Sunday, October 24, 2010

November 10, 2009

            This was the day we were supposed to get the results back from Tom’s biopsies. However, Tom had an appointment at our family doctor on this day in order to have Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork filled out, so he could take off work for his upcoming doctor’s appointments without incident with his job. I told him that he did not need to get it filled out yet, because we still did not have the results of his biopsy back yet. However, he insisted that he would rather have it taken care of sooner than later.
            Dr. Charles came walking in the room with a smile on her face as always. Tom handed her the FMLA paperwork, and he asked her politely if she would fill it out, so he could get it back to his job the following day.
            As Dr. Charles began filling out the paperwork, she was not sure how to answer the question that asked how long the patient/employee would be out of work due to his or her illness. She looked up from the paperwork and asked us, “Have you received back the results from the endoscopy procedure you had done last week?”
            “No, we have not received a call back yet from Dr. Peters. However, he did say that the results should be back sometimes today,” Tom answered her.
            “Well, I really cannot fill out this paperwork if I do not have any idea how many days you will be out of work, because I have no idea what your treatment plan is going to be. Tell you what, I am going to go out to the computer, and I am going to see if your biopsy results came back yet. Give me a few minutes, and I will be right back,” she said as she walked out of the room.
            Tom looked at me and said, “I really doubt if the results are back yet; otherwise, Dr. Peter’s office would have called us first thing this morning.”
            “Maybe we will get lucky, and they will be there when Dr. Charles goes to check.”
            Dr. Charles walked back into the room and without skipping a beat announced without any caution, “Yes, it seems that you have a stomach cancer.”
            Mine and Tom’s faces went blank. Thank God he was sitting in a chair because every ounce of color that he had on his face completely vanished. I was standing by the examination bed, and I could tell the expression on my face went completely blank in that moment. We were utterly speechless. I began to cry immediately and grabbed for a tissue.
            How could this doctor be so insensitive to break this news to us in this type of manner. However, when she saw the expressions on our faces, her expression on her face just vanished. She must have thought that we knew the tumor was cancerous.
            “Didn’t you know before you came in for this appointment that Dr. Peter’s had found stomach cancer?” She asked.
            “No! Dr. Peter’s office had not called yet before we left the house. This is the first we found out about this,” Tom answered her with astonishment.
            “I am so sorry. I thought that you were already aware that the mass was cancerous,” she said as she walked over to Tom and leaned down to give him a hug. She then proceeded to come over to where I was standing and hugged me. She looked at Tom and said, “Well, the next step you will need to take is you will have to meet with an oncologist. Is there any particular one that you like better than another?”
            “Dr. Chadsworth, Mary Chadsworth’s father, is an oncologist. I would like to see him. Liz’s mom saw him when she had her esophageal cancer, so I would like to go to him,” Tom answered her.
            “Ok, I will get this appointment set up before you leave today. Do either of you have any other questions before I go to schedule this appointment?”
            “No,” Tom said.
            Dr. Charles walked out of the room, and I immediately ran over and began hugging Tom. “It will be ok. We will get through this. It’s probably not that bad. They probably found it in its early stages,” I said trying to sound encouraging.
            Tom said nothing. He just sat there with a blank look on his face.
            Dr. Charles came back into the room. “Your appointment with Dr. Chadsworth is this Friday, November 13. However, you will have to go to a town about 20 minutes from here. Otherwise, he will not be able to see you locally for two weeks. Is the appointment for Friday ok?”
            “Yes, that is fine,” I said to her.
            We left the office once again speechless, but this time I believe was worse that when we left the gastroenterologist’s office. As we were walking out of the building with our heads hung low and not saying a word, we both immediately heard someone yelling our names.
            “Tommy! Liz!” this voice yelled.
            We immediately started looking around, but at first saw no one. Then from the bus parked in front of the doctor’s office came Tom’s sister, Joni, bounding off the bus as fast as her little legs could take her. When I saw her, I could no longer hold back the tears. I hadn’t seen Joni in three years even though we lived in the same town. Tom’s family was never very fond of him marrying me, so I learned over the years to just stay to myself. However, I always had a special place in my heart for Joni. I truly missed her when she stopped talking to me over the passed three years.
            “What’s wrong, Liz? It’s your mom isn’t it? What’s going on? Something is wrong. Tell me what’s wrong,” Joni wouldn’t let us get a word in edgewise.
            “Tom, you need to tell her what is going on,” I sobbed.
            “I was just diagnosed with cancer,” Tom told her reluctantly.
            “Oh my God, NO!” Joni started to cry. “Are you busy right now? Would it be ok if I came along home with you guys?” she asked.
            “Sure,” we both agreed.
            Joni didn’t stop talking the whole way to our house, but this was just fine because it kept our minds off the diagnosis Tom had just received.
            Later that evening after Joni went home, Tom sat down at the kitchen table and began to write five of the hardest letters he would ever have to write in his entire life. The letters were to his siblings explaining that he was just diagnosed with stomach cancer. Tom explained to me that as hard as it was to write five letters it would have been 100 times worse to have to tell his family members over the telephone of his diagnosis. He was making the right decision to tell his siblings of the situation.
We had no idea the turn our lives had just taken, and we had no clue how intense the journey we were about to embark on was going to be.

Monday, October 18, 2010

November 5, 2009 (1 p.m. The Procedure)

1 p.m.
            At one o’clock Tom and I returned to the gastroenterology center for his endoscopic procedure. I truly wasn’t too worried, because I knew that everything was going to be fine. Tom was a young man, and he had no prior symptoms before this other than acid reflux but he hadn’t been bothered with that in nearly two years. I was sure that this was just standard precautions that doctors must take.
            Very promptly at 1 p.m. the nurse called Tom back to the room in order to prep him for the procedure. I was seated in the waiting room with a book in hand to keep me occupied during the procedure. A few minutes later, the nurse came back out to the waiting room and told me I could wait with Tom until it was time for him to be taken back to the procedure room. I grabbed my things and walked back the hallway where Tom was patiently waiting. The nurse had already put his I.V. in his arm, and now Tom was just waiting for the anesthesiologist who would administer the happy juice that would make him fall off to dreamland. I walked over to his bedside, and I leaned down and gave him a kiss on the forehead.
            “Everything is going to be fine, sweety. You have nothing to worry about.”
            “I hope you are right. I don’t know. I still think it is very odd how quickly they wanted to do this procedure.” He answered me.
            We had no sooner started our conversation until the anesthesiologist poked his head in the door to take Tom to the procedure room. I leaned down and kissed him one more time. “You will be fine. I love you, and I will see you in a few minutes.”
            I returned to the waiting room and took out my book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, to keep my mind off Tom’s procedure. In the back of my head questions were running rampant. Why was this happening? What exactly was happening? Why did they want to do the procedure so quickly? I tried to concentrate on my book, but these thoughts kept flowing like wild fire. Twenty minutes had barely passed when the nurse came back out to the waiting room to fetch me.
            “Liz, you can come back now. They are finishing up, and he will soon be in the recovery room,” she stated as I grabbed my book and coat and followed her to the recovery room. As I rounded the corner to walk into the room, Dr. Peters was standing outside the room, and I could tell by the expression on his face that he did not have good news for us. His eyes were glassed over, and a frown had embedded itself on his face that not even a chisel could remove.
            “I don’t like the expression you have on your face,” I exclaimed to him as I walked into Tom’s recovery room. He was still passed out from the procedure, but the nurse was trying to wake him quickly because the doctor wanted to speak to him while he was awake.
            “Tom isn’t quite awake yet, so I will come back in about 10 to 15 minutes, and I will explain everything to you,” Dr. Peters stated as he walked out of the room.
            I sat there dumbfounded while the nurse was waking Tom. The thoughts were going crazy in my head. I knew that this was going to be bad, but I was hoping still hoping that it was nothing. Tom was slowly stirring, and he asked me for his glasses. I took his glasses out of my purse and handed them to him. I quickly had to help him put them on his face because he nearly poked himself in the eye with the arm of the glasses. “Here, let me help you with them. I don’t think you are quite awake yet,” I laughed.
            Dr. Peters returned shortly, and Tom sat up in bed to hear the report. “I wish I could tell you that I had good news, but unfortunately I don’t.” He paused for a brief moment as Tom and I looked at each other. “I found a large mass in your esophagus and the upper half of your stomach. I cannot tell you that it is cancerous, but I took out several specimens to send away for biopsies. Let’s hope for your sake that it is a lymphoma and not an adenocarcinoma. A lymphoma is very treatable, so let’s pray that this is what the tumor is. I have put a rush on the biopsy, so I should have the results back by Tuesday morning. I know this puts a lot of pressure on you for over the weekend because today is only Thursday, but just hope for the best. I want to warn you that from today forward your lives are going to be like a runaway freight train, and you are not going to have control over it for a very long time. This ride will take you over hills and at times you will feel lost and out of control, but I know that everything will be ok,” He tried to reassure us. “I will give you a call on Tuesday with your results as soon as I get them. In the meantime, try not to worry too much, and please try to have a good weekend.”
            By this point, tears were streaming down my face. I was swiping at them, so Tom would not see. I was trying to hold it all in because I needed to be strong for him. I had to be encouraging for him.
            As we drove home from the doctor’s office that afternoon, we were speechless. The closer we got to home, Tom looked at me and said, “Liz, if this is cancer, I do not want anyone to know; not even my family.”
“Tom, that is not fair to your family, and that is not fair to me. You know you cannot keep that kind of information from your family members. If something were to happen in the long run, I will get the blame for keeping that information from your siblings. No, I cannot agree with that. You must tell them. You do not have to do it now, but if it does turn out to be cancer, you must tell them eventually,” I said.
The rest of the drive home was in complete silence. Neither one of us knew what more to say. We were in for a long weekend of worry.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

November 5, 2009

This day would be the day to change my life, and I had no idea what direction the universe was taking me until much later. Let me introduce myself. My name is Liz, and on this day, my life was about to become a runaway freight train that would take me on a wild ride that led me to find The One, The Creator, The Higher Power, or otherwise known as God.
9:00 a.m.
My husband and I were sitting in the waiting room of our local gastroenterologist’s office not quite sure why we were here. My husband, Tom, went to our family doctor, Dr. Charles, for a tick bite then one thing led to another, and he ended up having one test after another done. We were not quite sure what the doctor was looking for. Tom told Dr. Charles that he was feeling a pressure in his chest; however, this pressure was not painful. Dr. Charles sent Tom, for a stress test which came back magnificently. She then proceeded to send Tom for an upper G.I. with a barium swallow. During this procedure, the doctor found an abnormality. He informed Tom that it was probably nothing, but he encouraged him to have a procedure called an endoscopy where they put a tube down your throat to view the throat and stomach areas. At first we thought nothing of this appointment just another routine procedure; however, the gastroenterology department moved Tom’s appointment up by two weeks. His original appointment was not until November 19, but here we were on November 5, waiting to be seen by yet another doctor. Why all these tests? Tom was perfectly healthy except for a slight pressure in his chest. What was really scary was the fact that the doctor Tom was to meet today is one of our local oncologists, Dr. Chadsworth.
            “Thomas,” the nurse beckoned from the doorway. Tom and I stood up to go to the room where we would meet with the doctor.
            “Hello. I am Mary Chadsworth, and I am Dr. Peter’s assistant. I would like to go over the procedure we would like to perform, and I would also like to give you a little information about what the doctor has found from the reports from your upper G.I. study” she said all this with a pleasant smile. She was a young lady probably in her early thirties with long, blonde hair. This was clearly not the oncologist my mother had seen a year ago.  
            “Oh, your last name is Chadsworth? Are you related to Dr. Chadsworth, the oncologist” I asked inquisitively.
            “He is my father,” she answered with a grin upon her face.
            “I was extremely worried when we received the message on our answering machine I thought Tom was supposed to see your father.”
            “Don’t worry! People get us confused all the time. I am constantly getting his files sent to me by mistake, and he gets mine. His name is Matthew, so you can see how we can be confused. Both of us are M. Chadsworth. No worries. Tom will not have to see my father anytime in the near future,” she reassured us.
            Miss Chadsworth then began explaining how the procedure would take place, and she explained in detail what it all involved which of course covered all the noted side effects and risks. She then began to explain what the upper G.I. procedure had found. “Well, we found a mass in your throat. By the looks of the reports, this mass is located at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach. We are not sure if the mass goes into the stomach area. This is why we wanted you to come in today to see if you would be interested in having the endoscopic procedure done. However, Dr. Peters will explain everything in further detail when he comes in next.”  
            “Well, it sounds like a procedure that needs to be done” Tom stated bluntly.
            “Yes, it is. Let me go get Dr. Peters, and we will set up a date.” Mary Chadsworth walked out of the room in search of the doctor.
            Tom turned to me while we were alone in the room, “Liz, this doesn’t sound good.”
            “Oh, don’t worry, honey, it’s just a standard procedure they have to do to make sure it’s not something serious. Maybe, they can do the procedure today since you haven’t eaten anything since late last night,” I encouraged him.
            “Maybe, but why did they want me in here so suddenly? Why didn’t they wait till my scheduled appointment on the 19th?”
            “Don’t worry. They just had an opening, so they called you in sooner,” trying to convince myself of this truth.
            Just then the door opened and in walked Dr. Peters along with Mary Chadsworth. Dr. Peters didn’t look much older than my husband and me, and we were in our mid 30’s. However, his hair was more salt and pepper than mine or Tom’s, but doctors probably have more stress in their lives than the average person.
            “Hello, I am Dr. Peters,” he said as he shook each of our hands. “Mary tells me that she informed you about the mass that was found by your upper G.I., and she also informed you of how the procedure would work.”
            “Yes,” Tom said. “When exactly were you planning on doing the endoscopic procedure,” Tom asked a little reluctantly.
            “When was the last time you had anything to eat or drink?”
            “Not since 8 o’clock last night,” Tom answered him. “I didn’t eat or drink anything this morning because I wasn’t sure if this was just going to be a consultation or if I was going to have to have the procedure done today.”
            “Well, we had a cancellation for 1 p.m. today, and if you are willing, I would like you to come back then to have this procedure done right away. This is something that cannot wait. You are a very young man. You are my age, and we need to find out as soon as possible what is going on in your throat and stomach areas.”
            Tom looked at me and said, “Will you be able to take the rest of today off work in order to bring me back for this procedure.”
            “Absolutely,” I reassured him. “I haven’t taken very much time off work, and I am sure my boss will understand. Let’s get this done today. There is no better time than the present.”
            “Great!” Dr. Peters announced. “Mary, go get this scheduled out at the front desk.” He then turned to Tom and me and said, “I will see you both back here at 1 p.m. and make sure you do not eat or drink anything, Tom.”
            Mary scheduled the procedure for 1 p.m., and Tom and I walked out of the doctor’s office not sure what we should be thinking at this very moment.
            “What’s going on, Liz? Something must be really bad since they want me to get this procedure done today. This is crazy! I came to the doctor’s office for a tick bite. Now, they are telling me they found a mass in my throat. This cannot be good!”
            I could tell by the sound of his voice that he was very scared which he had every right to be, but I could not believe for one moment that this was anything serious. Tom never had any symptoms other than occasional bouts of acid reflux, but that hadn’t been bothering him for nearly two years now. I was sure this was just proper protocol to make sure nothing was wrong.
            “Don’t worry. You will be fine.” I encouraged him.
I then proceeded to call my boss and explain to her that the doctor wanted to perform the procedure today. She was fine with me taking the rest of the day off work. I work at a daycare center. I actually just started this job in September. Previously, I was off work due to a disc herniation in my back. I worked at a juvenile detention center, and I obtained a back injury during physical intervention training. This is where the employees are taught how to restrain the youths if they become out of control. One would have thought that one of the residents at the center had hurt my back, but that wasn’t the case at all. While I was training a new employee proper intervention procedures, one of my supervisors put a little too much pressure on my back, and my one disc ended up herniating. It took me nine months to find a job after that injury, and that is when I started working at the daycare center. But I truly enjoy working with children, which I should considering that I did in-home daycare for 10 years.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting Started

For the last year, my family's life has been a roller coaster ride or as some have said in the past, a runaway freight train. I believe the later description is much better, because the ride has not been as fun as a roller coaster ride. However, this ride took us over hills, bumps, and turns that I never thought we would have to take at such an early stage of our lives. Come read my blog "My Journey to Spirituality" and see where this past year took my family and me...