A Different Kind of Marathon — Part IVPosted on November 1st, 2013 2 comments
Sat Oct 5th, woke up in this no drama room and felt depressed; it’s Sat and I was no where near any trail. Instead I was in a hospital bed expecting no taste breakfast. How unexciting!! I wondered who were running where this morning? And I thought about tomorrow’s Rock n Roll race which I had signed up but would not be able to run now, how sad! I had run RnR SJ ever since they came to San Jose, and I would not be able to run this year’s Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving either. I am missing my annual ritual
After the routine breakfast, I was getting antsy sitting in my bed idly, so I managed to push myself out of bed without anyone’s help and started walking in hallways. With support of the rails on the walls, I started pacing the floor back and forth. Thinking about the runs and races I would be missing from now, it felt extra lonely being the only one walking around here. No one was into exercising in hospital I guess.
In the morning, Dr. Nayak came and explained the type of tumor they found and explained how to take care of myself after getting OK to be released from hospital, and when to go see him for post-op check up..etc. The tech came to do a chest X-ray, and another one came for blood test. I was getting bored here and there really wasn’t any treatment for me at this time. I was eager to leave hospital, but it’s still up to Dr. Tee’s decision.
Lori and Terry came to see me after their Sat run at Campbell, and they brought me my favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte with a pumpkin bagel — what a treat!! While they were telling me about their plan/race for tomorrow, Max walked in!! I haven’t seen him since his birthday party in Aug, and somehow he seemed to be different now. He is becoming a stranger! We congratulated him for his PR at Sydney Marathon, and he told us about the kangaroo, koala..etc.; definitely he had a fun trip in Australia.
When Max and I were in the room by ourselves, I told him about what’s going on exactly and for the first time I actually said “I am scared.” In his always calm and gentle tone, he said “don’t fear for nothing, it may not be that bad.” Then I covered my head with my hands and tried to hide tears saying “But I don’t want to lose my hair,” and again very calmingly he said “It will grow back.” I looked at his thick beard and can’t help but laughed; he always has his way to ease my worries. Having him sitting there I forgot about my pain and suffering for a little while, and proudly described the walk I had in the hallway. We joked about wearing my RnR SJ bib on hospital gown, and Max teased about racing in walkers while elder patients with oxygen tanks cheered “Go Go Michele!!” He painted a very funny visual in my head.
Doctor came to exam me and she said the incisions looked good, and blood test indicated that my hemo was back to close to 11, therefor she was going to release me this afternoon. Woohoo, good news!! I can get out of here now! I joked that Max must look really scary just sitting there, so he got me kicked out of hospital. While he was in Sydney, I have given him a complimentary RnR SJ race entry, so I told him go pick up his bib before the Expo closed. Wished him luck tomorrow and I sent him off. Run fast for me, my lucky star!
That evening after signing off a stack of paperwork, I was released from the hospital. Nine days after I checked myself into ER, finally I was going home.
Sunday Oct 6th, I was so happy to wake up in my own room, the touch and smell of my own linen were so comforting. And I slept much better in my own bed! I setup a small table next to my bed for my medicine, water, flower, and my recovery buddy — Shaun The Sheep. I pretty much slept most of the time, and when awake I started worry about what the pathology report would reveal.
Monday Oct 7th, Anita came to see me on her way to work, and we talked for a long time in my bed about the surgery, the tumor, recovery…etc. That night my sister came from Taiwan to look after me, and I felt much relieved with her helping around the house. I also received a very heart-warming note from Mary, the nurse in recovery room, she wished me a speedy recovery. In the next few days I started receiving medical bills that totally shocked me. I had to punch the calculator several times to make sure I didn’t make a mistake — $261,158.34 for the 9 day’s hospitalization.
Through out the week(s) I had visitors almost everyday; friends brought me porridge, chicken soup, pancake batter, pasta, croissant, more chocolates and more flowers! Some wrote me messages and suggested books, movies, knitting projects…etc. Mike even had fresh groceries delivered by BlueApron for me so my sister could cook me gourmet meals with fresh ingredients. Albert brought me a huge Hello Kitty balloon, Amelie came to bake me an apple pie, and Ryan got me French pastries…etc. I was really touched by all the supports I was getting. But I only talked about the lung problem and treatment when they visited me, and for a very cowardly reason I did not want to talk about the removal of the tumor, my uterus and ovaries. I wanted to hide my imperfection, I needed to cover my incomplete. I felt lessened.
Friday Oct 11th, took a taxi to my first post-op appointment with Dr Huan about my lung, and after checking my breathing, blood test and pathology reports he ruled out the pneumonia possibility. He said the fluids drawn from my lung was blood, and with the discovery of that rare type of tumor he was turning me to a cancer specialist from now. He made an appointment for me to meet with an Oncologist in the afternoon. I took my sister to a nearby Mexican restaurant within walking distance, and was nervous during lunch but didn’t show at all.
I met with Dr. Hla at 2:00pm in the Cancer Care Institute, and she went over the medical reports with me; this was the first time I actually learned about the details and result of that hysterectomy. My uterus, both ovaries, Fallopian tube were removed from me along with the tumor found in the left ovary. It’s approximately sized at 12.5cm, and it’s a very rare type called Granulosa Cell Tumor; it’s moderately differentiated. This is a very slow-growing tumor, so usually won’t be discovered till it grows to larger size. And because of the blood in my lung fluids, she can’t rule out the possibility of cancer cell spreading to other organs.
Dr. Hla then outlined the short-term and long term plans for me; for the next two weeks I would go see a Gastroenterologist, do a mammogram, chest X ray, complete blood test with cancer markers, and full body PET/CT Scan. And I will continue the cancer staging blood test every 3 months for the next 5 years. Until we get all the screenings done, we are not having any chemo or radiation treatment yet.
Oct 11, 2013 marked a start of a different kind of marathon — I was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer.
Several friends in my social media circle have told me that it’s a very brave thing for me to write and share about my experience, and I wanted to add that reasons of my sharing this very very private matter are –
1. I have gone through the phase of being numb, confused, scared and depressed, and initially I simply did not want to talk about it. However, I eventually came to an awakening that if I can’t speak about it openly, then I will never be able to handle it positively. Feeling lessened is a very stupid thing. After my first entry of this “A Different Kind of Marathon,” I finally was ready to Face It, Accept It and Deal with It.
2. I also wish that someday when someone encounters similar misfortune, he/she will not feel so alone. Hope my experience will help him/her making the necessary choice easier when situation is tough. It’s doctor’s duty to save a patient’s life, and removing organs out of your body sometimes is the best solution to prevent it gets worse — especially for cancer. No body-parts worth your life.
Good luck on your journey. It looks like a tough path, but then again – you will make it to the end. You are, after-all, a runner…
Any idea when you would be able to run again (without a walker)?
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