On Monday, August 4 and just before I was going to work, my gynecologist finally called me and said firmly, “It is growing larger and faster, and so I want you to see a gynecological oncology surgeon.”
I suddenly felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. As soon as she said ‘oncology,’ fear gripped me. I worked at one of the top cancer hospitals in the U.S. and so I knew that ‘oncology’ was synonymous to ‘cancer.’
Did my gynecologist think that I had cancer? I was petrified to ask. No one wants to hear the dreaded “C” word.
Surely, there must be another option. I was convinced that my gynecologist would just want me to have a local yokel procedure to suck out or somehow shrink this fibroid that had grown in size in the last year or so. I said to my gynecologist, and she was adamant by repeating herself: “You need to see a gynecological oncology surgeon just in case it is something.”
Apparently, she wasn’t saying the “C” word either.
She finalized our conversation when she said, “Mary, it is no longer a fibroid in your uterus. It probably started out as a fibroid, but it has grown into a solid and large mass that is growing quickly.”
I couldn’t believe that a week ago, this ‘thing’ that was growing in my uterus was an innocent fibroid. Now, it was a ‘mass.’
Without even thinking or dwelling, I just went into propelled action to do whatever I needed to do to get rid of this ‘thing’ that was growing in me. My gynecologist and her top notch assistant got me in for a gynecological oncologist surgeon appointment that performed surgeries at the community hospital I worked at for Wednesday, August 13. I scheduled an MRI of the pelvis w/ & w/o contrast on August 8 and an MRI of the abdomen w/ & w/o contrast on August 11. I had to get a clearance for the MRI with contrast from my nephrologist because the contrast was a dye that is processed and goes through my pre-owned kidney beanie babies.
By the end of Monday when nearly all my appointments were scheduled, I was so mentally exhausted and drained that I burst out crying in front of my supervisor and blubbering to her what was going on. She knew all about my health challenges with my chronic kidney failure, two kidney transplants, and latest hip replacement. She looked like she was going to start crying.
She simply said, “Whatever you need, I’m here.”
Being that I work at a top notch cancer hospital as one of the chemotherapy schedulers, I decided that I had to use these resources. I spoke with one of the most trusted and knowledgeable medical oncologists. She read my reports and with a crestfallen facial expression, she said, “Whatever you need, I will do. I’m sorry you have to go through this, honey.”
Before I knew it, a gynecological surgical oncologist at the downtown location of the cancer hospital was scheduled on Tuesday, August 12. Prior to August 12 and August 13 gynecological oncology surgeon appointments, I’ve had an MRI of the lumbar spine, seen a neurosurgeon due to increased back pain, and had the MRI of the pelvis all done.
The MRI of the pelvis was the most nerve-wracking for me because it was the first time I received a contrast or dye while in that small tunnel of an MRI machine.
It didn’t help that the nurse who had to put the IV in me said bluntly, “This is a weird vein.”
I said to him just as bluntly, “No one has ever said that to me before, and no one has really had problems with it. If you have a problem with it, go to the other arm. Although, I would prefer you didn’t because I had bloodwork there a couple days ago and it still kind of hurts.”
Rather than stay around with my right arm where he said the vein looked weird, he went to my left arm. While staring up at the ceiling, he stuck the needle in. I had a weird déjà vu feeling that this is what the death penalty was like for those death row inmates who were injected to their death.
The nurse squeezed my arm in a certain position which only let off alarm bells in my head screaming, “He must totally suck at getting a vein. Please don’t let him stick me again, because I have to get stuck again with the contrast for the MRI with the abdomen on Monday.”
Luckily, he managed to access me and in the machine I went. I closed my eyes. I focused on the sound of classical music blasting in my ears while heavy metal and cosmic sounds of the MRI surrounded me.
I was feeling somewhat relaxed and thinking about everything that had happened this week. I was reflecting on all the angels of family and friends who had come my way and been there with unending love and support through text messages and phone calls. The beauty of the ugly and unfortunate in life is that the beauty and kindness of others shine brighter than ever. So many people had shined brighter than ever to me.
The number one sentence that nearly all my friends said to me were: “I will say a special prayer for you,” or “I’m not a religious person, but I’m going to pray for you,” or “Prayers and positive vibes are being sent your way.”
I had never been a religious person. I had certainly prayed before for myself and for others at the weakest point when there was that dire need of strength. I was fascinated and intrigued by all religions and their practices, and never shied away from opportunities to go to Churches and Buddhist Temples and ask a million more questions about different religions. In that tight MRI machine with loud noises flying all around me, an unexplainable energy of the spiritual and old soul that lived deep in me started to flow in conjunction with the sudden coolness of the dye flowing into my veins that had managed to hold up for two sticks from needles that week. And, I began to pray, say, and believe that everything was going to be okay. Most of all, I suddenly felt that extreme sense of gratefulness that filled me up as to how blessed I was with so many people in my corner enveloping me with so much positive energy and prayers that I could probably burst into shiny and sparkly glitter!
I wished I could place all the different uplifting conversations I had with so many friends in a glass jar.
One of my friends had said to me: “Do you know those scrub-o commercials? You have to imagine that you are scrubbing down and away that mass!”
I had said, “I don’t know why, but I imagine a chandelier or piñata hanging from my uterus.”
She burst out laughing. “Honey, better imagine a piñata to knock it out than a pretty chandelier, because that is probably one ugly mass.”
More friends than ever said,“You shouldn’t be alone on these appointments. Let me know how I can help. Let me know if you need me to be there.”
Probably the most comforting conversation I had was with another transplant recipient who had been through the same situation and said with complete conviction, “You are mirroring my life. Because you are living out my life that was twenty years ago, you are going to be fine. Just like I was.”
In that MRI machine, I then started to smile at all these warm conversations I had with my friends and chuckle about how my name is ‘Mary’ and how this was like an “Immaculate Conception,” because I didn’t do any hanky panky and yet there was this ‘thing,’ or ‘mass’, growing right in my uterus and it had to come out!
By the time the MRI technician told me that the test was done and rolled me out, I opened my eyes, grinning, and asked her: “That’s it? We’re done?”
She laughed and said, “Do you want some more? No worries that you will be back on Monday for more!”
I was so happy that I had survived the MRI with contrast for the first time! I was so incredibly filled with pride for my pre-owned kidney beanie babies for getting through it, too! Surely, my 4-year-old angel pediatric donor from my second transplant was there above of me rooting me on. Surely, my first organ donor was also there with her, believing that I would get through this because I had gotten through and lived out my childhood due to my first transplant. My angels above and around me were all watching over me.
I was so nervous before the exam that I turned to my friends for help in just being there for me. One of my friends who had MRIs with contrast before had happily obliged. She was sitting there for me as soon as I came out from the machine. She wrapped me up in a big hug and said, “I knew you would be okay!”
Later that night, we ate Indian food and had my favorite drink called “Lassi” (pureed mango with yogurt and fresh mint) with the moon shining above us on a warm summer night with a cool breeze. I couldn’t have asked for a beautiful and special friend who had been there for me and our moments of enjoying the simple and the tasty.
I crashed on my couch late at night to ice my bruised arm. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy that I am getting through this with so many people here for me. I could not do this alone.
I thanked the heavens above to have been blessed with so many special people in my life AND who have unexplainably and suddenly come in my life. It is funny how everything and everyone has a way of falling into place when you feel like everything is completely out of place in your life.
Needless to say, I am officially immersed in my “Immaculate Conception” journey. I had let out my tears and still have fears and remnants of anger and anguish, but now the biggest tears I shed is towards the kindness that people have shown me that bring out the sentimental in me. Going forward, I am confident that my “Immaculate Conception” journey is full of spirituality and my soul invigorated to stay positive, uplifted, and to just keep on and keep on laughing all the way!
A little faith will go its long way for me. Oh, yes, and I will be saying some extra prayers and trying to rub elbows with Buddhist monks again!