Diagnosis · Musings · Treatment

Free Bird


“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.” – Proverbs 31:25 (NLT)


Tomorrow is Annual Birthed a Kidney Day.

June 8 feels rather traumatic to me. First of all, I’ll admit it. I thought I was a big ole wimp. The idea then of going through this incredibly hellacious and painful operation seemed daunting. While I would not choose to go through it a second time, I will say I underestimated the power of heavy painkillers and epidural. But, the fear lay heavy the night before, this time last year.

First of all, I had been on a liquid diet for 3 days at this point. If you wondered what my last meal would be, I can tell you because I’ve already had it. My sweet, amazing grandparents cooked a feast for me on the last day I could eat. My grandfather cooked a jambalaya, and my grandmother made her potato salad. Give me the option to eat a 5-star gourmet meal or my grandparents’ jambalaya and potato salad, and I will choose the jambalaya and potato salad each and every time. The liquid diet, however, is pretty vile for the record. I swore I’d never eat Jello again, but lo and behold, when I was finally cleared for liquids after surgery, I dove right into the Jello.

Second of all, I was in an incredible amount of pain as I had almost no circulation to my lower extremities at this point, the tumor completely blocking my vena cava, essentially the main artery that brings blood from your legs back up to your heart. I was very swollen and couldn’t walk without my walker, and even that was a struggle.

Third, oh yeah, I was TERRIFIED. Determined, but terrified. What choice did I have? Oh that’s right, none. In our hotel room that night, I cried in my husband’s arms, the totality of it hitting me. What if this doesn’t stop the cancer? Holy shit, I HAVE CANCER. What if I don’t even make it through surgery?! I then dried my tears, took a long bath, and afterwards, I took a picture of my abdomen. I know it sounds weird, but I knew my stomach would never look the same again and I needed to have some kind of reminder as to what pre-cancer (or pre-surgery at least) looked like.

I read my operative notes recently. I requested my medical records for a project, and I got the full kit and caboodle. It probably wasn’t the best idea to read my operative notes, but my innate curious nature got the best of me. Basically, my 5.5 hour surgery was intense, to say the least. The primary tumor had taken over my kidney, created its own blood supply, and blocked my circulation, among other things. Makes so much sense now why when I donated blood at work a month before my diagnosis, I got nauseous and lightheaded. I had never had that happen before and remember being puzzled by it. It’s because my body was going, “HELLO, losing enough blood as it is, you jerk!”

But the surgery was a beast. The two surgeons, with over 60 years of experience between them, rated it as very difficult. They are surprised in the notes that I remained stable throughout the surgery. One of them remarked to me and my family days later that I was one of the strongest patients he’d ever had.

I have zero doubt in my mind – I know my great-grandmothers were in the operating room that day, praying their rosaries in their melodious Cajun French.

I don’t know where the road goes from here, how long the Cabo will keep working its magic, what comes next. I just keep doing what I did on June 9 last year: putting one foot in front of the other.

Choices when it comes to cancer is largely a fallacy. All choices have drawback. It’s a balance between what you want and what risk you’re willing to take to hopefully get there.

Latest CT results are on Friday, so with any luck, it will be much less traumatic than my June 9 of last year, 24 hours out of the biggest surgery of my life. Either way, I recognize how blessed and lucky I am just to be here to see another June 8 on the books.

Nothing is ever guaranteed. What a hard way to learn this painful lesson.



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