Melissa Wagner

First post: Sep 19, 2020 Latest post: Mar 4, 2022
Where do I start? Cancer...a terrifying word when it is being used to describe what is wrong with you. My story started with lots of misdiagnosis among the Covid-19 scare as some of my symptoms included relentless coughing as my lungs were being deprived of oxygen from my struggling red blood cells. No one knew since it didn't seem like blood work was needed for a cough. Months of fever off and on, being told it had to be a virus, infection, Covid and finally that it was surely worsening asthma. It never made sense to me and always felt like something was just not right with what I was being told but I just couldn't understand what was happening to me. I was utterly exhausted all of the time. The normal hemorrhoid bleeding I had for years seemed to be affected by the violent coughing I was experiencing. My ribs and muscles hurt terribly, especially in my right side. Still, no x-rays ordered, no blood work ordered. My long time primary doctor wouldn't see me as she was convinced it was all Covid related and she said there was nothing she could do for me. It felt I was going downhill and quickly over a short time. I knew she was wrong... I had been sick for too long and it didn't add up. I began researching specialists in my area to try to locate the very best to help with what I thought was a lung disorder of some sort and a great GI doctor to rid me of hemorrhoids once and for all. I had a very long awaited trip to the beach planned with my family coming up and I was very much looking forward to it. I planned to make appointments to get checked out once I was back from my first vacation I had been able to experience in three years. 

I made it to the beach with my family and was thankful to be there. By this time, I had already lost a bit of weight and it was very difficult to eat. I always felt full with only a few bites, along with nauseous. It took a lot of focus to be present and engaged with my family and I pushed myself to do so because it was incredibly important to me that my feeling bad didn't damper our time together. I began to realize while there that somehow and for some reason, I was very ill. I had great difficulty breathing, had no tolerance for the heat which I normally enjoyed, was throwing up near daily and began to run a high fever in the evenings. I began to lose quite a lot of blood and it was shocking and scary. Somehow, it still ended up being a blessed time even just hanging out at the beach house, playing games with our children and watching my grandchildren play and spending time with us all together. We even had a glorious day of seeing the dolphins on a boat ride. It was wonderful. The night before we headed home, I was again throwing up and ended up with a terrible fever. I was so miserable, I cried myself to sleep as my husband tried to console me. On the way home, I had what I thought was a terrible asthma attack and a fever of 103 degrees. My nails were turning blue. I took Tylenol and used my rescue inhaler and was able to get it under control. I decided I would be going to the emergency room when we got home. I did just that. Again, it was assumed that I likely had Covid and was having an asthma attack. X-rays finally done, showed clear lungs and blood work showed signs of infection. My blood work also showed signs of a serious problem but at that time, nobody at the hospital mentioned it or even said that maybe I should see a primary care doctor to follow up. My Covid test was again negative as I expected and the steroids and increase of my inhaler seemed to help my breathing for the short term so I was sent home. The following week, I saw an email that gave me access to set up an online account to view my records at the hospital. I set it up and began looking at my blood work from my last visit. My heart sank as I saw my very low red blood counts, very high platelets and other issues. I had worked for enough years in the medical field when I was younger to know what I was looking at indicated some serious issues. The puzzle pieces began to fall together for me and I realized that the bleeding may have not been the hemorrhoids I had experienced before but rather something more sinister. Still, I knew I had clear scans from barely a year ago and I thought, well if it is colon cancer, it should be early and we can just handle this easily enough. I called and made the appointments with a lung specialist and a GI specialist. I was concerned that I wasn't able to get to the GI doctor for a little over a month but was relieved to at least have the appointment.  The next day, my sister in law who happens to also be one of my very closest friends called me. We began to talk some about the blood work and I shared my symptoms with her. She is a nurse and she expressed her fears of the seriousness of what may really be happening, including that the pain in my side may not be from coughing but rather my liver. I hoped she was wrong and took her advice to find a primary doctor to see that week and not wait for the GI appointment. I saw a wonderfully compassionate Nurse Practitioner that week on Friday and she agreed that CT scans needed to be done with the hopes we were looking at something less serious that could have similar symptoms. I went for the tests on the following Monday and by Monday late afternoon, the radiologist called my doctors office to let them know that what they were seeing was not good. I got the call to let me know it was indicating colorectal cancer with lymph involvement, metastasized to the liver. She said that there were at least three primary lesions on the liver and it was both sides. My heart sank and I wept bitterly as I heard the word metastasized and learning it was also in my liver. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I was questioning how in the world I could have that much cancer in such a short time? How was I going to tell my family?  Turns out, telling the people I loved most was harder than being told I had cancer. It ripped my heart out. I was scared, sad, angry all at the same time. I text my husband asking him to come home as soon as he could. He knew instantly the news I had gotten must be bad. He has been an amazing rock to lean on. I gave myself a short time to have a pity party, cry, scream and be angry about it all and then made up my mind I can't live there. I have a fight to engage in and I will fight hard. I want very much to live and spend many more years with those I love and giving to those around me. Life won't be the same. Cancer makes sure of that. Life is still beautiful though, you just have to look through the crap sometimes to see it. 

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