Was my last post a premonition or did I mentally set myself up for a fall? I’m afraid that putting into words some scary reality might have triggered what happened next. Just five days after that post I ended up in the ER with what I self-diagnosed to be another bowel blockage. That had me scared enough. The CT scan revealed not just blockage but a perforation as well. A double whammy. My usual surgeon was called in and came to the ER late in the afternoon to deliver what was already devastating news in a devastating way. Because of one of the anti-cancer biologic drugs I was on, healing from wound/surgeries is jeopardized. The prognosis from the surgeon rolled off his tongue way too easily. Without hesitation he told me my situation was catastrophic and with or without surgery I was terminal. With surgery, I would not heal due to the biologic and will surely decline. Without surgery, I would experience sepsis and surely decline. He would give me and my husband overnight to decide if we wanted him to perform surgery. He offered us no hope. I got the distinct vibe that he did not want to perform surgery on me, that his attitude was ‘the old gal has had a good run.’ In a New York minute, everything changed. My time had come. This was a conversation I was not ready for, but at the same time not surprised by. I know the risks of my medications. I understand the risk of my cancer’s predisposition to hanging out on my intestines. I asked my surgeon if he had talked with my oncologist; no, but he had consulted others. I wish he had taken a few minutes to talk with Dr. R. I had been in contact with my oncologist, Dr. R., from the ER keeping him posted and only at my hubby’s prompting did I email him to relay what my prognosis was. Frankly, I was at a place that I couldn’t see how he could help. But I was wrong. He immediately called the surgeon and then later reported back to me that he did not see my situation as catastrophic. My dosage of the biologic (Avastin) was 1/5th the normal dose…not given to do the heavy lifting, but to assist the partnered chemo drug. The Avastin would be out of my system quickly. It had been 5 days since infusion. There was still risk, but there was also hope. My decision leaning went from “Why have a big surgery if I will die an ugly death anyway?” to “I absolutely must have the surgery.” In the few hours in between, I’m not sure how long as time stood still for us, my husband and I cried and prayed. My two kids were called to come to the hospital to see me and to explain the risk I was facing. We thought this was the beginning of the end…a miserable, painful end that I admittedly fear.
The next morning, the surgeon came to my room and asked what my decision was. He never acknowledged that he spoke to my oncologist. He never softened his initial prognosis. I had the surgery. I have healed and am recovering well. I’ve started a new chemo regimen without Avastin that has a good running start from the results of yet another regimen abandoned. I am one lucky girl. In a New York minute, an email from my oncologist with a small but important piece of information changed everything again.
I admit that recovering from the reality of what almost-could-have-been is harder than the physical healing and for the first couple of weeks following surgery I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I often wonder why I am still here. I feel so blessed to be, but also confused. I know time and a return of normalcy will help with that, normalcy however, being a constantly moving target.