tl;dr (i.e. If You Have No Interest And/Or Don’t Want to Read the Whole Long Epic Tale)
I wasn’t 100% convinced that I wanted to share this on the internet, but I can’t talk about part of the story and leave out the rest. In short, I had a routine physical two months ago that found something in my abdomen. The doctors still don’t know what that something is, but it’s big enough that it needs to come out and they’ll test it for bad things at that time. The surgeon equated it to if I were 22 weeks pregnant, or, roughly the size of a small football.
The Good: Yay! I’m not just fat! (Seriously, we have to take our victories where we can get them)
The Interesting: Doc thinks this thing has been growing inside me for at least a couple of years
The Bad: This is pretty serious surgery since it’s technically exploratory. They know where it is and how big it is, but they don’t know what it’s connected to or even what it is.
The Ugly: I’m not going to go there until I’m loopy on post-op narcotic pain killers
The TMI: (Because I Have an Important Public Service Announcement So I’m Oversharing)
I haven’t been feeling “right” for some time now. At least a year I’ve been “off,” but for sure I thought something was wrong about 7 months ago. When I scheduled the doctor’s appointment I said I “wanted to get my hormones checked.” The doctor interpreted that as “full blood work, physical, and lady exam.” And thank goodness my doctor was so thorough.
And now all I can think about is this:
But I digress. Everything came back normal except during the pelvic exam the doctor felt something weird. She sent me in for an ultrasound that included the “No! No! Bad!” kind of ultrasound, as my lady friends and I call it. Men, think of what it would be like to not just have a prostate exam, but to have a prostate exam for a full hour. A little invasive is putting it mildly though the radiologist sent me a nice card afterward from the hospital marketing department that said it was nice to meet me.
Unfortunately the ultrasound showed nothing, so then it was off to CT. And if you’ve never had a CT before it goes like this:
Step 1: Drink two cups of thick, white goop that tastes a little sweet and a lot gross over the course of two hours in a cold, sterile hospital room with a non-working TV.
Step 2: Let nurse stick you with a needle to start an IV while you lie down and wait to be pushed through a donut-shaped machine that includes an encircling red light that looks like the eye of a Cylon.
Step 3: Contrast is pumped through your IV giving you menopausal-type hot flash that ends in you feeling like you’ve peed your pants while the CT Cylon looks on judgmentally.
The pictures must’ve come out better because they completely confused my primary care doctor. She sent me to a surgeon who basically told me that it doesn’t matter what this thing is, where it came from, what it’s connected to, etc, because it’s so big that it has to come out. I’m basically 22 weeks pregnant and have been for quite some time. I asked how long, potentially, this has been growing in me and he said at least a couple of years.
So in my completely vain response I’m happy that I’m not just fat. I can stop beating myself up for the fact that no diet in the past 2+ years nor any P90X or half marathon training has made much of a dent in my weight or pants size. Not because I haven’t tried, but because TUMOR. I console myself in the fact that I wear yoga pants, leggings, and maxi dresses by necessity…like any pregnant lady would do, and not by choice like I had originally thought.
The Mildly Comedic Outrage
It is an outrage, in my estimation, that I must bear much of the cost of pregnancy (mainly, the pain, recovery, and scar of a C-section) without any of the benefits (mainly, gift registries). Though I admit recovering from a C-section will be much easier without a newborn, and I’m still not sold on the no registry thing. I’m thinking a tumor baby registry at Binny’s Beverage Depot and DSW may still be warranted.
I kid. Kind of.
So what’s next?
Next is surgery. Then recovery, which will take place concurrently with the testing of this mass of awesome. I asked the surgeon if he would take a picture of it for me (I have a morbid curiosity), but he’s already put the kibosh on me taking it home (I wasn’t serious when I asked, I promise). I’m going to name it Ben (as opposed to Mal, though I am a big Firefly fan) and assume that because I had no symptoms that it’s not the C-word.
So that’s why I’ve been a bit MIA lately. It’s not because I don’t have, like, 50 blog posts half written (I do) or that I don’t have 3 e-books written and ready to launch (I do) or that I’m not ready to finally launch my e-newsletter that I had you sign up for 6 months ago (I am). It’s that I couldn’t move forward with any of that when I was frozen with inaction and dealing with the uncertainty and unknown of my prognosis. First I knew there was a problem, but I didn’t know what it was. Then that problem could’ve been incredibly serious and destructive of any future plans I’ve harbored for maybe one day starting a family. That was a dark period. Then I could be comforted by the fact that this problem wasn’t a part of my lady bits, but then faced with the issue that my doctors were, once again, at a loss. Now I know what the problem is, but it’s no less scary because it’s a freaking TUMOR in my ABDOMEN, that’s connected to SOMETHING but the surgeons won’t know the extent until they go in and see for themselves. Jesus.
You see where I’m at?
So I’m very sorry that I’ve been ignoring you and that I haven’t been providing the fun, quality content that I’ve been wanting to. I’m sorry that I’ve been wallowing. And I’m sorry that there will be a few more weeks or possibly months of recovery during which I just don’t know if I’ll have the energy or creativity or insights to share with you. I know I’ll have the time. If you have any suggestions for TV shows I MUST mainline during my convalescence, please let me know. I’m restarting my Netflix subscription in preparation of not moving for at least a week.
In all, the doctors have been surprised by how well I’m taking all of this, but after the initial visit it hasn’t been anything I wasn’t expecting. I’m very good at going with the flow and, ultimately, it’ll be nice to have my body back. And I can always come up with some hawt tattoo to cover up the scar…if you have any artistic suggestions I will also gladly accept those.
The only reason my doctors caught this is because I went in for a routine physical. What prompted me to make an appointment was that I was feeling unusually exhausted. That’s it. It wasn’t until my doctor asked about other side effects that I realized what I had been feeling and dealing with were side effects and not just, I don’t know, something I ate. Go get a regular physical. Ladies, get a pelvic exam and those other uncomfortable things they do to us. Not saying y’all are sick or anything. Just saying there are many things that carry no overt side effects, so you just…never…know. Until you’re 22 weeks pregnant.
A Sidenote About Health Care in America
The main reason I am not completely freaking out about this whole I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant episode that is my life (seriously, think I qualify? My story is totes more plausible than most on that show) is that I have excellent and free health care because I am Native American and I live within my tribe’s reservation. I would be flipping the fuck out if I had any of the insurance I’ve had through jobs in the past…mostly because those were all high deductible plans. A $3,000 deductible is just as out of reach to a low-salaried non-profit employee as a $40,000 surgery bill. Either way I would’ve been financially boned in addition to all the stress that just being sick brings.
I wish that every American could be financially worry free when they get sick. It’s the last thing anyone should have to think about or fear, and yet it’s the first thing that has to come to our minds. When I checked in for my meeting with the surgeon yesterday the first thing the clinic had me do was sign a document stating that they could sue me if I didn’t pay my bills in full within 30 days. Now, luckily, my bills are paid through the tribal clinic (if you want more information into why/how that is, feel free to email me and I’ll look into the particulars for you), but I know that’s not true for everyone.
I don’t want to make any political statements, but I will say this. No system is perfect, but as someone who is right at this moment experiencing an illness in the face of thousands of dollars in health care costs, well, I feel for my peers in this country who are facing their fights not with peace and comfort, but with very real fear and threat of financial insecurity and bankruptcy. I don’t know what the answer is. I am thankful every day that I am blessed with my safety net. But I do know that the status quo is not working. And I’ll step off my soap box now.
And leave you with this adorable sloth. An appropriate spirit animal to accompany me through my upcoming forced laziness: