My web site is devoted to medical and treatment information about this rare cancer. My blog is devoted to sharing what has been the more difficult part of the journey for me, the emotional and spiritual road I've traveled as a rare cancer survivor.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Day One as a Cancer Patient

I think back sometimes to when this all started, my life with cancer. The first thing I remember is waking in an anesthesia-induced fog in the recovery room. My surgeon was at the foot of my bed telling me that my fibroids weren’t that bad after all, so he’d not done the hysterectomy, but that my appendix had ruptured. In my groggy post-anesthesia state, that explained the NG tube in my nose and the symptoms I’d been having, but not his blank expression. They’d removed the appendix, I was alive and could be given antibiotics, it was a happy ending to a surprise situation. He was a doctor and colleague who always had sparkling eyes and a joyful expression. But as he talked to me, his facial expression was blank, the sparkle in his eyes was gone, his voice a monotone. The brief conversation and the look on his face are now forever frozen in my memory. And it’s funny, but the memory as I visualize it now is in black and white, not color. Grey.

Later in my hospital room, I noticed that all of the nurses and staff were very polite, but also that they were in and out of my room in a hurry, and they didn’t make eye contact. I noticed it, as I had noticed my surgeon’s facial expression, but I didn’t think much of it. They were just busy and very professional, my surgeon had been tired. I decided I was really one of their least sick patients, I’d only had a laparoscopic appendectomy. They had many other patients who required more care and who were sicker. They really didn’t have time to stop and chat, they were busy. Too busy to look at me.

The next day I learned the truth. My husband sat on the side of the bed next to me the day after my surgery. He is a registered nurse also, a surgical nurse. When my ruptured appendix was discovered, he’d scrubbed in and assisted with my surgery as I’d had complications related to the prolonged rupture. They'd needed more nursing staff to assist. Now he sat next to me, crying. I’d never seen him cry before. I remember his words, ”When they got into your abdomen, it looked really bad, you were a mess inside. They found out you have cancer, a very rare cancer. You have appendix cancer”. At the time I felt outside of myself. I felt so sorry for my husband, I wanted to tell him it was okay. I felt so badly for him having to tell me that I had cancer, what an awful job. He must have asked to be the one to tell me. But really, I felt fine. I felt great. How could I have cancer? It seemed so strange. Cancer patients were very sick people, I wasn’t sick. I was ready to go back home to my normal life. The only thing that separated my before-cancer life from my life as a cancer patient were those three words “You have cancer”. I didn’t know much about the cancer, only that I’d never heard of a cancerous appendix. Appendix cancer?

I’ve since communicated with others newly diagnosed who felt the same. Shouldn’t they feel sick? They felt fine, they didn’t feel like a cancer patient…could it really be true? It was strange, I felt I was supposed to suddenly assume a role that didn’t belong to me, the identity of a cancer patient. It was unreal.

Unreal.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn, Thank you for your words and your website. My Mother has just been told she has appendiceal cancer. She was released from the hospital Dec 31st and goes to her first cancer treatment appointment on thursday. I have your list of questions to ask her physician. We will also check into your list of specialist. Thank you again for your website and your blog. Congratulations on your 5 years and may you have many many wonderful years to come. Kathy, Klamath Falls Oregon

Dan & Rosa Saraiva said...

Hello, I was recently dx with mucinous cystadonoma of the appendix. I was wondering if I could get the list you have to Kathy to ask the doctors. I am suppose to go in for surgery in Feb to do de-bulking and heated chemo. Thank you Rosa

Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN said...

Hi Rosa,

I'm thinking Kathy is probably referring to the list of questions on the FAQs page of my web site:

http://www.appendix-cancer.com/FAQs.htm

There are also more questions you can ask found on a link "Making Sure Your Surgery is Safe" on the "Physicians and Facilities" page of my site.

I wish you the best with your surgery and recovery!

Carolyn

P.S. Kathy, thank you for your very kind words, and I wish your mother well also.

Dan & Rosa Saraiva said...

Ok, thanks. I didnt know if there were other questions.

Health and Wellness Guru said...

Hi.. Im Bien, maybe i can help you guys for those people who has cancer.. kindly check this out.. http://guidetoyourhealth.blogspot.com/

Kristin said...

Hi my uncle was diagnosed with cancer today and my parents (both physicians) think that it probably started in his appendix, even though it has now spread throughout the abdominal cavity. I am really encouraged to read your blog and know that people can survive this. I am not sure what will happen to him, but this does give me hope. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Kristin said...

Hi, my uncle was just diagnosed with cancer and my parents (both physicians) think that it originated in the appendix even though it has now spread throughout the abdominal cavity. I just Googled "appendix cancer" and found your blog. I am encouraged that you survived this. I am not sure what will happen to my uncle, but this gives me a little hope. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Kristin said...

Hi, my uncle was just diagnosed with cancer and my parents (both physicians) think that it originated in the appendix, even though it is now widespread throughout the abdominal cavity. I am encouraged by your survival and progress. I'm not sure what will happen to my uncle, but this gives me a little hope. Thank you for sharing your experiences.