Unwanted Visitor

Today, I feel like I am a stomachache.

I’ve spent so much of the last several years feeling sick. Pretty much every day is me being sick with something for at least a part of the day. But all day long I’ve been sick to my stomach.

So here’s my story: I met my husband in February of 2014 and we went on our first date in March. We were engaged by late April, married in May, and moved into our first apartment together. We went on a short, out-of-town excursion on Independence Day of that year and partway through our trip, I started having severe pain in my lower left abdomen and was too stubborn to see a doctor. The pain continued for weeks, and finally, by early August, I had missed enough work due to pain and nausea that my husband insisted that I either go to work or go to the doctor, so I chose the doctor. My doctor ran some tests, couldn’t find anything, but my sickness just kept getting worse, and finally, at the end of August, she sent me for CT scan. My plan was to get the scan and go to work as usual that afternoon, but the radiologist saw something alarming on the scan, so he called my doctor who told him to hold me there and send me to the ER.

The ER doctor referred me immediately for admission and got a surgeon to me, and that night I was in surgery to have a massive abscess removed from my large intestine. Underneath the abscess (which was on the verge of rupturing and filling my insides with pus and likely killing me) was a grapefruit-sized adenocarcinoma. And that pain that I had on Independence Day, the one that first got me to see a doctor? A hemorrhagic cyst on my left ovary. I was a very, very sick person the day I went to get that CT scan. The surgical team drained my cyst, removed the abscess and the tumor, and removed eight inches of large intestine, leaving me with a colostomy and a wound vac to help my surgical opening to heal slowly and as cleanly as possible. I was barely able to be on my feet for longer than five or ten minutes at a time for about a month, and my surgical incision took four months to fully heal. I did not work at all during this time because I was too quickly exhausted. Ten months after my surgery, I had another surgery to reattach the ends of my large intestine and eliminate my colostomy, which led to several more weeks of healing. I was declared to be cancer-free by that time, but my body has never been the same.

I am constantly in pain in my abdomen, I feel sick nearly every day, and since then, I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, short-bowel syndrome, and cirrhosis, and two years ago I had my gallbladder removed. I’ve lost weight I didn’t mean to lose. I have been poked and prodded like a lab rat by doctors and geneticists trying to figure out why I got colon cancer at such a young age (35) and have been found to have Lynch Syndrome which means I have a higher likelihood of having cancers of the colon, liver, lungs, ovaries, and uterus than the average person, and so those parts of my body are monitored heavily by my doctors. And therefore, when I wake up with nausea and abdominal pain several days in a row or just plain have it consistently, I start to get worried that the cancer is back, or that my liver has finally given up, and then my anxiety gets the best of me.

Today was a bad day. I’ve been so nauseated all day, have thrown up repeatedly, and the one thing that seems to help is Coke, which I asked my husband to go to McDonald’s to get for me (Coke from McD’s tastes better than any other Coke and you can’t change my mind), and he came back with a Diet Coke, which was not his fault, but the taste of Diet Coke makes me want to throw up, so I just gave it to him to drink and cried for an hour instead. And then, an hour or so later, I learned what it was making me ill: My period, which is three days early. I always feel this way on the day my period starts, and I just wasn’t prepared because my phone alerts me the day before I’m supposed to start. I still feel cruddy, but knowing why I feel cruddy at least takes the anxiety and worry out of it so I can deal with the rest of it.

In any case, I am exhausted, so I’m sure I won’t have as much trouble sleeping tonight as I did yesterday. In fact, I’ll probably be going to bed as soon as I finish this up, as I’ve already taken a muscle relaxer and am beginning to feel like a pile of warm Jello.

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