our return, I had an appointment scheduled for an ultrasound for some ongoing "female" issues. Part way through the ultrasound, the technician stopped and excused herself. Not usually a good sign. When she returned, she told me I should get dressed and ushered me to a consultation room with the comment that the Dr. would be in to speak with me, shortly. As a veteran of these types of ultrasound procedures, I was a little confused, because this is not how they go.
The Dr. did indeed show up shortly. She gave me a CD of what they had ultrasounded and told me that they saw something "unexpected" in my bladder. Her instruction was that I should go home and wait for my PCP to call me to discuss the "unexpected finding". No matter how I phrased my inquiry, she wasn't coming up with any more information. So, I went home to await a call from Dr. Ebbert, my PCP
The call came from my PCP, explaining that I needed to call Dr. Traub, a urologist, for an appointment, as the unexpected finding was some sort of growth in the area where my ureter connects to my bladder. The CD was to give to him, so he could see what they had found. I would need to have a cystoscopy to determine what the growth was. OK, so far, so good. This is not the first time my body has decided to grow some little peculiarity. There was no mention yet of cancer. I was still floating along in my post vacation bliss.
The next day, while my little charge, Kate, was napping, I called Dr. Traub's office. The receptionist was very nice and mentioned that they had a cancellation for the next day, Wednesday, if I could make it on such short notice. Great! the next day was one of my days off and I was thrilled to not have a three week wait.
The appointment went along very normally. Fill out the paperwork. Wait. Pee in a cup. Wait. Have the cystoscopy. Get dressed and wait in the Dr's consult room. All very routine.
Then the Doc sat down, looking very serious and began to explain. He explained that there was a tumor and that this type have an 80% probability of being cancer. That much I still remember. He explained that I would need to have surgery for removal and full identification of the tumor. He asked his nurse to bring the surgery schedule. She mentioned that there had been a surgical cancellation for Friday. He asked if that was too soon. I said no, the sooner the better. Less time to think.
I would need to have a chest xray and blood work. Off to the hospital for those.
By the time I was on my way home, I was starting to worry a little, as the word "cancer" began to sink in. I wanted to talk to someone. Raymond wasn't at home. I thought of stopping to talk to my Daddy, but it didn't seem fair to dump my probably irrational fear on a man who had lost his wife to cancer. I decided to stop at my brother's place of work. He was at the counter when I walked in and I asked if we could talk in private for a minute. I explained about all that had happened since we returned from our lovely vacation, and ended up crying, " What if I have cancer?"
My level headed brother asked me to tell him exactly what the Dr had said. When I reported the statistic "80% of the time these tumors are cancer", Vinny said, "That means that 20% of the time they're NOT". He continued with the best advice he could offer, "Don't get ahead of things. Wait and see." And he hugged me, which is not something that comes naturally or easily for the men in my family. By the time I got home, I had adopted the "20% of the time they're NOT" attitude.
At home, my PCP called to say I would need to have a stress test prior to the surgery. Great! It was Wednesday afternoon and the surgery was scheduled for Friday. Talk about crunch time! But the hospital stress lab was very cooperative and managed to get me in on Thursday.
Raymond's sister-in-law, Barb, who is also a kind and wonderful friend, as well as a cancer survivor, offered to drive me & Raymond to the hospital on Friday.
I called upon my friends and acquaintances via email and asked for prayer.
I remember thinking before the surgery that God had been so gracious to allow us that peaceful, restful time at the beach since He knew what was awaiting upon our arrival home.
The tumor did indeed turn out to be cancer. But, as I have said many times, if you have to have cancer, bladder isn't the worst one! Since February of 2008, my body has managed to grow two new tumors, both of which were small enough to be "cooked" off in the doctor's office. The last one was in August of 2009. So I am on the threshold of a new level in my recovery. If there are no new growths at my August cystoscopy, I will be able to have six months between appointments.
Cancer is not as scary as it once was. Having lost many relatives and friends to the disease, simply hearing the word applied to me, was once very frightening.
Through this period, I have had many relatives, friends and acquaintances who have prayed for and loved on me. I have found and continue to try to nurture a more positive attitude in myself, thinking of the 20% that is NOT cancer, instead of the 80% that may be cancer. And I have learned that God does indeed have all things under His control, even when it may look like chaos to us. I am thankful. Thankful that I am able to see the good, even in a bout with cancer. I am grateful for prayer, both mine & other people's. I am appreciative of my family and friends and the support they provided.
The whole experience, seemed to have grace and mercy embedded from beginning to now. From the time of rest and relaxation, to the double cancellations in a busy urology practice, to the flexibility of my employer, you never know who God will use to provide your needs. I am simply grateful that He does.