The Day I found Out I Had Cancer

8/9/18 Romans 8:2 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called to his purpose.

August 9, 2018 will be forever etched in my memory. Actually, as I am writing this it is still August 9th.  During the final days before I delivered my fifth child on June 24, 2018 a lump appeared on my neck, though small almost like an Adams apple it still startled me. Obviously, at that time seemed pretty insignificant when preparing for a new baby was more of our concern. In the hospital after my OB doctor noted my thyroid gland was swollen. I believe the word she used was ‘Beefy’ and it needed to be examined. Still makes me cringe or maybe chuckle a little thinking of my neck compared to something I feel would be better describing a football players’ neck not mine. So, labs were ordered before leaving the hospital with our new bundle of joy and we were instructed to wait we would be called with results.

Well a week later my labs came in and my numbers were only a little off, but due to the size of the lump and side effects I was starting to experience my OB doctor determined it would be a good idea to set up an ultrasound and to see an endocrinologist.  Which I am sure as many of you know the wait to see a specialist is not always as quick as one might assume or really want.  But you know without the wait how could we ever walk out the patience we are always instructing our children to have…. right? Anyways I digress. I was given an ultrasound appointment the following week, but I was not able to be seen by the Endourologist for about another month. We were ensured many times over by different people including the office I was going to be seen in not to worry. Thyroid issues are relatively easy to treat and at the worst if it is cancer you have your thyroid removed, some radiation and your pretty much ready to go. Sounds easy peasy not much to worry about. Again, bringing Kendrick home to join our now family of seven preoccupied our minds, our time, our sleep.

Though as the weeks progressed I became more uncomfortable and I felt as if my lump was increasing quickly in size. Finally, when my appointment day arrived I was ready to just get it taken care! I felt confident a solution would be found! All my extraordinary detective work on google in the last six weeks practically made me an expert on the topic and I was ready!!! When Tim (my husband) and I were called back I felt pretty good about knowing all that the specialist explained. His main concern though was how quickly it had grown when looking at the ultrasound done four weeks prior. Growth that quickly is very uncommon, though he ensured that chances of it being cancerous were still around five percent so no need to worry! I felt very good about this prognosis. The main issue I had at this point was the biopsies he recommended I do that day in the office. I freaked…. like four-year-old tantrum freaked you want to do what? and stick me six times? I do not know if I can handle this! Can I have a Xanax please? Not like I’ve had five kids or anything. But I am telling you needles do a number on me! Anyways between the doctor and my husband I was convinced to do it then and there. Really because I did not have the time to schedule another appointment just, so I could wrap my mind around six needles going into my neck.  I am proud to say with a stress ball in one hand and the nurses’ hand in another I survived all six pokes. I left happy it was done with a plan of action that if at all possible I was going to forgo surgery and try medicine to alleviate what we all thought was just a goiter in my neck. If by chance I fell into the five percent, we would be directed to a surgeon who would remove my thyroid and treat with radiation and I would take some medicine to replace the work of my thyroid and that’s how I walked confidently out of the office assured the hard part was probably over. That was four days ago…….

Sometimes in life it is the dot dot dot that can throw us for a loop. Ignorance is certainly bliss for a short time at least. Six hours ago, the endocrinologist I saw on Monday called to give me the results of my biopsies. The first thing he said was I am really glad we did those biopsies I am sorry you do have cancer.’ At this point my heart sank. Though I knew thyroid cancer was easy treatable still the ‘C’ word is so hard to hear under any circumstance I am sure. But he continued,  ‘The bad news is it is not thyroid cancer, I am not sure what cancer it is possibly lymphoma, maybe a very rare form of thyroid cancer that we do not do in the biopsies here because it is so rare, but in all my career I have only diagnosed one or two cases like this, I have been in contact with a colleague from Iowa City. I will be sending you there next week. Prepare for pet scan to check to see if it is anywhere else in your body.’

Even as I write this phone conversation my hands are shaking, tears are running down my face, I believe a part of me is still in denial, another part is finding solace in just writing this out. As I got off the phone I looked at my husband and we both walked away from our children and broke down in tears. I am not sure if I can explain in words those next few moments in my life. The fear of the unknown can be crippling. The shock and denial that this was actually happening to me?

My children were the first on my mind the devastation of them possibly losing their mother was gut wrenching for me, I literally felt like someone had stabbed me when I thought about my 7-week-old ‘little man’ whom I have had such a short time getting to love! Would my two and four-year-old even remember me and all the times we had spent together?  And how horrible it would be for the 8 and 15-year-old to experience such a loss at pivotal moments in their lives? And then my husband the love of my life. Would he remarry? Move on forget about me? Should he get married so he doesn’t have to raise the kids alone?  I mentally started making lists of everything I needed to do to make sure everything was prepared for my family to make such a transition. How important it was going to be spending every second I could with my children. I started thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life, even if there was an only short time left. What friends I needed to reconnect with to remind them how much I love them even if I haven’t seen them as often in this season of motherhood.  I am not positive, but these are probably many peoples first thoughts when facing this kind of diagnosis.

Over the next few hours we grappled with this information sharing with our parents and asking our close friends for prayer and support.  Tim canceled a boys weekend with is brothers. We decided to tell our oldest son and not the younger children at this time!  My mother in law came over soon after. Tim and I needed to get out go to the store or drive around just something to get away together to process.

As we drove on the country roads outside of town we were completely silent. Holding each other’s hand looking at the beautiful sunset. Trying to understand what was happening and how we would adjust to this unexpected complication of life plans we have made. We pulled into an empty field, cried, held each other, made promises about how we would and wouldn’t approach certain situations and circumstances that may arise. Then we came home put our children to bed. I made sure to savor every minute, say I love you maybe a little more than normal and kissed my husband just a little bit harder.

As I go to sleep tonight I know I have been blessed with an amazing support system! A loving and devoted husband, my parents who have always proven to be there for me anytime I have ever needed them, my In-laws who are just as dependable and loving! And the many friends God has blessed me with in this life is truly incredible!! And for this I am and will be forever grateful! But I have begun to realize that as I begin this journey that I may not have chosen for myself some of the feelings, emotions, and most importantly faith and hope needed to walk through this I will not find in myself, my husband, family member or friend. I will find rest and peace in the Almighty God!

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