Really not sure how I made it through the next couple of days. Tried very hard not to think about my impending appointment. To make matters all the more difficult; the Doctor’s office called to move the appointment up to Thursday instead of Wednesday. Seeing as the weather has been unseasonably warm, I know I went outside at lunch to my spot behind our building. Listening to the rushing water of the dam is much more soothing than worrying about a diagnosis.
What I did NOT do was google: MASS on KIDNEY. I’m a bit surprised as I am a huge researcher. Love looking things up, but not this….Why add extra worry?
Thursday morning arrived and off I went to work. I mean might as well right? Did not want to sit at home for 2 hours. Entered some orders checked in with my co-workers and off I went with the full intent of coming back to work when I was done.
The Doctor’s office was easy to get to on North Main St. So happy to not have to deal with traffic and parking headaches near RI Hospital. Checked in at the desk and waited. Watched as patients checked in. Noticed I was the youngest in the bunch by at least 30 years. Tried not to worry. After waiting for 30min, the receptionist informed me the Doctor had been delayed but was on his way. I was yelling at myself for forgetting my book in the car. The TV in the waiting room droned on and all of the magazines seemed to focus on Golf (boring!). Another 30min. went by. “I’m sorry'” my Doc’s Nurse came out to say; “Dr. I is still delayed, but he will be here soon.” She said with a very reassuring tone. 10 minutes later she called me into an examining room. “Please pee into a cup and put on the shelf, then change into this gown.” I did as I was told and then waited and waited. My Doctor seemed to have a huge assortment of Coca Cola collectibles. As my wait moved on 30 more minutes, It gave me something to look at at least.
Finally, my Doc knocked on my door and let himself in. He explained what my examination would entail. It was kind of sort of like an OB/GYN exam but with the addition of an “instant/quick” catheter. Boy was that painful. So thankful Toni, Dr. I’s Nurse was there holding my hand. After pressing around on top of my abdomin and asking if it hurt anywhere, the exam was done and he asked me to get dressed and meet him in his office.
After a deep breath, I sat down in the comfy office chair, looked around at more Coca-Cola collectibles and pulled out my notebook. I’d like to pause for a minute here to let you know that yes, I was alone and yes, I knew there was a possibility that I would be told some big, serious news about my health. I recently saw the movie, “Step-Mom” and Susan Sarandon’s character (the Mom) goes to see her Doctor and while by herself is told she has Cancer. I remember saying outloud to myself: “Now why would you go to such an important appointment by yourself??!” Simple: busy single Mom who does not want to worry anyone else. Besides, I was headed back to work after this!
The Doctor turns his computer my way and says, “We have the results of your cat-scan and here is what we are dealing with.” He moves the mouse over so the curser is pointing in the area of what he explained was my right kidney. Well, what you could see of it anyway. On top of the kidney was clearly a mass, a large mass, a mass so large it was practically covering the kidney. I started to panic inside. I started to scream inside. Then slowly but surely my head, my brain all left my body and rose up.
“IS that me? Are you SURE? Could that be someone else’s scan?!!!” The mass seemed to be moving as we looked at it. The Doctor continues; “What we have here is Renal Cell Carcinoma.”
You know you can “prepare” for a scenario like this all you want. You can watch all the Lifetime movies, documentaries, PBS specials and more about Cancer and walk around thinking you’ll know how you’ll react if “God-forbid” anything like that happened to you. In reality you have NO idea. At age 49, I certainly don’t walk around thinking this could NEVER happen to me. I’ve had 2 friends around my age get diagnosed with Colon Cancer just in the past year. I’ve also had relatives die from Cancer related causes. At my age lots of things could happen. I have chronic asthma and take medication daily for it. I know what it is like to not be able to breathe. I try to be attune to my health.
He continues; “Many times in these situations, we can remove the mass laparoscopically. But in this situation the mass is too large(about 8.4 cm or the size of an orange) and I will need to perform a Right Radical Nephrectomy.” This was all too damn surreal. “Um, ok.” was about all I could muster at the moment. “Do you have any questions?” he asked. “Yea, What the fuck Doc?!” “I mean really, I don’t get it. I eat right, take good care of myself, exercise(ok, I should exercise MORE). I’m an optomistic, nice person. I DON’T GET IT! WHY ME?” “I just don’t know” he said. “These things can just happen and we cannot explain why.” I straightened up and said, “Ok, I don’t care that Christmas is around the corner. Let’s take this out ASAP.” “Oh I was planning on it. We will be calling the hospital now to schedule for next week.” The big question was looming. “My prognosis? What is it?” “I’m going for the gold,” he says confidently. “I’m going in, taking out the mass and your right kidney. You’ll be in the hospital for 5-7 days, then recover at home for about 8 weeks or so. You’ll come and see me and go have periodic scans and that is it. You should be cured when I take it out.” It was all so matter of fact. He was so filled with confidence and yet had a warmth at the same time(a rarity in some surgeons). I stood up as we moved out of the office. Still maintaining my composure. It was not until I stepped out of his office that it all hit me and started to break down. Toni gave me a big reassuring hug and asked me to wait in the waiting room for paperwork and the surgery appointment.
15 min later still in a fog, I walked outside to my car armed with a script for more tests and a date for surgery: The following Wednesday. We weren’t messing around. Shit just got real. I had almost forgotten all about work and realized while headed to get a chest cat-scan, that I had better call and let my boss know I would not be back today. Thank god the imaging place was 5 minutes away. This is when having someone with me would be helpful. I am a good actress however, and can refocus when necessary. I had a scan to get done. I checked in at the desk, called my boss and let her know. Actually I think I just texted her. To tell the truth I don’t remember. I do recall it was now 1pmish because “Day’s of Our Lives” was playing on the tv in the waiting room. “If only this was a fucking soap opera I was in.” I thought quietly to myself. “Shit, I have to call my parents. Shit.” I’m pretty sure I just pretended I was reading a scipt. I removed much of my emotion and stated the facts as I knew them. Again, nothing can prepare you for this, you just do it I guess. I called my Step-Mom and told her what I knew. I know it was serious, but I did not want her to get upset or worried. They were planning to have their annual Christmas Party that Saturday and I really did not want that to change. It is a great time with great food. I gave her the facts, and told her I had to go into my scan.
The technician called me in and told me to relax (that’s funny) and put my hands above my head. I tried very hard to not think about the scan and what it could find. Were my lungs riddled with Cancer? Had it spread? How long have I been walking around like this?
By the time I got out of there, it was 2pm and I realized I had not eaten in hours nor had I had nearly enough coffee. Going home was not an option so I went somewhere that has great coffee and always makes me happy.
White Electric Coffee. I drove up on autopilot, parked and walked in. I could not focus, I just kept staring at the lights.
Noticing now how very cool they are. What a neat shape. I was so hungry but could not focus on what to eat. It was all still a dream. I wanted to tell everyone…..”Can I please have a muffin; I have Cancer.” “Can I please have a toasted bagel w/cream cheese? I have Cancer.” “I’ll take a black coffee please; I have Cancer.” In the end I settled on a fave: Bagel and Lox with a black coffee. As I bit into my bagel I felt my tears welling up and I really just wanted to bawl. But I kept it together, took a sip of coffee and read the NYTimes Style section.