About a week ago, I was handed a life sentence. Not a death sentence, I’m not going to die. But I do have a prison, my body, that will forever change me. I got diagnosed with cancer. I’m 41, and my health has been my primary focus for most of my life. I was a vegetarian for 14 years, a vegan for most of that. I read labels religiously, nothing processed, no chemicals, no fast food –for 11 years, no soda for as long, I’m a yoga/qi gong instructor, I take my vitamins, and all I keep thinking is why was I so obsessive about all this? It didn’t matter. The doctors kept telling me it wasn’t my fault, but really, it doesn’t make you feel any better about it.
I was sick for like the whole month of August. –sick enough to ask Osa to come help me take care of the girls, and he did. And then I got better. I thought I was fine. Then I found a lump on my neck below my right ear. At first, it was like a little marble that rolled around, but in a week it quickly grew to the size of a teaspoon. I went to the doctor and he sent me for a CATscan. He thought it might be an infected lymph node and sent me an ENT specialist who did a biopsy right in his office. All of these tests seemed inconclusive enough, that he wanted to do what’s called an open biopsy. By this time another little marble lump had appeared more to the back of my neck.
The morning of the out-patient, 30 minute, open biopsy, I couldn’t find the little one again. My surgeon didn’t want to leave a big scar on my neck, but he said he just didn’t have a good feeling about it all, and wanted to do the big lump. Well, it turned into a four-hour surgery removing four tumors and a tonsil. Yes, I’m probably the only person in the world with one tonsil. They were all cancerous. I have about a 3-inch scar on my neck with no stitches, it was all cauterized.
It took me a while to recover from that surgery. My throat and mouth hurt a lot, but I could talk mostly. It hurt to eat or swallow anything for about 8 days. Then I could at least eat soft things, baby food, popsicles, ice cream. My mom made me really good baby food –especially the mashed spaghetti!
It’s been 12 days since the surgery and 10 days since the sentence. Today I ate soft vegetables and tofu, and pancakes for breakfast, so swallowing is almost restored, though I’m still on pain-killers. But food feels good.
Friday, I went for a PETscan and another CTscan to see if there is anymore cancer or tumors in me. There could possibly be another surgery if they find more tumors, but my surgeon is pretty confident that he removed everything that “looked suspicious,” as he said. I had to lay still and not move for about 2 hours, and the technicians told me to think about my “happy place.” All I could think of was cuddling on the couch with Rumi and Raine. That really told me a lot.
Monday is the big day. I have my set-up for my radiation and chemo therapies and I find out about the results of the PETscan. They will make a mask for my face to protect it from the radiation, and I will be told everything to expect. I will have to go everyday for 7 weeks, but other than that, I don’t really know the process yet. If all goes well, it should start the week before or the week of Thanksgiving.
Before any of this can start, I have to go to the dentist because if I have any cavities or bad teeth they have to be taken care of before the radiation starts. But I couldn’t go to the dentist until I could open my mouth, so that appointment is Monday also.
The things I do know about the future, the real sentence so to speak is, I will lose my hair—probably right in time for Christmas. I will have dry mouth for the rest of my life because radiation will affect my salivary glands. BUT, by doing all this, this type of cancer should never return, and I can see my little girls grow up.