When I began writing My Hijacked Life, I had no idea that an unexpected cancer detour was just ahead.
About the time I left off blogging last year, I had begun to lose my appetite and consequently, lose weight. Along with that, I would often have cold hands, heart palpitations, and I lacked energy. These signs were so subtle that I didn’t think much about them indicating that something was wrong. In fact, the unexplained 20 pound weight loss for someone who has been weight conscious for an entire lifetime, was a great boon. Since I was experiencing extreme stress at work and at home, I simply attributed the weight loss to life’s turmoil and pressure.
As 2015 dawned, I faced some health challenges. At the end of May, I contracted a virus that should have gone away in a matter of days, but stayed a full two weeks. Summer vacation began, but instead of staying up all night catching up on reading and or having movie marathons, I was going to bed at 9 p.m.
At the beginning of July, my mother and I took a once in a lifetime trip to Europe. Unbelievably, I was sick and tired the entire time, even as I was trying to fit in everything on my must see and do list.
Again stateside, I visited my primary care physician who told me it could take a month or so to get things under control, so I assumed everything was good.
Meanwhile, I began to ready things for the school year and in spite of flagging energy, I had things all set for the students’ arrival on the first day of school.
Just before classes started, a specialist ran a broad blood panel after I described symptoms I had been experiencing. The results showed I was extremely anemic. After teaching only one day, I was sent to another specialist who recommended immediate hospitalization for blood transfusions in preparation for tests to identify the cause of my blood loss.
Diagnostic tests revealed a cancerous tumor, so the same evening I had a CT scan before having surgery early the next morning. An experienced surgeon removed the tumor, leaving clean margins. Tests showed the lymph nodes and liver were clear, which was welcome news.
The recommended oncologist ordered additional tests to determine whether or not I required chemotherapy. After an excruciating three weeks, I sat flanked by family as the oncologist told me that I would need chemo: Another curve in my unexpected cancer detour.
I prepared to be off work for six months. Dutifully, I got my flu shot and had my teeth cleaned as recommended before starting chemo. On the Friday evening before starting chemo, after teaching all day, I returned to the hospital where my skilled surgeon installed a mediport that would enable me to receive chemo. On Saturday, I visited a local historical landmark with a friend. Sunday, I went to church and made lesson plans. Then, on Monday I was back at school for my last day with my students.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in a large chair with a tube connected to the mediport in my shoulder having various cancer fighting substances pumped through my body. I looked across the room at a lady who said, “You are too young to be going through this.” I wholeheartedly agree. Often, I seem to be the youngest person in the infusion room. So, to say my unexpected cancer detour has been surreal would be an understatement.
Life altering. Overwhelming. Redefining. A new normal. My very own B.C.: Before Cancer. Any of those might do.
I can be walking down a hallway and that truth suddenly flashes in my mind, my stomach lurches, and I nearly miss a step because that is the new me. I have had cancer. Hopefully my unexpected cancer detour will soon be in my past, not my future, but only time will tell.
While the events leading up to my unexpected cancer detour are indelibly etched in my memory, I can’t see the future quite as easily. I do not know what my life’s new normal will be, how I should plan, or exactly how this detour will shape me. Should I quit my job and travel the world using up my retirement or should I work for a few more years to maximize payouts in my twilight years? While the truth is that nobody knows what the future holds, that reality is painfully clear to me.
My oncologist tells me that chemo is a temporary life alteration, but this I know: for good or for ill, I am not the same and will never be the person I was B.C.: before my unexpected cancer detour.
Once again, my life has been hijacked.