(Somehow I just found this post in my drafts. It never got published but is such an important piece of the story!! I’m a little irritated at myself. And it’s going to be out of order ruining everything! GREAT!!!)
Insert between posts “Wait…I have cancer?” and “Oncologists.”
At this point the plan was, surgery Tuesday, five days after my colonoscopy and discovering the tumor. Straightforward plan, eiminate the obstruction, get the tumor out, heal, get back to CrossFit and life.
The day after my colonoscopy, I had a CT scan of my abdomen and pelvis. So after a painful night with lots of aching and cramping I woke up in time to scarf down a little food because, again, these doctors were trying to starve me… no food or drink for 6 hours before the procedure, not scheduled till 3:30 that afternoon. Another day of no food, but today, also no fluid. The worst.
My best friend, Mary, my aunt Robin came with me to keep me company and entertained. I showed up, checked in and waited, because of course, things were behind schedule. After about 30 minutes I was given the barium, a chalky milky beverage to drink, to make sure the contrast reveals what it’s supposed to. The tech brought me out banana flavor. I barely like bananas. Only when there’s a little green on the stem and no spots am I even interested in eating them. A freckled banana just tastes too much like a banana for my taste, and artificially flavored banana? Gag. But after ruining ginger ale with golytely for the colonoscopy prep I wasn’t about to ruin a flavor I actually liked. The stuff wasn’t that bad. It tasted like the outer shell of banana flavored runts. That plasticy, chemically, overly sweet taste. I chugged it as best I could. The CT went on without a hitch and I made sure to get the disc of the imaging for the specialist I would see Monday.
What specialist, you might ask. It’s important to understand how incredible my family is. My aunt is a breast cancer surgeon. Whenever someone in the family gets sick or something in their health goes wrong she snaps into action and taps into, what we affectionately term, the Secret Doctor Network. She had contacted a colo/rectal specialist who had agreed to see me as a consult on Monday.
I had a great weekend tinged with sadness. I’m not a phone person. For years I’ve said I’m allergic to talking on the phone. Texting and email I can do. I hate the notifications though so I keep my phone on silent. Not on vibrate. Silent. But I have a massive life. It’s almost too big for me. I love a lot of people and they are important to me. Community is important to me and I know that as much as this cancer broke my heart my communities and people I love would take it hard. So I was one my phone a lot, calling people, texting people. It was important to me that people hear it from me, hear the hope and the peace in my voice or see it in my face. I have a strong bias toward people pleasing. I want people to be happy. Making people cry and sad was really hard for me. And I was filling my weekend with inflicting disappointment, shock, and sadness all over people I love. But because I love deeply I am loved even deeper. The response and support I received has been overwhelming. Entirely overwhelming. Heartbreakingly, undeserved, disproportionately overwhelming. I wouldn’t be able to keep my head up without it.
My favorite story to sums up how people took the news happened Saturday morning. I attended my best friends bridal shower. Near the end of the shower the bridesmaids were summoned for pictures. As I walk towards the gathering group, the bride to be spots me and we make eye contact. Immediately her eyes well with tears and she mouths the words “I’m so emotional!” I rush towards her and hug her and assure her “I’m doing good. Good will come from this”! But it’s too late, she’s crying. The bridesmaids assemble on either side of her following the multiple photographers instructions and it takes a while before anyone notices that I’m not following instructions and that the bride to be is crying. Then the questions start, “what’s going on?” ” whys she crying?”. The bride looks at me tears streaming down her face and says “No one knows!” To which, naturally people turn to me, “Amy? What’s going on? What is it?” To which I with the utmost sensitivity blurt out “Oh I just got diagnosed with colon cancer and shes having a hard time with it.” ” You can’t just say it like thaaat!” she replies as she wipes her eyes and serval bridesmaids start to cry. Somehow we manage to pull it together for a very nice picture.
Immediately following the bridal shower I headed down to San Diego to go to my nieces 1rst birthday party. My two brothers live in San Diego and I needed them to also see I have hope, I have peace, I’m ok. I ate on Saturday, but not enough. I woke up Sunday morning to start what was planned to be a 3 day liquid diet before surgery Tuesday. Coffee and water, oh boy. I spent the morning on my brothers king size bed with both brothers, the baby, my sister in law and the dog while one of my brothers played the yukeleley. It was pretty damn idealic.
This a “Crossfit paragraph” so if you’re one of those people who gets annoyed by Crossfit, for starters why are you reading my long winded blog posts and secondly go ahead and skip this paragraph. But I had this problem of not having a “goodbye wod”, a last workout before my surgery! This was what I was most sad about. It was my tangible be sad about this because cancer is intangible and unknown. I was having surgery Tuesday and was on a liquid diet and doing more colonoscopy prep the following night so a wod would be impossible. So… I called up my workout partner, my WOD BFF, and we “broke” into the gym. We did a partner WOD, event 4 of the Crossfit team series, if you must know, 50 wallballs, 30 power cleans at 95#, 50 wallballs, 20 power cleans at 135#, 50 wallballs, 10 power cleans at 155#. It felt amazing, I teared up a couple times. When would I get back here? When would I feel well enough to wod after my surgery? When would I be able to eat solid food to feel strong enough. There were so many things I didn’t know. But I wasn’t letting my head wander down those paths.
This is a “Christian paragraph” so if you’re not into that then I strongly suggest you read this paragraph. There’s this verse in the Bible that says “We have not been given over to a spirit of fear, but that of power and love and a sound mind.” I had prayed that verse for lots of people. That they wouldn’t be taken over or make decisions based on a spirit of fear but would instead take ownership of a sound mind. But now the verse was real for me. Alive even. Totally tangible and practical despite its seeming mysticism. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and that a spirit of fear threatened to knock me off into an abyss of fear and anxiety and “what if’s”. I felt like people’s prayers and this Power and love was anchoring me to edge of the cliff in a bubble with this clarity of thought. It was mystical and mysterious. Jesus is my spirit of power and love and a sound mind. I had peace and hope and clarity, while fear and dread whirled around me.
Monday I met with the specialist. I was hungry and irritable but was eager to know more. To bring my hope out of the clouds to concrete facts. What were the treatment options? What did the biopsy results say? What did the CT scan show? How extensive was surgery? The specialist walked in and started with the path report, the results of the biopsy. Yes it was malignant, and it was almost completely obstructing my colon which is why I was having so much pain. Two of the three polyps they removed during the colonoscopy came back positive for pre-cancer, given more time they would have become two additional cancerous tumors in my colon. There would be more tests to be done but this indicated that there was something in my genetic makeup that allowed for these abnormal growths in my colon. Next he went over the CT scan results for my abdomen and pelvis. Tumors on my liver. I got hot and tingly, I felt nauseous and lightheaded. He made mention of one rather large lesion on my left lobe and thee smaller lesion on my right. This means that the tumor in my colon had been there long enough to spawn and set up shop in my liver and then start a franchise. It was not guaranteed that the lesions on my liver were cancerous but given the rarity of their presence in someone my age and the presence of cancer in my colon it was most likely cancer. Cancer in my liver complicated things, a lot. It meant no simple surgery to remove the mass from my colon. It meant an extensive surgery, probably removing a lobe of my liver and multiple portions of my colon. But almost as quickly as I felt hot and sick it left because I was struck with positive implications of not having surgery on Tuesday. I would be able to eat and go to Crossfit that night!
More importantly, liver tumors meant chemo. I really really really hoped I wouldn’t need chemo. I have this really thick, wavy, often curly, unmanageable hair that has been long since I was two years old and is kinda probably too much of my identity than I care to admit. This would be what I would focus my sadness on now that I could exercise as much as I felt I could. Hair was hair I knew but my hair was always my best accessory. My statement without saying a thing. Ok. Let it go. Like my WOD BFF and hair stylist, Lauren said when I later called her in tears, “Fuck your hair. I’m sick of the color, I saw we scrap the whole thing and start from scratch.” God I love her!
Buuuut I could eat! We went to some sit down place in a nearby mall. That’s not important. What’s important was they had sourdough bread. Not just sourdough bread. Half round partially sliced, warm spongy soft with a flacks crusty crust and real butter. Sourdough bread is one of the five substances I decided I wanted on my desert island that I couldn’t live without. And it worked its magic on my digestive system and soul instantly.
The other magic worker I needed was my box, my people. I didn’t care that no one knew. I just needed to be around them. I walked into my regular 6 pm class and could be normal. I could take it all out on the work out and be cheered on by my friends. I teared up looking around the box and just soaked up the atmosphere. My gym is incredible. I know, all CrossFitters say that, but we’re special. The people, the way we get along and support each other, there’s a breath of heaven in it, a fragrance of Jesus. That’s what I love and why I need to just be in that space.
So I’m meeting with an oncologist tomorrow to talk more about my tumors and more about chemo.