2 weeks after my appendectomy, I was feeling back to myself again. I remember thinking how grateful I was to be feeling good. To have energy to think, keep my kids entertained and even go out shopping! It was in stark contrast to when I came home from the operation tired, groggy, dizzy and devoid of all energy at all. It was only two weeks, I was so fortunate!
My surgeon had called the day prior, and I missed it, but he left a message saying he was calling to see how I was feeling, how the incisions were looking, etc. He said he'd call back the next day, but he didn't, so I didn't hear from him until Monday. My phone rang and he asked how I was feeling, and I was overjoyed to tell him how great I was doing. I had suffered with appendicitis for the weeks prior to my surgery, so I really was excited to feel normal again. He kept trying to interrupt me, but I was so excited I was babbling. Finally when I stopped chattering, he said "I need to tell you something, but I know you have high anxiety, so I don't want you to freak out"
My chest froze. I couldn't breathe. I squeaked out a little "okay..." and he continued. He apologized for having to tell me over the phone, but I told him that I was going to come to the check up appointment in a few days alone with my kids, and he said it was very important that my husband came with me to that appointment. There was no way for him to tell me to bring my husband to the appointment without arousing suspicion, so he had to tell me everything over the phone at that very moment.
"The pathology came back from your appendectomy..."
I didn't even know they sent appendices for pathology...
"We found a carcinoid tumor on your appendix."
Carcinoid. I knew that word. It means cancer.
"It's small, but we also found carcinoid cells in the outer layer of the appendix."
"So we need to meet and discuss your future care."
Chemotherapy. More surgery? Am I going to die? I have cancer? I have cancer.
After I burst into tears and tried to extract every bit of information from him, I focused on the necessary bit of information that made my already-cheaply-renovated world come crashing back down: I had appendix cancer. A type of cancer I didn't even know existed. But it did, and google wasn't kind during my frenzied searches.
I panicked and asked if I could go that evening to see the surgeon instead of waiting a few days for the already scheduled follow up appointment. He was so kind, and said he'd wait at the hospital for me, I could come as soon or as late as I wanted to, and he gave me his personal cell phone number in case he was away from his office, or I arrived after hours and the secretary had gone home.
I'm proud to say I only cried once during that meeting.
Here's what I know:
Appendix cancer is very slow moving.
It's almost never found unless by accident during an appendectomy from appendicitis, or a different close-by surgery.
It rarely spreads, but the two indicators that it has spread is a tumor greater than 2 cms (mine was 0.8 cms) or carcinoid cells in the outer layer of the appendix (which I had)
In order to rule out cancer spreading past the appendix, if you have either of the two above indicators, you have to have a right hemicolectomy. You get 1-2ft of your large intestine removed and a few inches of your small intestine, then they sew the two tube ends together. They also take your lymph nodes and vascular system that supported the removed portion of your intestines.
I should feel like myself again in a few months to a year
My first thoughts was what any normal person would think when told they have cancer: am I going to die? I thought of my babies living the rest of their lives without me. Missing Luke's first steps and first words. Missing Liam's first day of preschool. Missing Erin's progression into womanhood and motherhood. Missing Aiden going on a mission or getting married. All of these amazing life events without me there to see, to help, to counsel. It ripped my heart out in ways I could never possibly explain. You think you know how bad it could hurt until you have to actually consider it because it's a real possibility. Would they forget how many times I told them I loved them? Would they forget the times I took them to ice cream? Would they forget how we would giggle over silly cartoons on TV? Would they forget my laugh, my smile, my hugs and kisses? The special notes in their lunch? Every little thing I cherished about watching them grow up suddenly became more precious than oxygen. I clung to every memory, every hug, every kiss, every tear, every time I was needed or wanted. My heart felt like it was slowly, painfully being suffocated.
And here we are today. 1 day prior to surgery. "Surgery prep" day. It also happens to be my 29th birthday. Tomorrow at 7:30am I will be in surgery, at the mercy of a handful of doctors and nurses.
Please, if you pray, pray for me to be okay. Pray for me to recover easily and without much pain. Pray for me to get the "all-clear", to be told "the cancer didn't spread". Pray for me to be able to be a mother to my babies here on earth for many more years. Please, pray.
And if something does happen to me, please make sure my kids know every single day how much I love them.