Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The phone rang at 6:06 this morning and it was my mother in law calling to tell us that my brother in law died around 5:00 a.m.  After hearing the news on the speakerphone, my husband hung up the phone and went to get in the shower.
I stopped him immediately.  “Aren’t you going to call your sister?”  I couldn’t believe he wasn’t on the phone already.
“Now?  I should call her now?  Maybe I should wait.”
“Wait? Wait? Wait for what?  Her husband just died.  How can you be so detached?  If it were my sister I would have been there with her.”  He sighed at my early morning hysteria and slowly put on his sweatshirt, as if it were a shield, then walked downstairs to make the call.  When he came back up he explained that he had talked to her briefly but no plan had been made for the memorial service yet.  She seemed in shock.  It had happened sooner than she had expected.

I went downstairs to make coffee.  All the while I was thinking about Bridget.  She never got to see Jim before he died.  We tried to schedule the visit but it seemed like were intruding on their privacy and in the end we had to respect that.  I did send the card that she made down to him on Saturday so he got it on Monday.  I am just happy that I was able to get it to him before he died. 

“Mike, you know Bridget is going to be really upset.  We are going to have to tell her.”
“Do you want me to do it?  I will go up and tell her now before I go to work.”  He climbed the steps and then came back down a few minutes later. 
“She said she knew that she wasn’t ever going to see him again and then she rolled back over.”
“She was okay?”  I was not sure how that could be.
“She went back to sleep.” 
“Bye.  I will call Kate again later to see when we should go down.”  He kissed my cheek and was off to work.
I made the lunches for school and then went upstairs to get everyone up.  I walked into Bridget’s room and saw that she was already awake and she had been crying. 
“Mommy, what time did he die?” 
“He died early this morning.”
“Was he alone when he died?
“I don’t think so.”
“Did he die in his sleep?”
“Yes, I think he did die in his sleep.”
“So he had a peaceful death?”
“Yes, I think so.” 
“I don’t have a dress to wear to his funeral.”
“Yes you do, I bought you one.” 
“Oh, that is pretty.”

“Can I tell Luke?  Daddy shouldn’t have told me that way.  He told me and then he just left.  You need to stay with someone when you tell them something like that, not just walk away.”
“All right, let’s go get Luke up.”  So we walked into Luke’s room to share the news.  We sat with him as he digested the information.
“He had a peaceful death,”  said the oracle that is my seven year old.  And with that we all got up and began what was a very long and sad day for us all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Earlier this week I actually went in to see my oncologist after our interesting phone conversation.  I was almost due for my annual checkup anyway and I wanted to talk more about the fibroids, the endometrial lining and a troublesome lymph node under my left arm where I had the axillary node dissection.  Thankfully, he fit me in.
The appointment went completely opposite of our phone call.  He was open minded about the idea of getting a hysterectomy because of the size of the fibroids. He listened to my concerns about their size and whether or not they would grow.  He seemed to hear me as I explained that I did not want to “sit around and wait.”
To make a long conversation short, he finally saw it my way after I expressed my repeated concerns about the growing tumors.  Maybe they won’t cause cancer, but they are causing discomfort as they push on my bladder and left ovary.  They certainly aren’t shrinking at this point.  At the end of our appointment, he called a gynecological oncologist who works in the same building and scheduled an appointment for me to see her.  The appointment is in two weeks.
 I feel so relieved to have the appointment scheduled and to be able to talk about the best approach to this problem with a qualified gynecologist.  I am not sure what course of action I will choose, but I am comforted to know I have a plan.
Thanks to everyone for your helpful comments.  It really helped me to see that I wasn’t overreacting to the situation.  I felt more empowered in my appointment and I feel more in control of the situation.  At least for now.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Week To Remember

Last week was definitely one to remember. It all started with the news about my brother in law and his declining health. Then I heard about a friend who died suddenly of a heart attack. I was very saddened by this news. I had so many fond memories of this friend when we were growing up. He was funny and charming and had a great outlook on life. I hadn’t seen him for many years but I still felt terrible when I got the call that he had passed away. Another reminder of how precarious life can be.

That all happened by Monday and on Tuesday, October 26th, I had an ultrasound scheduled. My gynecologist had recommended that I have one done because I have uterine fibroids and I take Tamoxifen. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought about the fact that this same date three years ago I had my mastectomy. I tried not to be superstitious so I kept the appointment and didn’t think too much about it. In fact, I really wasn’t worried. My health has been good lately and I feel strong.

So I went to my appointment and had the ultrasound done. While I was lying on the table and the technician was moving the probe over my belly, I noticed her eyebrows rise a bit. Those of you who have had these scans have probably seen the look. I watched her continue to measure and check. When she was finished she said, “That fibroid is really big. I need to check and make sure it isn’t blocking your kidneys.” I was floored. How big was it? What did this mean? I walked out of the office and I was extremely shaken. I got in my car and I immediately called my husband.

“I have a huge tumor in my uterus. I can’t take it. I can’t handle any more cancer.” By this time I was in tears. “I can’t believe this. Maybe it is nothing but I won’t know until the doctor calls me back tomorrow.”

“Do you want me to come home? I can come and get you.”

“I don’t know. I am just so upset. I can’t take this.”

I drove home and finally stopped crying. I called Mike back to tell him not to come home. There was nothing he could do until we heard from the doctor the next day. The day went slowly. I went to my writing class, my yoga class and then went home and put my pj’s on. I was wiped out.

When the call came the next day, it was the news I expected. The fibroid tumor in my uterus is the size of a small grapefruit. My endometrial lining is thickening because of the Tamoxifen.

I called my oncologist and asked him what the course of action is.

“Nothing. Because if it is not causing pain or bleeding then we don’t do anything.”
“What if it gets bigger?”

“If it gets bigger and starts to cause problems then we do something.”

I am not sure I like this approach. What is it keeps growing and does cause my kidneys to back up? What if it interferes with my digestive system or my ovaries? It just doesn’t seem normal to be walking around with a growth the size of a grapefruit in my body. I hate this wait and see attitude. Why do I have to wait to see if it grows?