Last Tuesday, November 20th, I received a regular three-month follow-up scan. Typically I would have received a PET (full body) scan, however, our insurance is not cancer-patient friendly. Apparently, because my last PET scan in August came back clear of cancer, they deemed it unnecessary to cover any further PET scans unless a CT (localized) scan came back showing anything. Ridiculous, I know. Don’t get me started…frankly that’s beside the point.
I got a call from my Gynecologic Oncologist just two days ago, on the 26th. She immediately asked where I was, which in my heart, I knew was a bad sign. I was right. She informed me that my cancer has recurred. Dammit.
While we aren’t sure of the exact blueprints of this next treatment journey, I will give you as much information as we currently know. The mass that appeared in the CT scan is exactly the size of a softball. Yes, you read that correctly…a softball. Honestly, it’s one centimeter bigger than an adult softball. But that’s semantics. At it’s widest, it’s nearly four inches (9.8cm) in diameter. Shocking, I know. Clearly, this type of cancer is proving to be as aggressive as we were initially told. In August there were no signs of cancer, and only three months later, there is a beastly tumor the size of a softball growing inside my body. This circular mass has been located in the same general vicinity as my original golf-ball sized tumor. It is near my pelvic region, and close to my mid abdomen around my belly button. It’s closer to my left side, and I can actually feel it.
About one month ago, I began experiencing pain in this exact location of my lower abdomen. Because the doctors usually push around my stomach when I get any check-ups, I thought I’d give it a go. I definitely didn’t expect to feel anything. But I did. I felt a hard mass. Because having already battled cancer often tends to making us survivors paranoid and hyper sensitive to any changes in our bodies, I tried to brush it off as nothing. Three weeks ago, I had a regular three-month follow-up with my doctor and informed her about this sudden change in my body. She explained that based on how our intestinal tract works, it most likely was just a back up of stool and that she couldn’t feel anything during her internal exam. In fact, my pap smear results were normal. However, the pain continued and progressed. Days went by and the mass remained. I chalked it up to being constipated. Maybe I was just more backed up than I thought.
Now that the CT results are in, we can most definitely connect the pain and hardness to this mass that has been discovered. My constipation is also a symptom. While, we don’t know exactly where this monster is thriving, my doctors believe it’s getting it’s blood supply from my bowels. That means lower intestinal tract. Hence the constipation. This beast is sucking the life out of my lower organs. And, have I mentioned how huge it is? I’m still shocked.
Where we go from here is a little up in the air right now. Surgery, radiation, and chemo are all on the table again. It’s a matter of the sequence of these treatments in determining the effectiveness. Late yesterday afternoon we met with a General Oncologist that my Gyn Oncologist recommended we see. Once we met this doctor, we immediately adored him. God has sent us another key player for our team. He is a genius when it comes to chemotherapy. He knows all the different types of drugs and their side effects. His knowledge immediately put us at ease. In addition, he treats a lot of lung cancer patients. Most lung carcinomas are similar to my Neuroendrocrine cancer. He knows his stuff. All of my doctors do, and we are so grateful for that. After explaining to us what we were dealing with, he began to talk about treatment options. Surgery first, then chemo? Chemo to shrink it and then surgery to remove it? While my current three Oncologists (Radiation Onc, Gynecologic Onc, and General Onc) are well versed, they really want the opinion of another expert.
As most know, MD Anderson is the biggest and best cancer center in America. Through word of mouth and recommendations, we have learned of a special doctor in Houston who is the lead researcher for my exact type of cancer. He is continually studying how my carcinoma works and what the most effective treatments are. Therefore, we need to get to Houston to see this expert immediately. My Oncologists here agree that I need to get out there as soon as possible… Like yesterday. However, remember the hoopla with our insurance? Again, they deem it unnecessary for me to travel outside of our basic providers to receive a consultation or treatment out-of-state. Completely asinine. Essentially, they require that my doctors here call the authorization department of our insurance company and explain the urgency and necessity of this MD Anderson visit. Being fed up, I asked what it would cost to get an appointment without using our insurance and the receptionist answered, “$27,000.” Needless to say, we need insurance to agree to cover this out-of-state doctor’s visit. That’s a huge prayer request of ours right now.
Long story short, we need to get this ball rolling. This cancer is fast-growing and more aggressive than I ever imagined. I’m desperate to get this monster out of me. I want it gone, and I will do whatever it takes. I’ll go to Zimbabwe to receive a shot made from monkey saliva if I need to. Whatever it takes. And not to mention, this sucker hurts. We knew cancer was mean, but this is at a whole different level. My stomach throbs, and any time I touch it, it fires back… Umm, no sir. You will not win. We are going to poke, prod, cut, poison, and demolish you. Get the hell out of me.
It is imperative that I receive a PET scan in the next few days. Our team and I want to make sure it hasn’t grown anywhere else. They definitely want to check my lungs and my brain for any traces of malignancy. My team of doctors is having my case meeting today to discuss my situation and what the best course of action they believe will be. They are also going to conference call the doctor in Houston to try and see if any strings can be pulled for us to get in to see him. We could be going to Houston as early as tonight or the beginning of next week. I could also be in surgery as early as next week. And chemo might or might not start before then. Everything is dependent on my local doctors communicating with this Oncologist in Houston and getting on the same page. They understand the urgency of my situation, and are willing to do whatever it takes as well. We are all in agreement as far as getting this ball rolling as quickly and effectively as we can. We will continue to keep you updated as soon as we have a more solid plan.
Initially the news rocked us. I was deeply saddened and frustrated that we would have to go through all of this again. My husband was pissed. His anger was directed at God. “How could you allow this to happen again!?” But after a night of grieving, we woke up yesterday with a fire under our asses. My strong guardian of a husband, wrapped his arms around me and said, “It may sound weird, but I’m not scared at all.” And I feel the same. We aren’t scared because we are confident that with God on our side, we can beat this. We will beat this. I will be cancer-free again. And for more than a few weeks this time. I am determined to fight this battle and stomp on the enemy’s intentions. The enemy wants to defeat me, and there is no way we are going to let that happen. I’ve already told God that he’s going to have to drag me kicking and screaming out of this world. As incredible as Heaven sounds, I’m definitely not ready to make it my home yet. I’ve got way too many things to do on Earth. We’ve got babies to be had, memories to be made, and many more years to experience. Our faith is strong and our fire is burning. We know we are about to endure another intense and difficult battle, but there is nothing to fear. After all, “God has overcome the world.” Our victory is in Him.
Cancer will not win, because I will not lose.
Mark 4:35-40 (The Message)
“Late that day he said to them, ‘Let’s go across to the other side.’ They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, ‘Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?’ Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!’ The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?'”