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April 16, 2019

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April 16, 2019

For years I had been in such pain trying to seek medical help just to be sent back home.  I began to wonder if the type of pain I had been experiencing on and off for years was normal.  I questioned my sanity at times because I thought maybe I was imagining it, after all, The doctors always said that there was nothing wrong with me.
     When I was 28 years old, for weeks I had excruciating pain.  The nights were the worst.  Sometimes the pain was so intense that I would have to get on my hands and knees on my living room floor and just cry.  Sweat dripped off my nose like a leaky faucet.  The only type of pain that even came close to it was when I was in labour with my daughter three years prior.  She and my husband slept while this was all taking place.  For some strange reason I kept it a secret.  Weeks went by without anyone knowing until one night I couldn't take the pain anymore.  I woke up my husband.  After medical tests were run I found out that I was having gall bladder attacks.  I had gall stones and needed to get my gall bladder removed immediately.  I was kept in the hospital overnight and had surgery the next morning.

    I loved the feeling of being pain free for a couple of years until I suddenly started getting terrible pain like before.  It mocked the gall bladder attacks from a couple of years prior.  The pain started in my lower right abdomen, sometimes feeling like I was being stabbed with a knife.  It would radiate up into my right shoulder and around to my back.  I found myself on the couch with flu like symptoms.  I remember vomiting up bile for days on end.  My husband called our family practitioner who instructed him to take me to the hospital emergency in thoughts that I had appendicitis.  He was worried that it was about to burst because of the severity of pain my husband was describing to him on the phone.  Hours went by as I paced the emergency hallway in agony.  I remember trying to sit in a chair beside my husband, rocking with my arms clenched into my mid section trying to find some kind of relief.  It took me everything I had in me not to lose it because I knew if I did I would cry or scream out loud.  Finally I was called into a room after the fifth hour of arriving.  I had an X-ray performed and an injection of Demerol.  The results came back fine and I was given instructions to lay off the dairy for a few days.  The doctor thought I may be lactose intolerant or have IBS.  I returned home to my couch where I stayed for about a week until the pain subsided. 

    Over the years bouts of pain would hit me and I became so accustomed to just dealing with it knowing that It was something that just happened to me.  Sometimes the pain would stay with me for weeks and even months and then mysteriously vanish.  This was my "norm" and as the years passed I never knew from one day to the next how I would feel.  Raising four children was no easy task for the healthiest of people and here I was, a wife of a trucker who was only home a few days a month, trying my hardest to be a good mother, although I had so much help and support from my mother and stepfather.  I don't know if I could have coped without them.

    When I was 48 years old something happened that changed my life forever.  I had a menstrual period that lasted 22 days and very bad diarrhea.  I have had chronic diarrhea for over 10 years but this was different.  I couldn't even eat without running to the bathroom. My pain was back again and now I was having hot spells.  I figured I was most likely going through menopause. I thought it was somewhat early but I knew it was still a possibility.  I made an appointment with my family doctor. They told me that I was probably right and ordered some tests.  I went for an X-ray which showed nothing but an enlarged liver.  The nurse at the doctor's office gave me a phone call and told me that a fatty liver is not a big deal and every woman that has a little bit of a tummy most likely has one.  I felt so relieved and at ease until it happened.  The pain hit me like a Mack truck.  This time it was tenfold.  It just wouldn't let up.  It came in huge waves but never gave me any relief in between.  The waves felt like contractions.  I would find myself breathing and panting as if I were giving birth.  I would be dripping in sweat and vomiting. 

   I went to the emergency with my mother and had a myriad of tests performed and after 12 hours I had an answer.  IT WAS CANCER.

I was sent to a specialist that week and was prescribed morphine for my pain.  She sat down in front of me, rolled her chair up so close that our knees touched then she put my hands in hers.  It was when she did this and when I looked into her teary eyes that I knew it was really bad.  She explained to me that I had cancer in my cecum, liver and pancreas.  She told me I would have to get surgery to get the primary tumour removed and that the surgery would be risky.  The chance of getting through the surgery would be greatly improved with love and support from my family which she thought was promising.  She let me know I needed that more than ever because she thought I had a 50/50 chance of pulling through.  She told me that there was no doubt in her mind that I would be fine and that she was truly sorry and thought that I was let down by the health system.  I could clearly see her struggling when she told me that after the surgery I had up to 5 months to live.

    For 3 weeks I never told anyone what she told me.  The news was bad enough and I wasn't about to let someone tell me when my life was going to end.  I was going to fight this.  

Three weeks passed and I found myself sitting in my specialist's office with my mother who was trying to hide her emotions and total fear.   We jumped when he opened the door but surprised by the big grin on his face.  His smile got even bigger when he told us that the cancer is not in the pancreas like originally thought.  He said that there were shadows on the imaging that was confused with cancer.  He explained how I must have had an infection in the pancreas which was wiped out by something like an antibiotic I was taking at some point.  The shadowing was caused from scar tissue.  This meant that my life sentence after my surgery was no longer limited to 5 months.  I HAD MORE TIME!

    I was diagnosed on April Fool's Day, 2016.  My surgery was scheduled for April 26th.  I sat there with my bags around me waiting to go to the hospital for my surgery when it happened.  My husband who I have spent the last 31 years with and 26 married years with told my he was leaving me.  He told me he didn't love me anymore.  I couldn't breath. I was so worried about making it through this surgery and was leaning on the love and support from my family, hoping it would make me strong enough in my sickly state to make it through.  It not only stunned me that I was hearing this totally out of the blue but that he would tell me this now. 

    The car ride to the hospital was the most uncomfortable and awkward one I've ever experienced in my life.  I sat beside my stepfather who was driving.  My mother and my husband were in the back.  The silence was deafening.  I knew everyone had something different on their mind.  I know they would have wanted to kill him if they knew.  My mother treated him like her own son for over 30 years.  I knew I had to keep this a secret for now.  She was about to spend the next 8 hours with him and she had enough to worry about.  As for me, I knew I needed to survive more than ever now.  I needed to be there for my children.

    I made it through.  It took my close to 5 weeks to recover with the help of my children.  My oldest daughter quit her job to nurse me and be by my side for that first year.  She is now in her 4th year of college.  It has been 3 years since my surgery and my children have been with me through it all.  I have found so much happiness and joy over these 3 years.  My high school sweetheart and soul mate is back in my life and I am doing very well.  I am considered stage IV because my cancer has reached my liver and other parts of my body but I am receiving care to control my symptoms and my cancer is stable right now.  My life is a great one and I am the happiest I have ever been.