No one can ever truly imagine what it’s like to hear you have cancer
Most of my extended family have had and survived, or have died from cancer. Breast cancer, lung cancer, esophagus cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer. I was actually expecting breast cancer. That fact seemed woven into my life’s expectations. I was prepared to hear that news. I also assumed I would survive it.
I wasn’t expecting stage 4 metastasized pancreatic cancer. In my lymph nodes, lungs, liver and other parts unknown.
My first words were: You have just given me a death sentence.
And that is exactly how I felt. For those close to me, it was how they felt too.
Then I became so overwhelmed I could hardly comprehend the world around me. It was a blur. Phone calls. Medical tests. Phone calls. Meetings with several different doctors. MRI, CT scan, PET, ultrasound, blood tests, x-rays, needles, phone calls. Endoscopy for a stint to be placed in a bile duct (I hate those words – they seem private, like bra. But also gross!) Biopsies. Bad news. Surgery to place a port. Phone calls.
And then pancreatitis
Pain, emergency room and hospitalization. I actually thought it was gas and waited over 12 hours to seek help. I waited overnight doing yoga to calm myself. When I walked into the e.r. I told them it was either gas or pancreatitis. I didn’t want to go to the emergency room for gas! I was so overwhelmed! Fortunately, they responded to the words: pancreatitis. They gave me pain meds and reprimanded me when I didn’t ask for more fast enough.
And they kept me in the hospital. But, at least for a couple of days the whirlwind stopped and I rested. I felt safe because someone else was in charge of my care and there was a fixable problem. But I didn’t really feel that good. Unfortunately, I’ve never felt fully well again.
My whole life’s expectation changed in moments and that is the definition and sense of being overwhelmed.