My Wake-Up Call

Sometimes we all need a wake up call and I got my mine about two years ago.

But before I share my wake up call with you, I should first share with you what happened 15 years ago.

While I was living in NYC, I received the phone call that everyone dreads. My mother called to tell me my father had a stroke, so I immediately flew to San Francisco to be with him. 

While visiting him in the hospital, all of the sudden I keeled over with excruciating pain in my stomach.

I thought it would just pass, so I didn’t make a big deal about it. Only it didn’t and suddenly, it became an unbearable stabbing pain, so I was rushed to the ER completely slumped over in a wheelchair.

The doctors ran several tests and discovered a cyst the size of an orange on my left ovary and recommended to have it removed immediately when I returned to NYC.

I was completely terrified, as I never had anything that serious happen to me before.

When I met with my doctor in NYC for the pre-op appointment, he prepared me for what to expect during the surgery. 

He told me, that not until he removed the cyst during surgery would he know if it was cancerous. While that was scary enough, it became even more overwhelming when he said, if he discovered it was indeed cancer, then he would have no choice but to give me a full hysterectomy at the same time.

What?!

I was in complete shock.

My mind was racing all over the place with panicked thoughts.

Back then I was still in my early 40’s and knew I still had a chance to have children (as my sister had her last baby at 43), but now this could all be taken away from me…all while I was under anesthesia, completely unconscious.

And if that wasn’t overwhelming enough, I was faced with the harsh reality if he had to give me a hysterectomy, then I would go into immediate menopause after the surgery.

My head was spinning with a whole host of emotions.  From the possibility of having cancer, to a possible hysterectomy, and then to early menopause.

While I felt like my health and life were spinning out of control… going into surgery I had full faith in my doctor and that he would make the best decisions for me based on what he found.

Good News, Bad News!

When I awoke from surgery and was still really woozy, he shared the good and bad news.

The bad news was I had lost my left ovary because the large cyst had overtaken my ovary.

But the good news was, the biopsy of the cyst came back benign and wasn’t cancer! 

Phew, I breathed in a huge sigh of relief and thankfully, he did not have to give me hysterectomy.

And there was just one other thing, he wasn’t able to remove a few very small cysts on my abdomen wall because they were just too small, which he felt it would be best to monitor with yearly CT scans.

So for the last 15 years, I’ve had a yearly CT scan to monitor the cysts, and the good news everything had remained status quo. 

Fast forward to two years ago…

As usual I had my yearly CT scan, but this time my doctor saw something on my liver and said we should biopsy it.

While I was worried, I knew the drill and wasn’t too concerned because as I mentioned before, my biopsies in the past had always been benign. 

In the back of my head I thought this was just a minor speed bump and inconvenience. I was pretty certain it would just come back as nothing, no big deal…and I would just go about living my life.

A few days passed after the biopsy procedure and I finally got the call from my doctor and she uttered…

“You’ve got cancer”

I was in complete shock and disbelief, the words no one ever wants to hear.

And that’s when I went completely deaf and couldn’t hear another word she said.

I felt like I was on the Peanuts cartoon show where the teacher was speaking, “Wah wah woh wah wah”.

My mind started racing…

I went through a rollercoaster of emotions, I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

How could I have cancer?!

I felt like I was in a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. My mind and life were completely spiraling out of control in a matter of seconds. 

For someone who’s an admitted control freak…I was faced with the harsh reality, I was no longer in control of my life. 

I thought to myself, I can’t die…Not NOW!

I have so much I want and need to do in my life and now I might run out of time.

And that’s when I began my pity party.

It was very telling where my mind went in these initial moments, the first thing I thought of was…

Why ME?!

I’m healthy. I exercise. I eat right.  

OK, well most of the time, except for the occasional cheeseburger, fries and pizza… 

But unfortunately, we all know that cancer doesn’t discriminate. 

Then the second place my mind went was…

All the regrets in my life.

What I hadn’t done in my life and what I wished I had done. 

I started kicking myself…because for my entire career, I’ve worked too hard. I always put my career first and foremost above everything else in my life…relationships, family, vacations and just having fun.

How stupid could I be…and now, all for what?! A promotion or bigger paycheck?

It’s funny, how those things didn’t matter one bit, now that I had cancer.

Then I thought about how I haven’t traveled to all the places I’ve dreamed about going to for years.

And all the things in my life that I kept putting off because I was “too busy”.

But was I really too busy?!

Or was that just an excuse?

Why did I wait so long?

Because the same reason everyone else does…

We think we have all the time in the world to live our lives.  And we usually base our own life span off of how long our parents lived, and I was no different.

After all, my mother lived to 88 and my father to 95.  And my grandmother lived to 101.

So why would I be any different? 

I come from good genes and I would certainly live that long…if not longer, because I’m a healthy woman in her mid 50’s, who takes good care of herself.

But I didn’t factor in the “what if” into my life…

What if I get cancer and my life is cut short? 

What if I don’t have all the time in the world, like I thought I did?

This was my wake up call.

An unwanted wake up call…but at the same time, my much needed wake up call.

This blog post was the first in a series of four. In the second blog post, I share with you one of my biggest realizations about being diagnosed: “The One Thing I Can’t Buy.”

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