On being present when most needed…..Cancer diagnosis

August 15, 2016

 

A lot has happened in my life since I last posted my first blog. It isn’t that I didn’t think about writing material to post or that I just didn’t care to write anything during all this time, I will leave that explanation for another blog post where I will discuss in detail the reasons for it.

 

I took a recent trip back home to San Antonio & Laredo, my hometown. It was such a long-awaited week vacation to disconnect from the pressures of my job and also to reconnect with family. Ever since I moved to Miami about two years ago, one of my brothers moved from Laredo to San Antonio, where he is now raising two beautiful daughters and a baby boy who is actually going to be born today right about the time I am putting this blog post together. On my week-long stay in the early days of June I spent 2 days in San Antonio spending time with my two brothers and the rest of the days I decided to go to Laredo and spend a few days with my sister who to this day lives in Laredo and whom my mother lives with from time to time.   It was great visit to be honest. Lounging around not having a set schedule, nor planned calls is a great feeling. Living life this way is ideal as I am not one who really lives by an agenda. I’m a spur of the moment kind of guy. I like to do things as they come to mind granted I have the time and the resources to be able to do the things I want to do. In fact, during this trip I visited a quasi friend who at one time I had a crush on.   She lives about an hour and a half from Laredo into Mexico in Sabinas Hidalgo. We still talk from time to time but seems as though it has been more and more sporadic. I actually invited my mother to come along with me so that we could spend more time together while I also had the chance to visit with my friend.

 

My week vacation came to an end and had to start heading back to San Antonio so that I could catch my flight back home to Miami. That night I stayed at my little brother’s place, as he would be the one to take me back to the airport around 4 am in order to catch my 6 am flight. I can say I didn’t sleep much that night, as I was afraid I would miss the flight since it was so early in the morning.   Around 2:30 am on Sunday I received a WatsApp message from a friend alerting me that my girlfriend had been rushed to the emergency clinic. She told me my girlfriend had some very sharp pains in her abdomen. I was so glad that I was flying back home to Miami, as I wanted to be by her side to help in whatever I could. I got to Miami at around 9:30 am and took an uber taxi to my house. I slept for a few hours as I had not slept the night before. As soon as I woke up I WhatsApped my girlfriend and she was being transported from the emergency clinic to Memorial Jackson Hospital as they were going to run more tests on her. She spent the night in the emergency room at the hospital as they were doing more tests on her such as a pap smear among other routine tests. I could not spend the night with her a she was in the emergency room and plus the next day was my first day at work coming back from vacation. The next day she was moved to the Women’s’ hospital where they were going to do more tests among them another pap spears of which she is so afraid of as she is very narrow in her canal and she said some doctors & nurses are not as gentle as she would want them to be causing her discomfort and pain in the process.

On Monday morning I was at the office and I received a call from my girlfriend. She was sobbing and it was evident she needed me by her side. They had told her that after reviewing the test results they were concerned and believed that it may be a cancerous tumor.   I had only been at the office for about 2 and half hours and went to my boss’ office and explained roundabout the situation. I basically told her I understood that it was my first day back from vacation that I felt the need to be with her during this very tough situation she was going through. We agreed that I would be working from the hospital the rest of the afternoon.   That night I stayed at my house and the next morning I called my boss to ask her if she would let me work from the hospital again so that I could be with my girlfriend during this time. Her response was, ‘I leave it up to you’. I took that as a no I don’t want you to work from the hospital but if you are going to go through with that then that’s your choice. I ended up going to the office. I received a call that morning around 9am from my girlfriend & that they were going to do one more pap smear and that they were almost certain the tumor they had found was cancerous given her ca125 levels was in the 1400s. My girlfriend was inconsolable and again I needed to be there with her to hold her hand to show her that she’s not going through this alone. I walked into my bosses office once again and explained to her that the doctors had told her that the likelihood that her tumor she had was cancerous and that they needed to run a few more tests to determine what the next steps would be. In essence I told her I will be by her side and if you want me to work the days I can from the hospital or that I could use vacation time to be with her during this time. I risked losing my job, and would willingly have given up on it had she not worked an arrangement with me. I can understand a job is important to support oneself but there comes a time in life where you have to make choices and weigh what is more important. I chose to be with my girlfriend through every moment, every painful news and so I stayed in the hospital and slept by her side holding her hand.

 

I had never spent a night in a Hospital until she was hospitalized. To this day the memory of her receiving potassium through an IV is a painful memory. I had no idea this was painful until I saw her in tears as it was going through her veins. I cried with her every single time they administered the potassium to her. I am not exactly sure how many bags they administered to her but they were a good number of them. We’ll never forget the day the confirmed that it was indeed a cancerous tumor something in the range of 6in in her left ovary. The doctors recommended that they do immediate surgery to extract the tumor and any cancerous remnants that they may find during the surgery. That night we were listening to music on Spotify and Leann Rimes’ song blue played and subsequently Crazy by Leann as well. So now when we hear those two songs it takes us back to that one moment in time.

 

It was that same night where she gave me instructions as to what to do with her belongings should she not make it back out of the surgery room. I was to take her ashes with me to her sister in Chile. Her belongings would all go to her only son and for her van to be sold & help pay for her cremation. It was a very tough and emotional day for both of us. The next morning they would be confirming the time her surgery would be as there was another person going in for surgery before her but given things change at the last minute, perhaps the patient backs out of the surgery then she would be moved up to go first instead. The nurses showed up at her hospital door around 2pm with the stretcher ready to take her to the prep room from there she would be taken to the surgery room. There, it was explained to us that they would first do a laparoscopy to see the extent of the surgery. If it was determined that the cancer had compromised other major organs, they would not proceed with the surgery and instead implement another approach and treatment plan. The laparoscopy procedure would take approximately 45 minutes. In the prep room they administered some anesthesia that would put her out in preparation for the surgery. I hurried to the waiting area where there was a TV screen and on it had patient #’s, rather than a patient’s name to secure their privacy, and it would indicate in what step of the process or surgery they were on. I had to go to another room in order to get my girlfriend’s patient number and figure out at what step of the way they were in. I got back to the waiting area and located her patient number on the TV screen, she was in the laparoscopy process, and she was there for a good hour. I was very nervous to say the least. I could not wait for the status on the screen to change from the first step to ‘proceed to surgery’ because that meant the cancer had not compromised other organs and that would perform the hysterectomy along with removing other organs and lymph nodes. She was in the operating room for a good 7 hours. I waited there in the waiting area all that time. I did not want to go anywhere to make sure I was there should any doctors come out to give me news. It was about 11:30 by the time the status on the TV screen changed to ‘recovery area’. I rejoiced when I saw that she had been moved on to the recovery area and was waiting for her to be taken to her hospital room.

As soon as she woke up from the anesthesia she asked for water. The nurse gave her some water and she was drinking that out of a straw with such desperation. Granted she hadn’t eaten anything nor had drank any water since basically 24 hours before so I can just imagine how thirsty she may have been. Later that night the effects of coming off the anesthesia were kicking in, she started feeling nauseous and eventually ended up projecting vomit. I was a bit frightened as I had never seen anyone come out of a surgery before and could see how vomiting while unattended in a room could be very dangerous situation to be in. The tumor that was extracted along with lymph nodes and other tissues were sent to pathology for staging and in a matter of 2 weeks or so they gave her further detail. She had state IIIA Ovarian Cancer. For this and many other reasons I am glad I have been by her side throughout this entire painful experience she has been through. The battle is not yet over. In fact, it has just started. She is to get six rounds of chemotherapy and has undergone the first treatment.

Survive & Thrive

 

 

 

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