A handful of hours after our wedding, my husband got sick, like super-sick. As I was still a 27 year old bozo, I immediately called my mom. She was also sick. The calls kept coming in; many, many people were sick.
By lunchtime, 5 of our friends and family, including my new husband, his sister and my grandmother, were in the hospital in their own secure ward while they awaited test results. Joe and I were scheduled to leave for our honeymoon the next day and, since he was doing a bit better, the docs discharged him and off to Mexico we went.
When we arrived, there was a phone call waiting at our hotel from the Chicago Dept. of Public Health stating that they hoped we hadn’t traveled because the results came back and everyone had the highly contagious Norovirus. Within a few hours, I was desperately sick. So sick that I had a Mexican doctor and nurse in my hotel room for 2 days, as an IV drip hung from the bedside lamp. Most expensive and most miserable trip of my life.
What did I learn?
- Don’t have your rehearsal dinner at a restaurant where a staff member didn’t properly wash their hands, causing upwards of 50 people to get very sick and creating an 80 page document from the CDPH who called every single wedding guest to create a full contact tracing schematic.
- If someone you are traveling with was discharged from a hospital with an undiagnosed ailment, don’t get on a plane with him to an expensive paradise.
In May of this year, Mother’s Day to be exact, I was admitted to the hospital for a lymphangitis/cellulitis infection of my lymphedema arm. No one knows what exactly caused it, but my forearm blew up like a flaming hot football and I was in the hospital on heavy antibiotics and painkillers for 4 days. Cancer: over, but not over.
—–Inserting warning here—– If you are afraid of women’s menstrual cycles despite the fact that they are perfectly normal and vital bodily functions that perpetuate human existence, then stop reading, move to a cave, never contact me again and check your misogyny.
I am on Tamoxifen, a very intense drug that futzes with my hormones, so as to not create estrogen that can travel to my breasticle areas and cause more cancer. Because of this, I am in peri-menopause for the length of the time I am taking Tamoxifen (10 years). I get periods at regular intervals, but they are usually just whispers for 3-4 days.
On July 2, I got my period as usual. It seemed a little heavier than usual, but no biggie. On Day 3, there was what I like to call, An Event. Suddenly I was gushing blood. Shorts-ruined, seated furniture-threatened. I ended up chilling on the toilet for most of an hour, bleeding.
Things eventually slowed, but it was still a very heavy period for me and lasted twice as long. My instinct (and google) told me to see a doc. I was lucky to get into my midwife on the 7th of July. She was smart enough to have me get an ultrasound immediately.
A regular uterine lining should be about 4mm. Mine is 20mm. Tamoxifen is known to screw up your uterine wall and give you the gift of an increased risk of uterine cancer. The tech also spun the screen to me and said, see that? Yes I see it, it looks like I have an avocado in my uterus. That is a polyp. She casually mentions that I am going to need a D&C with biopsies of all nefarious tissue.
If you are lucky enough to not know what this means, a D&C stands for Dilation and Curettage. It is essentially an abortion, or the removal of excess contents of the uterus. Many women need them after a miscarriage. Ladies- I see you and I feel you-
My general vibe in this moment is: WTF/I might faint/how did this escalate so quickly/what you talkin’ bout, Willis? The office says a GYN will call me with next steps, but I immediately reach out the head of the Survivorship Program at my hospital system who is a GYN-ONC. We have become friends over the years. After reviewing my ultrasound, she said ‘we need to talk.’ Here are some snippets from our convo:
Doc: Let’s get this procedure scheduled ASAP
Me: I am leaving on a 10 day vacation on Monday where I will be off the grid for most of the time
Doc: Tell me the exact dates of the vacation so I can pray for you
We continue to talk it through. This vacation has approx 418 moving parts, much of it non-refundable and it has been the biggest source of excitement for the whole family since last year. We are renting a houseboat on Lake Powell in Utah/Arizona and visiting the Grand Canyon. The lake is not round. It is long and spindly, with a coastline longer than all of California. Once you go up, you don’t come back until the trip ends. Off the grid.
The doc says I ‘can’ go, but to bring ‘many, many’ pads and never be farther than a few hours from a hospital.
Now this all sounds molto dramatico to me, but as she explained, the contents of my sweet lil womb is just waiting to drain through the path of least resistance. I am going to give this situation a thumbs way down, but give my instincts a thumbs way up for telling me to get checked-out.
Let’s circle back to Chapter One (The Red Wedding). What do you think that international epidemiological incident would have taught me? I am a logical person. Maybe I should cancel the trip and get the procedure next week vs. potentially hemorrhaging in the middle of a body of water in a remote canyon.
Cancer has taught me that lightning can strike twice. Cancer came and went, but has left me with a cute little avalanche of mini-disasters ever since. But it has also taught me that I can’t wait to experience life. Even if it means filling a tiny-ass houseboat with feminine hygiene pads and having a doctor unable to do anything but pray for you.
Hold on tight folks. I am taking this time bomb of a body out for an adventure.