It’s Cancer…

My husband and I were directed to a large room in the hospital the day the lucky surgeon was granted the task of handing out my verdict, and giving us details about surgery.  The wide room was filled with beds and desks.  Furniture was crowded together in every square foot like a stock room.  A jagged walk toward the middle, where we could sit on the edge of one of the beds, faced a desk where the surgeon soon leaned.  “Doesn’t he have an office?”  I couldn’t understand why we were in this strange room, not typical of a meeting with a doctor.  “What could he possibly have to tell me?”

“It’s cancer.”  Those dreaded words.  That’s all I heard, and I suddenly disappeared.  Actually, the doctor and Mariano almost vanished.  We were no longer together in that room, but I was the one that was alone.  There weren’t any more voices around me.  If there were, they were too faint for me to hear what they were saying.

Cancer.  A disease you never think you’ll get.  I don’t know why that is, it’s so common today.  But I was young and I had so many great things going on in my life.  Recently married, new baby, new house… How could this happen?  This is not an uncommon plot.

Whoever came up with those commercials on television, where someone is told they have cancer and the person is physically thrown back, is completely accurate.  That’s exactly how it feels.  It’s as though you’re being struck by lightning or something with so much force it pushes or lifts you away.

By the time the diagnosis reached my ears, I was already halfway into the clouds.  The pathology results merely put me over the edge.  So being taken back, as the commercial described, was more subtle for me.  I was already detached from the situation and from the conversations.  Now I had a glass wall trapping me where I didn’t want to be, and certainly, not all by myself.  I was forced to fight alone.  No one could understand how this has already changed me.

Being in that trance conveyed an impression of watching someone else.  I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t touch, I couldn’t hear.  Something was pulling me away.  Is this the end for me?


Wishing you all health and peace…


Get it Out, Please!

Although my recent colonoscopy was clear, the emergency doctor was still concerned about the upper torso.  The organs were all clean, but she would send me to a gastroenterologist for further study.

I had to wait about two and half months before the specialist was available.  I have to say, I didn’t like him.  He seemed angry that I wasn’t pleased he would stick a tube down my throat and into my stomach – while awake – to see what was wrong.

The frightened look on my face surely said it all.  So he pulled out a picture from his desk drawer and handed it to me.  Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who needed convincing of this helpful tool and procedure.  He held a piece of rubber tubing in the other hand.  “This tube has a camera attached to the end of it.  It is the only way to see this.”  He pointed to the bloody esophagus.

I was disgusted by the image, and turned my head away for a second as I gasped for air.  What a dose of reality that was.

At this point, I had no choice but to cooperate.  How much longer could I put off the inevitable?  By this time, the pain from swallowing had become more frequent, so the gastroenterologist scheduled the test for shortly after our consultation.

The gastroscopy was awful.  Those five or ten minutes seemed an eternity.  I wanted the tube out, but couldn’t speak or do anything about it.  It was lodged deep into my esophagus.  My mouth forced open by a funnel-like piece so I couldn’t bite down.  Then finally it was over, and the doctor slowly slid the tube out from inside of me.  It felt like I could breathe again.  What a relief.  At last, I could relax after my nerves and muscles were so tensed.  I felt sore in my chest.  I wanted to get out of there quickly.

The doctor did write in his notes that he was unable to go further into the stomach because I was too nervous.  I don’t think the continuous gagging helped him much either.  It felt like my guts wanted to jump out of my mouth.

The nurse let me rest on a bed as I waited for the results from the doctor.  It was clear to her that I was a little groggy and tired from the stress of the uncomfortable, but not painful, test.  The room was quite noisy and hectic.  Mariano came into the room to wait with me.

He was quiet, except to ask about the test.  “I gagged the entire time.  It was terrible.”

As we looked around, there were patients stretched out on beds, nurses checking in with them, and doctors doing rounds.

I questioned the seriousness at this point.  Maybe the problem was so small, it was undetectable.  Maybe I was just wasting my time.  A diagnosis of cancer never entered my mind.  It never does, right?

The doctor soon approached us.  A small Vietnamese man, who wore a tan-coloured polo-style T-Shirt, stood next to Mariano and looked at me.  He blurted out in that snappish manner he had, “You have a tumor and it has to be removed.”  I got the impression he was anxious.  This reflected onto me and made me uneasy.  I can’t imagine too many patients being friendly with him or asking many questions.

Unbeknownst to me until more than eleven years in remission, Mariano knew about the tumours before the doctor had announced it to me.  The doctor saw him in the waiting room while I was being transferred to recovery.  That explained his silence.  It was shocking to hear, but I wasn’t angry.  I wonder what else I don’t know about what doctors have told him.  What other important moments during that time don’t I remember?  According to family and friends, even today, they tell me I forget about things they’ve said.  Seeing my daughter grow and holding her during that year are what I miss.  I can’t ever get that back, and it saddens me still.

I didn’t know what to say once the doctor said I had a tumour in my stomach.  We listened for instructions.  Well, Mariano listened.  I obviously don’t remember much.

“I already scheduled an appointment with a general surgeon.  He will also give you the pathology results and describe the surgery.”  How urgent is this?  What is this?

Now did I think it was cancer?  No.  But it was a tumour.  How could it not be cancer?  As unlikely as it seemed, I remember telling my husband at one point during the investigation, “No one is immune.”  It cannot be that I have cancer, right?


I am overwhelmed by the continuing interest.  Thank you for supporting me through this journey of discovery.  Even eleven years into remission,  I only now feel like I’m living again.  May you and your loved ones find hope in my story.

Be well.

All For What?

We waited several hours that night.  The half-empty waiting room was filled with lined-up black chairs, no colour on the walls to lighten the mood, and very little advancement in calling patients to see the doctor – if there even was one at that ungodly hour.  It was tough to stay awake, but I didn’t see myself lounging on those chairs where many may have sat with infectious germs.  The lack of comfort didn’t allow me the luxury either.  My husband could easily bow his head and take a snooze.

It was such a long night, but I was determined to get answers.  We were frustrated by the time three a.m. came around, but stayed until I was called at seven fifteen that morning.

The doctor requested blood work, and results showed I was anemic.  “I have Thalassaemia Minor, so that may be why.”

I didn’t know at the time, but my family doctor, who recently mentioned he had studied the disease, explained that the only way to distinguish the anemia from the Thalassaemia is to check two other sources in the blood.  The ferritin was one, but I don’t remember the other.  The results can easily be misinterpreted.  I wonder if the emergency doctor knew that, and if it would have made any difference in the timing of my diagnosis.  Sometimes I speak too much.  Perhaps I should have let her continue the investigation without my input.  There was no further attention placed on the low blood count, at least not to my knowledge.

So would it have made much difference waiting until the next day to go to the hospital?  Would I have gone or tried to see my family doctor following the spitting of blood?  No other symptoms occurred for quite some time, so surely I would have done what everyone else does… forgotten about it.


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Have a beautiful day!  


What’s the Emergency?

We’ve all felt that trickling tickle in the throat – the one you can’t ever touch.  You want to scrape the skin at the base of your neck.  You drink a lot of water trying to soothe it.  You suck on medicated candy to numb it.  Even hot liquids only help for a few minutes.  And clearing your throat repeatedly just aggravates its return.  There are times the pain extends into the ear.  You try to touch deep inside with your pinky finger to scratch out what feels like an insect eating away at your eardrum.  Then the cough begins.  It’s soon after that vomiting sets in for me.

I ran to the washroom as the coughing became persistent, and I began to gag.  The vomiting, although it rids some of the mucus, brings on the burning feeling in your throat that will last for days.

I was certainly concerned by the colour in the toilet water.  The colour of the water didn’t change, but there was evidence of trouble.  Returning to the bedroom, I told my husband, who had just gone to bed, “I just vomited blood.”  Suddenly, the cold or virus I had been attending to didn’t seem important anymore.

“Don’t worry, you probably just burst a nerve.”

There was quite a bit of blood in the water.  I began to worry.  “No… that’s not normal for me.  It was bright red.  Something doesn’t feel right.”  I thought for a moment.  I’m not paranoid, but my instincts took over.  “I’ll call Info-Santé.”  The nurses on the hotline, available twenty-four hours a day, can try to assess a medical situation and make possible recommendations.

She asked me a series of questions about pain and stools.  I wasn’t sure what she was thinking it could be.  The only strange thing I could remember or think of was that about three weeks earlier I had pain in the area between my breasts, where the esophagus meets the stomach, after swallowing food.  I don’t even remember what I was eating.  The inexplicable minute or so was quite excruciating though.  It felt like whatever I had chewed and swallowed couldn’t pass.  But once the pain subsided, I didn’t think much about it.  “I did notice that yesterday or this morning, I don’t remember when… my stools, something I never gave attention to, were so dark they looked purple.”

“They were black,” she concluded.  “That means there was digested blood.  I believe you may be hemorrhaging, and advise you to go to the Emergency Room.”


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Be well,