Benign

On Monday I’d had enough. I called Madison and told them it was cruel to keep me waiting ANYmore as Tuesday meant fourteen days since my surgery with their damned biopsy. I made calls to Madison, to Wausau, and all I got were, “We’ll pass on your message and get back to you” back. How frustrating!

Then, in the afternoon the surgeon called me. Now this chick who looks to be about 26 and drilled into my brain, she sounds even younger. She was in a good mood as she told me the news that the mass was benign. There was a caveat though.

Your body has finite rules on some types of illness. Certain things cannot be in certain areas. That is why the results of my tests took longer, they didn’t make sense. I have a mass, and the type of tumor where it has no business being. The doctor assured me, they had NEVER heard of something like this. She said she KNEW I was unusual, we both laughed at this, but even this, this was odd. I have what is called a Schwannoma.

Schwannoma is a rare type of tumor that forms in the nervous system. Schwannoma grows from cells called Schwann cells. Schwann cells protect and support the nerve cells of the nervous system. Schwannoma tumors are often benign, which means they are not cancer. But, in rare cases, they can become cancerous.

When I heard the word Schwann’s, I pictured that company here in the USA that delivers food and has a swan as it’s logo. My sense of humor won’t let that one go.

Now, these schwannomas do NOT form in the brain…EVER. As a result, they are, from a scientific point of view, VERY interested in this one. So, we are going to keep a watch on it. For the first year I have to have an MRI every three months and then next year every six, and then maybe once a year. I’m fine with that. She rated it on a scale of 1-4 (4 being its worst) a 1 and it really sounds interesting from my curious mind. We will just see if it grows or presses on anything.

So that begs the question, how is it in my brain and where did it come from? The doctor says she believes a few cells were misplaced into my brain when I was forming as a baby inside my mother’s womb. They lay there dormant almost my whole life. They were probably not seen in the open MRIs I have had in the past and as no one was looking for a mass in my brain, not even looked for. These couple of cells that had formed into the mass would not have been discovered if I hadn’t had a reaction to the third vaccine for Covid that I had in December. That reaction led to an MRI that showed the mass, which triggered all of this. Happy 2022.

Once the after-effects of the surgery and the meds wear off, I hope to return to a type of normal I miss, writing again. Fortunately I can stop taking the anti-seizure meds as it’s been two weeks and I’ve had no seizures. Good, no more dizziness or wonky feelings. I’m still on antibiotics for the infections. Tomorrow I get the staples out, YAY.

Now, onto the science and art of living. And, she lived happily ever after.

And a little more health…

On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, I had to return to the Emergency Room. I had eaten that morning and it felt like my distended stomach (the meds were making me swollen from neck to toes it felt, I had edema in my legs too) was pushing into my lungs (which also felt like rocks were in the bottom) and I was in pain.

After my last experience in the ER the previous week, I wasn’t looking forward to this one either, but, the doctors office told me not to even bother coming into emergent care or the ‘walk in’ as they would just send me to the ER. Also, Madison had ordered a cat scan, were worried about me developing an embolism, and really, to me, that didn’t sound too appealing either!

I was determined to listen to the medical professionals. I’m not ALWAYS contrary to sound advice, I do question things, because I’m curious and wish to be informed. Funny side note, when I told the PA (Physicians Assistant) that my kidneys hurt, she asked if I actually knew where they were located because some patients really didn’t know. I knew, lol. Not only my kidneys hurt though, my stomach, which is still bloated, was pressing on my lungs. My other pains included my heart, chest, lungs, and probably a few things in my stomach. She ordered a pretty extensive workup (I didn’t realize). I did suffer through the cat scan, my arm hurting when I had to extend them over my head. Again that damn contrast crap.

I lay in that room for hours, refusing television (which I don’t watch and haven’t for over a decade). Thinking though, fantasizing about plans I’d LIKE to make. I took a ‘trip’ in my mind.

I also wondered about the P.A. who was taking care of me. She was cute as a button and to my fevered mind was flirting with me. Alas, I found out from a friend who worked there that she was happily married and had children. Ah well.

They found that none of my internal organs were damaged (thank goodness). The pains I was experiencing were probably from the meds I were on. I had a lot of infections which they narrowed down to a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) which actually covers more than that area, weird. The pain shifted from across my breasts and chest to the left side which seemed to relieve them.

The edema I have to live with, putting my legs up above my heart whenever possible so the fluids drain properly. I didn’t realize that edema could go up above your knee, hell, above your legs. I was swollen not only in my legs, but around my crotch area, my stomach, and up to my neck! A lot of that is due to the medications. Thank goodness they were running out. The one I didn’t like the most was the anti-seizure medicine. It made me woozy and a little nauseous. I really hate the dancing around the edges of my vision.

One odd but good thing about all this is that my blood pressure, which had been high since I got Covid in 2020 has finally gone back to normal, yay!

After four years, um hours and being patient (stop laughing, I can do it), they sent me home with antibiotics. Now, to just wait on the prognosis from the biopsy. They said a week to 10 days. It’s beyond that and I think a bit cruel to make wait beyond that week to 10 days!

Another NEW year, celebrate WITH me!

I don’t know why this date always sticks out, because I don’t recall the exact day I found out I had cancer.  However, I do remember it was April, I’d just come back from an expo with my sons, my mother had died of brain cancer in January, I was selling my house in Southern California, I was finishing up my lengthy divorce that had taken over six years, and I was very, very sick.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was a Wednesday when I got in to see the doctor.  On Thursday I had x-rays, on Friday I went in for a biopsy…I was awake for the surgery where they removed the lymph nodes in my neck…it was gross because I could see the entire procedure on the shiny light above me, I couldn’t move from the anesthetic paralysis they had put me in, but they wanted me to talk to them, you know, in case they hit my vocal chords?

I’d been sick for a year, I knew it, as a woman, as a mother, and as someone who feels things very intrinsically.   I ignored it.  Why?  I was trying to raise two boys.  They were, when I found out my prognosis, aged twelve and ten.  I was also trying to run two businesses, one of them internationally and it was growing exponentially.  I was also trying to maintain two households.  I had a house in Huntington Beach, CA and another that I was renting in Los Osos, CA.  Then, my mother started behaving oddly.  She was living in our house in Huntington Beach and I was ‘home’ for the weekend.  I remember the first sign vividly in October of 2000 as it still hurts, even though she didn’t mean it, and it was so out of character for her.

We were watching some TV and a commercial came on about abuse.  A woman of about forty was yelling.  You would assume by what she was yelling that she was saying it to kids, abusing them.  Then the camera panned out to show a little old lady, practically cringing away from yelling woman.  I was horrified.  I turned to my mother and told her how much that commercial upset me.  Not that it was okay if it was children she was yelling at, neither was it okay to yell at a defenseless older woman.  My mother looked at me almost blankly for a moment and said, “Well, what do you think you do to me?”  I stared at her in the same horror that I had felt at seeing that commercial.  I gasped.  I also defended myself.  I said, “I would never speak to you in that manner!”  She had raised me correctly and she knew I would NEVER raise my voice to her.  She subsided after that.  I, however, realized something was wrong.  My wonderful, kind, and patient mother was behaving irrationally, that was the ‘first’ incident that I was aware of.

In November of that year, I bought another house, this time in Los Osos, CA, across the bay from Morro Bay, CA, so we could all live under one roof again.  It had to have a fenced in yard since we had two dogs, five cats, two growing boys, and my mother and I, as well as near enough to my warehouse in Morro Bay.  We were all elated as I signed the paperwork.  I had told no one as I didn’t want to jinx it until it was complete, good thing too as a week after I signed the seller changed their mind.  I felt horrible as my mother was so excited about us living together again.  She adored her grandchildren which she had helped me raise once I became a single parent.  I firmly believe that with her help they turned into better human beings than they would have it I had been completely alone for those years.

At Thanksgiving, I arranged to have someone else cook our dinner, I was too busy with work and picked it up.  We really enjoyed the meal and my mother was behaving oddly.  I kept asking her if she was okay the whole weekend before I had to get back to my other home and work up in Morro Bay.  It was a four-hour drive.

My mother knew my 1-800 number (it’s a free number to call businesses to those of you who don’t have that in your country) by heart and called me at least once a day, or I called her to check in.  A week or so before Christmas I couldn’t reach her.  I tried for days.  I had the police go do a ‘wellness’ check where they go pound on the door and ask the occupant if they are ‘okay.’  There was no response.  I finished up my Christmas rush of orders as fast as I could and headed down as soon as the boys were out of school for the day.  No one answered the door, my key worked, but the door was bolted.  I could, however, hear the dogs barking.  I had to lift my boys, one by one, over the back fence.  My biggest worry was that she had died in the house and they would find her, there was nothing I could do.  They went through the dogie door.  I went around to the front of our town home and they let me in.  My mother was sitting on the couch and was like, “Hi there!”  I was not amused, but I was relieved.

Fortunately, across the common area of our townhome complex lived my friend Jill.  She had been a nurse for years and I went to see her after we visited for a while at mom’s.  I asked her what I should do and she recommended I take my mother to the E.R. and tell them about her altered state, just as I had told her.  With that course in mind I went home and asked my mother when was the last time she had bathed.  Clearly, she could no longer take care of herself and this altered state of mind worried me.  Was she taking her meds?  Was she feeding the dogs?  I had regular orders of groceries delivered, part of our phone calls so I could just arrange that all the time.  Everything ‘seemed’ fine but I knew something was wrong.  She asked me if she stank, I assured her that she didn’t, but wondered if a bath would make her ‘feel’ better.  It did.  We had a delightful evening together, just like always.  The next morning, I took her to the E.R., she would never return home.

Getting her to the hospital alone was a nightmare.  I had one of those extended vans and she couldn’t get up in it.  I tried to lift her, but as we were about equal in weight and height, that didn’t work.  Then, her colostomy bag broke and we had to clean her up.  It took two HOURS to get her out the door and to the E.R. which was about ten minutes away.  I felt so bad as though I had failed her as a daughter.  I hadn’t, but I felt that way.

They kept her because based on my description of her behavior, they ran a scan and found a brain-tumor.  The doctor was eager to operate.  I could imagine my mother’s horror at the idea.  She was a very conscientious and particular person…about the way things should and shouldn’t be done.  She was very classy, very dignified.  She’d already survived thyroid and colon cancer, she would not want her head shaved and them digging into her brain.  The tumor had metastasized already but not from her other two cancers.  I have a theory that when she went in for her regular checkup in June, that they found out about the tumor, and she chose not to tell me.  She chose to let it go.  I decided then and there, knowing my mother, that she wouldn’t want the brief amount of time the doctors would have given her with such a surgery.  She would want to go on, she was tired of fighting, she was tired of living, she would want to die with dignity.  We’d talked extensively over the years about her two cancers, her three strokes, and I knew her well enough to know what she would want and the decisions she would make if she could.  I refused to allow the surgery.  I told my mother who was lucid, but had short-term memory loss, my decision.  I wasn’t sure she was nodding because she trusted me or because she agreed with me.  After telling her three times that weekend that she was dying of a brain tumor, I was done, I wouldn’t tell her anymore.  It hurt too much.  This was Saturday when I admitted her, by Monday she was in a coma.  They said she would never awaken again and probably be dead by Thursday.  This was right before Christmas 2000.

My mother not only woke up again, she recognized me, my boys, and my brother when he visited.  Nothing like making a liar out of the doctors.  During the last days, she had a stroke.  She always thought she would die of a stroke since her mother had, so when she tried to ask me what was wrong with her and I couldn’t tell her again that she was dying of a brain tumor, I told her she’d had a stroke.  THAT she could understand and comprehend and it seemed to give her comfort.  She even tried, during the last days, to comfort me when I was crying about her dying.  She told me I would be okay, patting me on the stomach.  She was right, I would be okay.  When she slipped back into her coma a few days later, I told her to go on, don’t hang around for me, I would be fine, she raised a strong woman, and I loved her.  She died the next day on January 4, 2001.

Four months later in April I was dealing with my own prognosis and possible death.  It was terrifying for my two boys.  I tell you, if they didn’t exist, I probably would not have fought so hard.  The doctor told me if I did nothing that I would live maybe 4-5 months…and it wouldn’t be a very pleasant death, choking to death.  I became a human guinea pig.

You might wonder why I tell all this, part of it is to remember because I need to, to exorcise it from my psyche.  Part of it is to tell others that no matter how bad things are, you can do it, you can deal with it.  I write about strong women in my books because I am a strong woman, my mother was a strong woman, my grandmother was a strong woman, my great-grandmother was one too…so I come from a long line of strong women and that is what I know and write about.  Here’s a bit of trivia, I am the youngest daughter, of the youngest daughter, of the youngest daughter, of the youngest daughter…how is that for a legacy?  I have no daughters, lol

No matter what you go through, what you may go through, you can do it…I firmly believe that the fates, that a higher power, God if you believe, doesn’t give you ANYthing that you can’t handle.  So, celebrate with me that it’s been SIXTEEN years since that long-ago prognosis.  I’m here, I’m still publishing stories that I hope you all enjoy, AND there is more to come.

If you wish to read more about my cancer story, please click here, here, here, and for the first mention, here.

AND, as always, check out my website to look at all my amazing books!  (Click on the picture to be taken to the site)

crossing-quills-with-www-kannemeinel-com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of TUMORS and HEALTHCHECKS

I’m not fond of doctors.  I don’t hold them in ethereal awe as all-knowing.  Instead, I think of them as a necessary annoyance.  You might ask why and I’ll tell you it is probably because I’ve had more poking and prodding than the average person should.

You see 14.5 years ago I was given a death sentence and while it was ‘only’ four to five months that I was to live, I chose instead to become a human guinea pig. (BLOG) As a result, I obviously survived.

Here’s the thing though when you survive.  They want to know WHY.   As a result they want you to come in at least once a month for that first year, twice a year after that, until finally it’s a health check once year.  I’m not the most patient of people and I didn’t go in for years.  As I get older though and other health concerns come up, I go in a little more frequently.

This last summer I had pneumonia.  In fact, those of you who met me in New Orleans for the Golden Crown Literary Society conference may not have known it but I was sick…very sick.  I hid it quite well, had a good time, but there is much about that conference I simply do not remember due to the way I was feeling.  When I got back from the trip I went directly to the hospital, I had the car rental guy drop me off there!  Walking pneumonia turned to viral pneumonia and that hung on for eight weeks!   The doctor called for a follow up visit a couple of weeks ago because pneumonia is one of those things that can come back easily.  So I went in on a Thursday in October for a chest x-ray.  They called me on Friday because there was an area of concern that they had seen over the summer that seemed to be worse and they wanted an MRI.  That MRI was Monday.  As I left, the technician said we will let you know in 5-7 days.  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’m NOT going to wait that long for any test results.  I went across the medical center to my doctor’s office and asked if there was anything they could do ‘hurry this along,’ as it were.  I said the things going through my brain (yes I am imaginative) would be more damaging than anything physical they could do.  The doctor called two days later.

When you have a mass the size I did over my heart/lung (mine was four inches across) and they shrink it, the body has to fill that empty space.  As a result, calcium can fill it in.  Well this calcium was cause for concern.  Apparently she believed I ‘may’ have a two inch tumor in my heart (or so she said at first) in my aortic arch (whatever that is).  Looking such things up in Web MD, I do NOT recommend.  You will only find yourself ‘sicker’ than you believe with all that helpful information.  My doctor, who is one of the most thorough women you ever want to meet, was meeting with the x-ray people and others because they thought this two inch (whatever) was growing.  Only they thought it was in my lung, over the heart.  Well, I can be blunt and I called bullshit.  You know, knowledgeable and educated people of that caliber tend to be taken aback when you challenge them.  I’m challenging enough but I’m also educated and knowing about what has happened to me.  They wanted to wait three months to ‘see’ if it grew more, as we had from this last summer.  I happened to know that lung cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers there is and I wasn’t going to sit back and wait.  I told her so too.  I also challenged why all the other MRI’s and chest x-rays weren’t available for comparison.

Here’s the thing.  Where I live here in the Northwood’s, they have two health systems.  Apparently they don’t share information…unless you ask.  My doctor, while extremely competent, didn’t have all the information she needed to do the comparison.  I was convinced that the two inch ‘mass’ she was telling me about was a shadow, reduced from the four inch mass that had been there fourteen years ago.  I found it too much of a coincidence that in nearly the same place as I had a tumor before there was one now, it had to be scar tissue.  I told her so too.  So, she sent for the information.  If not from across town we were going to send to Stanford for the results of my experimental procedure and all the data that we could get to compare…before and after.  This all takes time.  As I mentioned before I am not the most patient of people.

I told a few friends, but I also stated, I’m not fighting if this is what they think it is…you see, I fought so hard when I was younger and it took everything out of me.  That procedure was so horrible, I was so sick, that I don’t even want to remember it.  Much of it I have blocked out and forgotten.  I don’t want a repeat of it, in any form.  So, I’ve already made my decision.  I won’t fight it if the fates give me cancer again because I don’t have it in me to fight it again.

Fortunately I didn’t have to make that dire decision.  I was right.  I don’t like saying ‘I told you so,’ I really don’t, but in this case…  The doctor called today to tell me the ‘mass’ is indeed the shadow, the scar tissue from old.  I’m terrible about scarring on the outside, I can imagine what I’m like on the inside where all this went on.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks I’ll tell you, but I got a lot of tears and lot of thoughts out of the way.  It’s amazing how much you introspect when something like this happens to you.  So I’m here for a while yet, to tell more of my stories, to annoy my friends (lol), and to keep going…until next time!

I once wrote about my cancer by giving one of my characters my cancer and some of what I went through. I didn’t have to embellish it, it was dramatic enough.  If you want to read that story, please check out my book GERMANIC here on my website at www.kannemeinel.com.  I recently upgraded my website, take a look around, it’s fantastic what technology can do!

See you around cyber!