The following is a true story.
I threw two pregnancy tests into my basket, along with a box of saltine crackers. Fearing being judged by the cashier, I added Lysol wipes, a lipstick and Vogue, as if they would magically hide the tests.
“Wow, you are too old to be buying a pregnancy test. Get your shit together,” said the check-out lady in my head.
At work I lay down in the back room on a disgusting old carpet. I felt like throwing up and my stomach looked four months pregnant. My co-worker agreed:
“Ya, you do look kinda pregnant.”
I googled “can you get pregnant with a vasectomy?” It turns out that yes you can, though rarely. It usually happens because couples have sex too soon, before the semen is sperm-free. OMG. That’s us. I’m 46 years old, my life is in shambles and I’ve only been with my partner for nine months.
Peeing on the sticks I quickly discovered that I was not pregnant – thank god – but still, I knew something was wrong. I had been having horrible panic attacks the last couple of months and something was telling me the panic was my body’s way of waving a giant red flag:
“Hellooooo! There is something fucked up with your health. Do not pass GO. Go directly to the doctor.”
Unfortunately at that time I had a horrible doctor. I knew it would be difficult to convince her that I needed an ultrasound; she always thought I was being neurotic.
An evening of googling, note-taking, and practicing my sales pitch, (including a couple of white lies that I felt were necessary to make my case), and I was ready to face her. I had found enough evidence to suggest that I might have ovarian cancer and therefore would need an ultrasound asap.
My sales pitch worked and my doctor ordered an immediate ultrasound. Yay! The ultrasound revealed a mass. Not so yay. Soon after a cat scan revealed a more detailed image, including “ascites,” – abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen causing swelling. That’s when my doctor gave me a few pamphlets and said:
“The Princess Margaret Cancer Hospital will be taking over your care. Good luck.”
I met with a top gynaecological surgeon and she was fairly confident that whatever I had was not cancerous. Yay! She performed laparoscopic surgery but it didn’t go as expected. Not so yay. She discovered a freak show-looking cancer.
“This isn’t in my wheelhouse,” the gyno-surgeon said.
Okay, maybe she didn’t say that, but she definitely thought that.
A well-known gastrointestinal oncologist then took over my care. I felt like I was an appetizer being passed around that no one wanted to eat.
By this point I was thinking:
“Can we go back to when I thought I was pregnant? I’d like that option please. Just give me the damn baby, I’ll be a great mother, I promise!”
My biopsy was not routine – shocker – and took a long time. A pathologist in Vancouver had to be consulted. The final diagnosis was:
Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma.
What the hell is that?
Apparently it was a rare, incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
And thus began my cancer saga.
Cancer 101 Reminders:
– Trust Your Gut. If I hadn’t had that ultrasound when I did I would be dead.
– Be super pro-active. If it were someone you loved who was sick you would move mountains to help them. So move mountains for yourself.
***If you’re a woman: if you experience a swollen-looking abdomen, along with a sense of “fullness” for more than a few days, speak with your doctor. Women often assume these symptoms are “digestive issues,” when they are in fact symptoms of cancer, especially ovarian cancer.***