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My year

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I had been living out in Arizona for 5 years when I got the opportunity to move back to my home town of Kansas City. I jumped at the chance, I missed the seasons and could not stand the heat anymore. So my Mom and I moved back home in November of ’07. My Mom is in congestive heart failure and so she lives with me. I’m not sure who takes care of who though!

One thing I forgot about good old Kansas City was my allergies. In the springtime in the middle of March ’08, my allergies attacked! I made an appointment with my allergist and he set me up with some meds. About one week later I’m even worse. He sends me for a chest x-ray at a place called Diagnostic Imaging. Before I can even get my shirt back on after the x-ray a little nurse comes rushing in telling me I can’t leave yet, wait right here Dr. Reese the radiologist wants to see me. Dr. Reese comes in and tells me she sees a spot in the upper tip of my left lung, the x-ray isn’t very clear and she already called my allergist and got the okay and could I go next door and get a CAT scan please? She said that she couldn’t tell what the spot was it didn’t show up very good on the x-ray.

About an hour after my CAT scan the allergist’s nurse calls me all freaked out says I have a “mass” in my upper left lung. I was totally stunned! A “MASS”!?!?! Finally I asked her how big, she told me 2cm (?) not sure, but I said, “Smaller then a dime”? She responded with yes but it’s still a MASS. I asked her to quit using that word and now what should I do? She called and made me an appointment with a pulmonologist, Dr.Vossler.

Went home and cried on Mom’s shoulder.

Went and saw Dr. Vossler who then scheduled me for a PET scan. In the mean time Mom and I named my MASS, “my little hairball”, made me feel better to cut it down to size. Well after the PET scan Dr. Vossler scheduled me with a thoracic surgeon to get a biopsy of the thing, apparently my hairball lit up like a Christmas Tree.

On April 28, 2008 my surgeon Dr. Schwartz went into my side/back between two ribs and saw what my little hairball was. He removed my upper left lobe and all surrounding lymph nodes. My little hairball now had a name “small cell lung cancer”. He did have all the tissue biopsied and there was no sign of any other cancer cells, not even right by the tumor. He was very happy and pleased to give me the good news? Yeah you have SCLC, but I think we got it! He also orders up a pneumonia shot, which I am grateful for one less worry, Mom has been known to get pneumonia now and again.

Next enters my oncologist, Dr. Amy Rabe, wow, she’s a handful. Little bitty thing full of energy and doesn’t pull any of her punches. She pretty much told me that if I didn’t go to chemo my chances of survival went way down with chemo we might actually get a cure! I had to heal from surgery first which would take about a month.

I was in the hospital for a week for some reason the surgery wasn’t that hard on me. My Mom started getting sick about half way through my hospitalization, so my best friend from way back Jane took over. After I was out of the hospital for less than a week Mom had to go check in. Her hemoglobin count was dangerously low. So my friend Jane had her hands full! I wasn’t allowed to drive so she was driving me around and doing our grocery shopping, don’t know what we would have done without her. Mom finally got out of the hospital after 6 weeks, the doc’s never did figure out what was wrong, just kept giving her blood.

Here’s something really strange about one week after I was diagnosed my ex-sister-in-law Jean was diagnose with cancer (not lung). So she and I made this journey almost together. So strange, she kept me going more times then she knows!

My chemo started June ’08, Monday was Cisplatin and VP16, Tuesday & Wednesday was just the VP16. Four sessions every 3 weeks. Also blood work every Monday chemo week or not. Dr. Rabe also sent me to get an MRI of my brain. Mom and I were both very happy that we could now prove to my older sister that I really had one! Week one of chemo wasn’t too bad. Mom drove me to the Cancer Center and made snacks and sandwiches for use, we just hung out and talked, read or I would take a little nap.

Second week (7-7/7-9) wasn’t so good, my blood pressure started going up with my heart pounding. Nurses kept an eye on me and Mom and I made it through. Thursday night after my chemo earlier in the week I started getting sick, just felt sick to my stomach and just generally achy. I started driving Mom crazy, something I could eat one day made me sick the next. The next thing is my scalp is killing me! I was told that means my hair was getting ready to fall out. So I naturally had to pull at it and sure enough a whole wad came out! My Mom, “Stop that”! My good friend Jane had a friend that cut hair, she told me to come right over. She cut my hair really cute, short, but cute and instantly my scalp quit hurting.

Third week (7-28/7-30), just shoot me! I was not one of those lucky people that adjust to chemo! I was getting sicker and sicker. This time my blood pressure was so high everybody was freaked out. Dr. Rabe wrote me script for some blood pressure meds. I finally told them enough with the dexamethizone it was killing me. Made it through the chemo sessions! I was seriously considering stopping chemo, I was just feeling so sick. Lordy, Lordy was I sick now, my scalp was just burning. I drove Mom crazy because I kept pulling at it! I now only had hair on the top of my head. I asked Mom, “Doesn’t it remind you of when I was a baby”? She answers, “No you were born with more hair then that! Now leave it alone”!

Fourth week chemo (8-18/8-20), I just didn’t think I could take anymore. Mom got me to rally and off we go again to the Cancer Center. It’s our last session, we can do this! We did it! Yeah! I still have a few sprigs of hair left, I let them peek out from under the scarf that is always on my head (except at home), can’t stand wigs! Still getting blood tests on Mondays.

Some things that happened with chemo: my blood sugars went through the roof along with my blood pressure, I briefly had shingles, I had thrush twice (yuck), I also gained 50 pounds and ended up with partial hearing loss! I was kinda snippy about the weight gain, I thought that would be one positive of chemo is I would lose a few pounds. Dr. Rabe said my metabolism crashed on me, but don’t worry as soon as my metabolism kicked back in the weight would come off.

Dr. Rabe ordered my first CAT scan in September ’08, it will be my first scan since they first found my “hairball”. Yeah! It’s clean!!! Mom wasn’t impressed she said that she had talked to God and he told her that I wasn’t done yet.

It’s a struggle trying to go back to work. I’m just so week and get worn out so easily. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just shake this off? My Mom pointed out that it wasn’t like getting over a cold or stubbing my toe, I went through a very major surgery and those horrible chemo treatments, it’s just going to take time. Funny when I was going through those “horrible” chemo treatments she told me they were no big deal and quit sniveling!

Next CAT scan in December ’08, WOW! Clean again! Yeah! Dr. Rabe was all excited. She asked where Mom was she was used to seeing her. I told her Mom didn’t want to come anymore because I’m fine. Next CAT scan and MRI brain scan not scheduled until April ’09. Yippee!

It’ January and Mom isn’t feeling good, real weak and her back hurts. She finally goes to the doctor and he wants her in the hospital. So Mom and I are joking about her annual tune up at the hospital. Her hemoglobin was low again and she was retaining water (congestive heart failure), so they played around with her meds. She was there for about ten days, she came home on January 4th. She started throwing up and running a fever the next day, her back really hurt a lot. The next day Friday the 6th, later in the afternoon I finally called 911.

They weren’t sure what was wrong with her, a possible heart attack. They were keeping her there and were just waiting for a bed in the cardiac unit. Nurses sent me home said it could be hours before she got a room and she was dozing off anyway. The next morning Mom is in ICU. The doctors tell us that Mom has a staph infection and it has invaded her organs, they are doing everything they can, I.V. antibiotics and they were also supporting her blood pressure. Doctor’s told us that if they didn’t see an improvement within 24 hours, that there was nothing else they could do and Mom was going to die. Mom and I just held hands and talked, what if this was the end for her? I told her what a wonderful Mom she was, I couldn’t have picked a better one. And she told me that I was the most amazing kid anyone could ever wish for. She told me I needed to be as strong as she knew I was and to keep my head screwed on straight and to think of myself once in awhile instead of everybody else first. I told her I loved her and I would see her in the morning. She told me she would be waiting and she loved me too.

The next morning at the hospital when I went in to see I already knew. She would open her eyes real big and say “Okay”. That’s all she would say. My friend Jane came up and I just set and held Mom’s hand all day and talked to her. The nurses were absolutely amazing, the kept Mom calm and pain free. I kept telling Mom to head for the light, Mom don’t fight it anymore. I will be fine, I promise. Let go Mom, don’t suffer anymore, go on to Heaven. I love you Mom. She died with me holding her in my arms and kissing her face at 5:51pm on February 8, 2009. I miss my Mama sooo bad!

I just have this feeling that my cancer is gone and not coming back, because my Mom knew I would be okay before she let go.

So that’s my story, this year has been a hell of a ride, I for one am glad it’s over. It’s been almost a year since they found my “hairball”, it’s been a year full of pain and fear and grief. So here is to a brand new year with no cancer or death in it. Just to prove it I went out and bought a new puppy! My cats are totally disgusted!!!


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