Here in the first minutes of a brand-new year I find myself a little reluctant to commit to words everything that's in my heart and mind. This last month has been the suckiest one in a year of sucky months, and I am ready for a fresh start in ways I've never been before. So in the interest of starting the new year on a brand-new page, here's how 2006 ended. Needless to say, I'm glad to see the last of it.
The day after this post I went for a CAT scan, which showed a large mass in my abdomen. Though I didn't realize it at the time, that mass was trying its level best to kill me. It was almost completely blocking my entire lower GI system, leaving only about a half-inch opening for my body to rid itself of waste. All of the nutrients in my food were being absorbed to feed this mass, putting me very near starvation level. My hemoglobin level was 7 (normal is 15). I was advised by the PA at the Community Health Center to get my ass to the emergency room right away.
After several hours in the ER I was admitted and immediately hooked up to IV antibiotics. I was told I had severe diverticulitis and near crisis-level infection. The night was very short; the parade of medical personnel started about 3:00 AM. By day's end I'd given untold vials of blood and had three X-rays, an EKG, two units of blood, and a PICC line installed in order to receive TPN. I wasn't allowed to eat actual food, and could only have water and ice chips. Oh, and Percoset. Lots and lots of Percoset.
Six days after I was admitted I had surgery to remove the mass, and my colon was removed, too. Not diverticulitis, as it turned out, but stage IV colon cancer, which means that lymph nodes (and possibly other organs) are involved. The next week was spent trying to wrap my head around this enormous news and waiting for my bowels to wake up so that I could eat. Eating solid food (and keeping it down) was my ticket home.
It took much longer than expected and on the seventh day after my surgery I was as sick as any human being has ever been, mind, body and soul. But that day was the turning point, and every day I've gotten a little stronger, a little further along the road to recovery from the surgery. I was finally allowed to come home on Christmas Eve, and there will never be a more beautiful sight than that of my son flying out the front door to meet me, yelling, "MAMA!" at the top of his lungs.
I'm scared, and I'm mad as hell, and about a million different other things, but I would be terribly remiss if I didn't mention that I'm also humbled and awed and so very grateful to my family and friends, who have enveloped me in so much love and positive energy that its sheer force could almost carry me through.
I am going to Chapel Hill on Thursday for my first consultation with an oncologist, at which time I'll learn what treatment options are available. This has been a huge blow, but I'm determined to do what's necessary to beat this. I don't know if I will be writing about it here or if I will have another journal for that purpose. It's taken me a whole week to be able to write this post, but I am aware of the healing power of the writing process, and I'm going to need it in the weeks to come. Whether I keep it here or move it elsewhere, I hope those of you who have been hanging out with me will continue to do so.
And no matter to whom you pray, mention my name from time to time, just to keep it fresh in the mind of The Higher Power.
Happy New Year, my friends.