So after spending a week in the hospital in December of 2005 and receiving a 6-pint blood transfusion, I wasn’t really feeling as well as I expected to feel in January of 2006. I mentioned some of my stomach issues to a coworker. She recommended her son’s GI doctor. She also said this doctor studied celiac disease for a hobby. I couldn’t wait to meet him. I set up an appointment right away. When I met with him in his office he told me he had once worked with Dr. Peter Green. I mentioned in a previous blog that I went to see Dr. Green at Columbia University in New York. I knew then that I’d come to the right place.
Things moved quickly once this GI was in the picture. He instructed me to have a lower and upper GI series. That is where you drink the barium drink and the technicians take x-rays of your body as the fluid is traveling through your system. If you’ve ever had to drink it you know exactly what I’m talking about. It is the grossest drink ever!!! The x-rays showed I had a blockage. It took hours for the barium to pass through me. I spent the whole day at the hospital. Following that, this GI performed an endoscopy. Unlike the first one I had many years ago, this one was done in a surgical center and I was given anesthesia. I didn’t feel a thing. My GI went down into my small intestines with a scope and took a biopsy.
On March 17, 2006 at a follow-up visit regarding the endoscopy results, my GI informed me that I had cancer: adenocarcinoma of the small intestine he called it. This is a rare form of cancer caused by untreated celiac disease for most of my life. The tumor was the size of a golf ball and was attached to my small intestine. I was bleeding internally, which was causing the loss of iron. Finally we had the answer to my severe anemia and why the iron intravenous wasn’t working. I asked him if he had treated other patients with this same cancer and what their outcome was. Since beginning his practice, he had only seen two other patients with celiac disease and this type of cancer. Neither of them survived. My outlook was bleak. I just sat there. Numb. He told me he couldn’t believe I was taking the news so well. He thought I would be crying hysterically. I told him that I’d been through so much crap that this was just one more stumbling block in the road of my life. I asked him what we were going to do about the cancer and we discussed it a bit further.
I left there in a state of shock. I drove home on what seemed like auto pilot. All I remember is the first song that played when I turned the radio on. It was Bad Day by Daniel Powter. How ironic right? Yes, it was a bad day but then again, I’d had a lot of bad days since 2003. Maybe this surgery would finally rid me of all my stomach issues. If I survived.
I arrived home and my husband was at the stove making dinner. He was mashing potatoes when I walked in. I stood in the doorway and simply said, “I have cancer.” I don’t remember his reply but I proceeded to tell him everything my doctor said. He went back to mashing the potatoes while I called my mother to give her the news. When I told her I had cancer, she said, “You’re kidding.” I said, “No… why would I kid about something like that?” I repeated to her everything the doctor said. Next I called each of my kids at college. I told them I would be having surgery on my small intestine to remove a blockage that was causing my vomiting issues, but I never mentioned the word cancer. I just couldn’t say that word to them. I didn’t want to scare them. I did my best to put on a happy face even as I was getting my living will and my last will and testament in order.
I’d like to give you a word of advice. No matter how old you are, write a will. I know it’s something that younger people don’t even want to think about but it’s so important. It’s a good idea to do it when you’re in good health and don’t have a serious illness looming over your head. Find yourself a good attorney and have them guide you through it. Luckily, my husband and I prepared our wills several years prior so I basically just updated everything and told my family where to find it if I didn’t survive.