Three years ago, I had a part-time job at a book warehouse restocking books left over from school book fairs. One night I felt a sharp pain on the right side of my body, under my rib cage.
Since the pain never subsided, I went to the doctor. I was initially misdiagnosed with bruised ribs, irritable bowel syndrome, chlamydia, gall stones and ovarian cancer. A year later, the true diagnosis surfaced: peritoneal mesothelioma. After many treatments, I am finally in remission and pain-free for the first time in many years.
In April, I opened Sugarbelle bakery in Baton Rouge, and I’ve been spreading hope through my community with my testimony. Despite my remission, I must still suffer through 20 ounces of flavored barium (all flavors are colored white, and it flows like liquid glue) every 90 days for follow-up CT scans as part of my ongoing treatment.
All of my visits have been smooth sailing – until now.
Waiting for MRI Results
On Oct. 14, my physician informed me there was a “little something” on my scans. An MRI was ordered for more clarification. I’m so happy that I have doctors who are extremely thorough; however, on the other hand, the hypochondriac in me tried not to panic and fear the worst scenario – a recurrence of my cancer.
There was an eight-hour wait to get the results of my MRI. What in the world was I to do? I could have gone to bed and slept the time away. I could have watched TV, but nothing interested me. Let’s face it, when you’re waiting for big news after an MRI, there really aren’t any distractions to take your mind off the possibility of a recurrence.
After much indecision, I escaped to Dave & Buster’s with a friend. We played for two hours, and I won a cotton candy machine for my kids. After pigging out on carbs and a watermelon snow cone, I felt somewhat relaxed. But as soon as I finished my spinach and artichoke dip appetizer, the phone rang.
It was the surgical oncologist. My MRI results were ready, and I needed to speak to him at the hospital that night.
Here’s what went through my mind: I know in my spirit that I have overcome too much to succumb to this now. I have two children, ages 6 and 10. I just launched a successful business six months ago. Also, I still haven’t shed the pounds that will get me to my target weight.
We canceled the entrees, and returned to the hospital.
I waited an hour before the doctor walked in. The moment of truth was here. He tells me that although there were microscopic findings on my scans, the only real way to see what’s happening is to undergo laparoscopic surgery. It’s a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon makes a small incision and uses a laparoscope (rod with a video camera on the end) that sends images to monitors in the operating room.
Determination Guides Me
This wasn’t the best news, but it wasn’t exactly the worst news either. The choice was mine to make, he said. I could either go forward with the surgery, or wait 90 days for something obvious to show.
The hypochondriac in me panics whenever I feel the same pain on my side I felt three years ago. For all I know, it could be scar tissue, right? After all, a part of my diaphragm was removed during the first HIPEC procedure.
Since I am determined to live and not die, I chose to go forward with the laparoscopic surgery in November. I am relying on God and my faith that all is well.
I will fight, enduring chemo treatments, HIPECs and surgeries – whatever I need to survive. You, my friends, must do the same. Living with mesothelioma is an ongoing fight and you must never give up.
Winners never quit and quitters never win.