jenny's belly

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Hey, my soon-to-be oncologist is cute! Lucky Jen :)

I won't meet him until after the surgery but he's already looped into the whole thing by my PCP and surgeon. This is the guy who will decide what needs to happen after I heal from surgery. Chemo? Radiation? Nothing?


I finished the pre-op yesterday for the surgery. Which is funny when you think about it because I don't know for certain when the surgery will be or who will be doing it or WHAT the surgery will be.

I just know it's been scheduled and stuff is coming out. :)

The nurse was explaining to me that I need to start practicing specific breathing exercises and I'll have an epidural along with other anesthesia. My question is, will the father of the cancer be there too?

I guess Dr. Vernon booked me for surgery due to Gastric cancer with esophagatis so there is just enough info for pre-op. I had some chest x-rays taken ("We always do that with cancer patients, you'll probably have one a year from now on") and blood drawn ("Do you see this beautiful day? You make sure to ask the man upstairs to be good to your doctors"). Wait, I have to worry about my doctors now?

Yesterday I admitted to my surgeon that everything I ever get on my body from now until death I will be convinced is due to cancer. Like I know I bit my tongue a few days ago and it left a boo-boo but I can't help thinking- cancer. I know it isn't, but there's a tiny thought that can't be squashed...

In any case, at least that's one more thing out of the way. I've got three appointments this coming week. I know the post time is 12:37 am, but I actually just woke up. I went to bed at 6pm. And I'll be going back to bed soon. I am so unreasonably tired. But that's sleep apnea and anxiety, not cancer. Right? RIGHT?! :)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Daily Appointments

My family and I met with my surgeon yesterday afternoon. I wasn't sure what to expect after speaking with her on the phone earlier this week: "Well, we're thinking we'll remove half of your stomach and half of your esophagus and attach them in your neck instead of your chest, so that would mean three openings, one in your abdomen, one in your chest and one in your neck..." And there was some talk of "quality of life" which is never taken as good news.

But the meeting with her in person was actually helpful. (I've meet with her before but not since learning about the cancer.) She described how the cancer is on the inside of my stomach and therefore likely did not arrive there from somewhere else in my body. She also said there isn't a "mass" of cancer but rather a thickening of the stomach wall and a narrowing of the esophagus. I believe I have lots of pre-cancerous cells and likely only a bit of actual cancer.

She believes I've had this for awhile. Possibly a year.

But here was my favorite part: "So Dr. Thompson took a sample from your small intestine... oh, did you know you have Celiac disease?" Having been through some culinary classes at Johnson & Wales I know that's intolerance to gluten (basically found in bread, pasta, etc) I have never had trouble with these things, but *have* had stomach pains when drinking alcohol, so that makes a bit of sense.

The point my surgeon was making, is that Dr. Thompson, who performed the endoscopy, took a sample of my small intestine because he was looking for the bacteria which causes ulcers, and as he spun the scope around and could see the upper wall of my stomach he thought, hm, that's strange...

And so along with my 123980 coincidences for this cancer to be found, add number 123981. No one is looking for cancer. Even the pathologist who reviewed the biopsy thought something was wrong and contacted Dr. Thompson: "What am I looking at?"

I'm to have another endoscopy with Dr. Thompson next tuesday. I've insisted on being knocked out this time, so I have to go BACK to Brigham today to do the pre-op since anesthesia will be involved.

Monday afternoon I have an appointment with an amazing surgeon. I was thinking it was going to be a second opinion but found out from Dr. Vernon yesterday that this other surgeon, Dr. Osteen, has been involved with my case already.

It will be nice to meet him and get some additional information anyway.

I asked my surgeon how often cancer like mine is found at this stage. She shook her head- it doesn't happen. My cancer was found by chance after fluke after coincidence.

I may have cancer, but I'm unbelievably, extremely lucky to know it now and not 10 years from now.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What *IS* Cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by either the runaway growth of cells or the failure of cells to die normally. Often, cancer cells spread to distant parts of the body, where they can form new tumors. Cancer can arise in any organ of the body and strikes one of every two American men and one of every three American women at some point in their lives.

It is caused by a series of mutations, or alterations, in genes that control cells' ability to grow and divide. Some mutations are inherited; others arise from environmental factors such as smoking or exposure to chemicals, radiation, or viruses that damage cells' DNA. The mutations cause cells to divide relentlessly or lose their normal ability to die.

There are more than 100 different varieties of cancer, which can be divided into six major categories. Carcinomas, the most common type of cancer, originate in tissues that cover a surface or line a cavity of the body. Sarcomas begin in tissue that connects, supports or surrounds other tissues and organs. Lymphomas are cancers of the lymph system, the circulatory system that bathes and cleanses the body's cells. Leukemias involve blood-forming tissues and blood cells. As their name indicates, brain tumors are cancers that begin in the brain, and skin cancers, including dangerous melanomas, originate in the skin. Cancers are considered metastatic if they spread via the blood or lymphatic system to other parts of the body to form secondary tumors.

[Credit: Brigham & Women's Cancer Center.]

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Big C

In general, I have not carried a bullhorn around announcing that I've had medical issues. Some know I've been very, very tired.

I have excellent doctors and they did not leave my diagnosis at sleep apnea and anemia. They continued their review, to find out why I might be anemic. I am pleased to say they did discover a cause, though I am put in a situation I never thought I would have to deal with.

I have been diagnosed with stomach cancer. I do not know what stage, nor will I know until the surgeons open me up to remove it, but it is relatively slow-moving as shown by a biopsy. I believe from what they will tell me that lymph nodes are involved. They can't tell me this for certain, but the way these "things" are grouped is "typical" of lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes group?! I have a lot of reading to do!

I want people to know about this. I don't have the plague so you won't catch it. I don't have a VD so I'm not ashamed to talk about it. I ask that now that you know, you please pray for me.

I'm a quietly religious person who has witnessed amazing things since I learned of this on friday. I have seen ridiculous coincidences, and I have felt that when alone in a room for a few minutes to think, that I am not alone in the room.

Not that there is a person in the room, but rather a voice in my head with ideas and thoughts somewhat outside of my own. I can't quite explain it without sounding like a nutcase, but I want you to know that right now I'm in no pain, and on no medication. I'm surrounded with my family, including my brother, who was long scheduled to be home from post-Iraq lockdown saturday morning (coincidence?!). I am the same person I was when I woke up friday morning, just a bit changed.

I appreciate straight-forward "I'm thinking of you" and would like you to tell others in a matter-of-fact way as I have told you. No whispering like we're sneaking notes in school, okay?


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sounds Fascinating

First, I discover I have sleep apnea, then I learn I also have anemia. Well it's amazing I even get up in the morning with those two strikes against me! And the Upper GI shows likely WHY I'm anemic. Something is wrong with my esophagus. They think I'm bleeding. I had an Upper Endoscopy to learn more about it. Oh dear lord, this was the most horrible thing I've ever experienced. I gagged so hard I actually blew some blood vessels in my EYES.

So I'm likely needing iron supplements, some sort of mechanical machine to sleep with at night (if I wasn't already single this would definitely scare some poor guy away), something is going to have to get the bleeding to stop, and my left eye looks disgusting.

Oh, you're just jealous... :)