Urine for a Treat

For what was supposed to be one night in the hospital, it has now turned into 7 nights and possibly more. The pain, at times, is unbearable and I want the hell out. My arms are black and blue from needles and ports, along with my back and legs from surgery. I want out. The nurses are all exceptionally sweet and diligent in their duties, tending to my every need. I want out.

I watched in agony as my towel dropped to the floor this morning, reaching for it while envisioning one of those grabbers (I think I should get one). I insist on showering and doing everything I possibly can on my own, but when I drop something, it has to stay. Bending down breaks me into a sweat, trying to backcomb my hair breaks me into a sweat; all efforts to do anything are tiresome. Sitting up in a wheelchair for two hours makes me feel like I’ve done a Super Beast run. I look in the mirror and see the Michelin man, envisioning myself parading around the streets of New York with that stupid Stay Puft hat because the fluids have bloated me to upwards of 150 pounds.

Last Wednesday night I decided, at 3 in the morning, that I was going to sit up in bed and try to walk around. What happened moments after, I don’t remember, but can only describe. Thankfully, I had called a nurse to help me out of bed because, as I pushed the button on the bed to raise me up, my blood pressure lowered drastically. 61/42. For two minutes, Joey watched in shock as I sat staring into nothing. Nurses yelled my name and pounded on my chest, but still no response. 6 of them stood around in fear speaking about calling the trauma nurses. The thing I remember is seeing Joey’s face while yelling my name, then turning to a nurse as she yelled it, too.

That was the night that started my journey to where I am today. I had 4 blood transfusions to get my hemoglobin stable. On top of that, I have this bag that I have to maneuver my legs around every time I get out of bed (see above to refer to exhausting tasks). It’s my gold. The key to getting me out of here. I just have one more hurdle – that f*&%king bag. As longs as everything is in line, I can go home the next couple days.

All of this and I’m still laughing, telling the doctors I have truck nuts (inquire within if you’d like more information) while asking whether or not my blood pressure is stable enough to leave.

I’ve cried. It sucks. It gets boring and lonely sitting within four walls. My loving hubby visits every day for hours, but I send him home at night to sleep in a real bed with a real fuzzy Koko beast…it’s no place for a spouse to have to be.

Today, I had a particularly rough meltdown alone. It hurts to cry, it hurts to laugh, I’m stuck here until they deem me fit to leave. Most importantly, I am cancer free. After a morning of showering on my own and sitting up for a few hours, I was exhausted. My voice was shaky from the pain, but the thought of the drugs they give me for it made me more upset. They give me terrible headaches and don’t even work for very long. As I sat, unable to move in my chair, I looked out the door and saw something – a woman fighting just to walk around to get exercise, her IV behind her. The skin of her head glistened, pale in the lighting. She looked gaunt and tired from the a seemingly long battle she has been fighting. This made me cry more. All of these things that I’m upset about, but I forgot about the things that I do have. Yeah, I have surgical complications that I am hoping are not life-long, but some things I do have:

My hair.
The opportunity to even think of going home tomorrow.
A 97% cure rate.
I’m cancer free.

To that, I pondering the idea of decorating my catheter bag with my fabulous silver, bronze, and gold markers for the nurses. It will read:

Urine
for a
Treat

The Taboo Cancer and the Delicious Recipe that Will Help You Cope with it

You know, chances are that you are reading this and there’s a high probability that you’ve been with more than one person. Yeah, been with. In this day and age it is extremely rare (but does happen) that someone has only been with one person. Did you know that it only takes one person to cause cervical cancer? Yeah, that’s right, one. Do you know how many people have had or do have HPV? Damn near everyone. I had no idea that HPV was that common, did you? Did you also know that if you are a male, it can go undetected because it is not treatable in males? Yup.

What do you think of first when you hear HPV? Dirty? Loose? Well, it turns out that there are over 60 different strains of HPV and each and every one of us has carried at least one of them and didn’t know it. It just depends on your body and how it reacts.

When I was first told that I had an abnormal exam, I didn’t know what to think. I told my husband that it could possibly be because of pre-cancerous cells. Well, what causes those – HPV. My first initial thought was, no, it couldn’t be me that brought this into our marriage. We went back and forth on a drive to visit his brother about who it was, but wait a second – we are a team. It doesn’t matter who did what or where or when, we are married and this is just one of those marital bridges we cross…together, hand-in-hand.

It wasn’t until my second biopsy, scary by the way, that I found out that I had CIN 3 – severe cervical dysplasia, or stage 0 cancer.

“Well at least we caught it”, my hubby said.

We thought we did. In pain and a day away from two weeks since the procedure, I hurried to my doctor to see if there was something still going on. It turned out I didn’t have an infection, but what I did have was a tumor they “think” they got. I will never forget that moment. A doctor speaks to you, in a concerned and comforting voice, telling you that you have cancer. I kept the smile on my face and thanked her as I hopped down from the table. A million thoughts. A million. Your head spins. The doctor hugged me and stepped out of the room after telling me I needed to see an oncologist.

“Why am I so f*&$ing happy right now?” I thought.

My eyes grew wide and I looked to every wall in the room, as if searching for answers to questions that I didn’t even have yet. I picked up my phone and texted my husband.

“I need a drink. You will, too, after I tell you why. Call you in a few”, I wrote.

Imagine being on the receiving end of that text. Completely composed, I walked out of the office and to my car. I started my car (because it was as hot as Hades’ balls outside), and picked up my phone. One missed call. It was my hubby. I dialed.

“What’s going on”, he asked.

“She said I had cancer, but thought they got it all”, I said.

“What?!”

“I have cancer.”

His voice was as calm as he could be, but I could tell he was almost frantic. “What stage are you?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t ask. She said she was making an appointment with the oncologist for me and that it wasn’t urgent, so we can get our answers then.”

“Not urgent?!” He said.

He asked some other questions that I can’t remember, nor could I answer. I was in shock. And so began our first marriage milestone, albeit a horrifying one. No longer did it matter that I once had HPV that turned into cancer, I had cancer. That’s it. I no longer had control over my body, something else did. It was as if a body snatcher took me and I was trapped. I was at this thing’s mercy until I had answers. Thankfully, my husband is the biggest badass on the planet and took the reigns from me so that I could sit back, watch Netflix, and stew in my own thoughts.

Because of his persistence (and possible ability to send poor admins, secretaries, and nurses to therapy), we were on our way to MD Anderson Cancer Center within a matter of weeks (unheard of). How? He let the administrator know that he would call every half hour until my paperwork was released to MD Anderson.

Fast forward almost three weeks…I am scheduled to have surgery on July 29 with one of the best and top gynecologic oncology surgeons in the world – Dr. Pedro Ramirez. Not only is he extremely skilled in the highly specialized surgery that I am having, but he is one of the pioneers of doing the procedure robotically. Let me take a few moments to give that guy some kudos…First, anyone that leaves my hubby without any questions is doing his/her job and doing it well. We sat in a conference room with him where he explained my procedure – the radical trachelectomy. I just kinda looked like I was listening, cuz that’s what you do when you have ADD, but what I did hear is the 97% cure rate, along with the high probability of having children. (YAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSS! Mini Jim Harbaugh here we come!) All of this was said to us in words we understood, slowly and methodically, and with a confidence that didn’t exude cockiness (all EXTREMELY important when trying to win over a couple like us). We found our doctor. Better yet, my hubby found our doctor. Have you ever heard of a doctor calling his patient back to answer questions? How about calling your husband back to answer his questions? Do you have any idea how big MD Anderson is? No? It takes up multiple city blocks and only specializes in cancer. It’s gigantic, but they make you feel like you’re the only patient they are seeing.

Now that I got the boring stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the questions I’m going to ask. I already asked how many women hit on him in front of their husbands, so that one is out of the way (seriously, I’m not sure if he’s single, but if you are he would be a catch since my guy is taken already). I found an old presentation from a conference about robotic radical trachelectomies, so I might whip that one out and ask some of those as long as I can pronounce the words.

So, let’s digress a bit. My mom, being the online research fiend that she is, told me that birth control can cause cervical cancer. She’s not necessarily wrong, but that wasn’t my cause, and I’m sure it certainly didn’t help it, either.

I took a deep breath. “No mom, it’s from HPV,” I said.

(GASP) “YOU HAD WARTS?!” she proclaimed.

“No, mom,” I chuckled, “I did not and do not have warts,” I said, nervously.

“But that’s what it causes,” she proclaimed once more.

(Here is where your education and hers comes in) “Yes, it can, but that’s not the strain I had. There are several different strains and I happened to catch the one that gave me cancer,” I explained.

I was tired, but I gave her the whole lecture at it only taking one person to cause this. She obviously thought I got around, as I’m sure would be almost any parent’s first thought, but it wasn’t like I had. I gave her a couple scenarios until she seemed pacified.

“Who gave it to you,” she asked.

“I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. It’s just a speed bump that the hubby and I are getting over together,” I said, patting myself on the back with my bitchin answer.

At that, this is the problem with cervical cancer awareness. No one talks about it because it’s associated with STDs, sex, dirtiness, and getting around like a 2001 penny. It is the second cause of death for women in the United States and we STILL don’t talk about it! It is also the most preventable!!! So, get checked regularly, educate yourself, and ponder the Gardasil shot for your daughters when it comes time. Save yourself some heartache because not all doctors are familiar with radical trachelectomies and are certainly ready to give hysterectomies.

That being said, here is the recipe that will help you cope:

BAD-ASS CANCER COPER

1 Fifth of Tequila
The juice of 10 limes with one extra (unjuiced)
A jug of your fav margarita mix
orange juice (50 calorie for us big babies)
1 Lemon, juiced
Bloody Mary salt

Get a jug (because you’re not going to wanna measure this shit) and throw all of your lime juice and lemon juice in. Put about two shots worth of orange juice in there, too. Add a bunch of tequila (to your taste) and then throw in your margarita mix. Stir all of that business together like there’s no tomorrow. Next, cut a wedge of lime and run it around the rim of your glass (margarita glass, sippie cup, solo cup, I don’t care). Shove your glass in some of that bloody Mary salt and put a smile on your face. This is gonna be frickin delicious. Either shake some of that bitchin mix and pour it off into your cup, or throw some ice in there and fill ‘er up. However you take your cancer-coping margarita is completely up to you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of those that you love and love you most because life is too short to do otherwise.

The Big “C”

Today is day 20 after finding out that I had a cancerous tumor on my cervix. As I lay in bed, exhausted from doing nothing and getting barely any sleep, I’m constantly in thinking mode…thinking about the beautiful man that sleeps sweetly beside me, all of the things he is doing to make me comfortable, and the unknown.
At this point, the doctors don’t know what stage I’m at, which prompted the Hubby to make several phone calls to doctors, hospitals, and receptionists to find the best hospitals we could travel to. His belief that his late Grandmother, Germie, sent me to him, drives him to find the answers that will keep us healthy for years to come.
For years before the Hubby, I found myself indifferent with the thought of having children. After all, they smell, take turbo shits that most certainly end up in odd places  (including your hair), and they encroach upon my best laid plans of owning a Chanel handbag…as I step into my Ford Focus. That all slowly changed when I met my Hubby. Now, Friday will be 9 months of awesome marriage, and I couldn’t stop talking about having a little boy to dress up like Jim Harbaugh for Michigan game days (complete with mini, blue permanent marker and mini notepad).
All of that came tumbling down to a screeching halt after last week’s visit with an oncologist. Am I being punished because I had always vowed never to ruin my body with child birth? If so, I promise I don’t care as long as I can have a little one. The thoughts that cross my mind.
Angry doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings, but what can I do? We have to play the cards we’ve been dealt and always try to remain one step ahead of the dealer. The temper tantrums I’ve had in my head have been epic, and growing epically bigger as the days pass. I can only imagine what will happen in real life if this week doesn’t go as I hope. Fuck, shit, damn, son of a bitch…They’re all normal words that cross anyone’s mind during a tough time. I mean, let’s be honest.
The little things, “At least you don’t have cancer”, cross my mind when people complain…then I stop myself and get a jolt of reality because that saying can no longer apply to me, and I can’t frickin believe it.
This week, we are venturing off to Houston to MD Anderson’s cancer facility to get a better handle on what we’re dealing with, so the adventure continues and the updates will too.
Switching gears, I have to say that I married into the biggest support system known to man. Sisters, brothers, moms, and dads galore, on top of my own! They all call and/text words of love, support, and encouragement to both the Hubby and I. To that, though I have constant, racing thoughts, I say, “We’ve got this”.

I will be making bracelets to raise awareness for cervical cancer. They will include the infinity symbol to signify family and friends as a constant, along with a dark blue bead to signify my Hubby and his strength throughout this whole thing (he has a labeled accordion file with all of my documents, all of his questions, and any easily accessible info. Talk about organized). One version will be corded and will go for $10, and the other will be beads of different sorts that will go for $15. If you are interested, let me know – half of the proceeds will be given to the American Cancer Society because there is more than one cancer that needs a cure.

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We’ve got this.