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The "Wu Word" Blog

August 2014

My Immaculate Conception

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!

Keep smilin’,
Mary ;-)

Take My Turns

The panic button had been pushed and programmed. 

I was starting to feel sick in my stomach.  I swallowed back acidic juices that were building up in the back of my throat.  I forced myself to breathe and repeat my typical mantra, “It will be okay.  You will be okay.” 

I had just checked my voicemail from my gynecologist that the routine pelvic ultrasound had shown something ‘odd’ and that she was ordering a kidney ultrasound to rule out that whatever was ‘odd’ was not on my kidneys and was just in my uterus. 

Every year, my gynecologist orders a pelvic ultrasound because my second transplanted kidneys were right near the pelvis, and to ensure that all my “womanly parts” were intact and okay.  If it were up to me, I would have my entire uterus taken out because I hated my monthly periods with a passion. 

But, as all my doctors and people said to me, “You are too young.  You may want to have children when you are older.  If your uterus is taken out, you do not have that option.”

Me?  Children?  I would be the worst mother ever—freaking out about little details  and going into complete control freak and micromanager mother mode.  No, thank you.  No children for me.

Snapping back into reality, I shrugged my shoulders at my gynecologist’s voicemail message and the calm voice in me that was trying to simmer down the programmed panic button me said, “Mary, don’t worry about whatever is ‘odd’….the doctors are just trying to cover themselves.  No worries.  You’ll get the kidney ultrasound.  Your kidneys will be okay.  You will move on and make it a point to pause in your daily routines to be extra thankful.” 

Nonetheless, I called back my gynecologist to ask what was this ‘odd’ on my annual pelvic ultrasound and if I had any cause to worry—although, I would probably worry anyway because I am a natural worrier. My gynecologist was not in the office.  The waiting game had already begun. 

Throughout my life, I’ve always believed in right place and right time.  Someone must have been smiling at me from the heavens above because when I was distantly and distastefully trying to eat my lunch, my gynecologist literally sauntered into the cafeteria. She immediately saw me and sat down with me with her son hovering close by to her. 

She explained, “I have the day off.  Did you get my message?”

Wide-eyed, I nodded and immediately asked her if I should be worried.

She did not give me a straight “yes” or “no,” and, instead, said,

“The radiologist called me because there is something that has doubled in size since your pelvic ultrasound that was done last year.  We do not know what it is.  We think it is a fibroid, because you have a history of fibroids that are quite large.  However, I’m concerned if the fibroid has doubled in size.  We just want the kidney ultrasound to rule out anything wrong with kidneys that were transplanted the second time, and confirm that it is an enlarged fibroid and go from there.”  

Out of everything she explained to me, the main words I heard were “Fibroid” and “Doubled in Size.” 

My conclusion: I did not like that anything was growing at lightning speed in me.  

That unsettled me.  

I was suddenly scared.

The worries began to seep in and my mind began to race:

What if this ‘odd’ thing is something on my kidneys from the second transplant?  What if it is an enlarged fibroid? Would it be cancerous?

I scheduled the kidney ultrasound immediately.  I obtained a report of the pelvic ultrasound.  I felt sick all over again when I read the report that indicated a “large heterogeneous mass” located on the anterior of the uterus had grew since a year again. 

I reflected on these past few months if I had felt anything different or any symptoms, and the only symptoms I thought of was increased lower back pain, extremely painful periods in the last couple of months, and a pressure I always felt on my bladder. 

The little and scared girl in me from when I was sick for so long and finally received my second kidney transplant suddenly appeared.  This little girl was a panicked worrier who teetered on hypochondriac.  This little girl hated the waiting, not knowing, and the constant following-up that caused doctors and doctor offices to get peeved and produce the label of “Pain in the Ass Patient” rather than “Proactive Patient.”  And, now, this little girl was an adult who knew a lot more. 

Knowledge is certainly empowering, but also worrying.  Ignorance is definitely bliss.

I am not one to keep silent when I am greatly worried, and so I begin to talk.  A lot.  I shared this latest bump in the road with my closest friends, my sister, and my parents.  

They gathered around me with listening ears, comforting words, and humor to make me laugh until my eyes began to tear.  They said they would pray for me.  They said the marvels of modern science and medicine would probably just zap or break this ‘mysterious mass’ in me.  Some did not know what to say, so they said nothing and let me just talk and talk some more.  For the first time, my sister accompanied me to the renal ultrasound to keep me company.  Her presence meant everything to me.  All their actions unequivocally spoke that they were here for me. 

They were “Taking my Turns" with me.

I had explained to my Dad and a dear friend of mine, “In life, we take turns.  I’m taking my turn now with this latest health bump, but people also take my turns with me.  ‘Take my turns’ are people being there for me or for others during their darkest, scariest, or unknown moments with love, care, laughter, and full presence.  I have had my turns, and people have taken them with me.  People have had their turns, and I’ve taken them with them.  We all just take turns.”

My Dad chuckled and said, “Well, you have had enough turns.  Time to give your turns to others.”

I said to my Dad, “That is what my life is about—take the turns with them.” 

My friend made me burst out laughing when she said, “We all can’t be turning at the same time, otherwise we are going to be dizzy and all fall down.” 

The beauty of the unforeseen and unexpected news of this latest health bout or of any unforeseen and unexpected situation is that it forces the pushed pause button to count blessings and reflect on the day of possibilities rather than the required and routine responsibilities. 

As scared as I am of what is to come (and I keep saying that it is probably nothing), I am forever grateful that the pause button has been pushed to put life back to its truest and best perspective for me. 

The latest is that my kidney ultrasound results returned and confirmed the best and most joyous news I could ask for that my precious pre-owned kidney beans are still functioning!! 

Now I am in the waiting game of confirming that this ‘mass’ is indeed a fibroid and how to proceed next.  Almost always, the waiting is the hardest part.  But, in the mist of all this waiting, I am the luckiest girl to have people ‘take my turns’ with me. 

Life goes on in the most extraordinary and precious of ways with the best people in my life that I could ever have.   I am as grateful as can be, and then some more.

Keep smilin’,

Mary ;-)
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