9-12-2012 I had my gallbladder removed. Before that, for months, I had a funny feeling in my side and had been waking up with a sore throat. Neither issue was debilitating. They were more annoyances, really. I told my Primary Doc at a routine physical about these issues, and knowing I had gallstones, he advised that I should have my gallbladder removed by a surgeon. I actually waited a few months to get in contact with the surgeon because I thought, "Surgery? Really? Aren't we making a mountain out of a mole hill here?". After finally scheduling the surgery, I had a righteous gallbladder attack, and asked the surgeon to move up the removal date accordingly. Afterwards, on 9-25-2012, I was scheduled to come in for a routine after surgery follow up.
The day before my after-surgery follow-up I wrote an e-mail to my Veterans Group, to let them know how I was fairing...
Mon, 24 Sep 2012
10-4 on no group tomorrow.
I was going to go to work today (it'd been my first day back) but took the day off. The incisions are healing up, but my sleep cycle and intestinal cycle are really wonky. I'm going to try again to go to work tomorrow.
"Potentially bad news". The surgeon Dr Supple walked in to the examining room, and sat down across from me. He didn't waste any time or mince any words. "Here's the deal. Pathology found a T2 tumor (stage 2) in your gallbladder." I think he also explained that it was called an 'adenocarcinoma'. I thought it was a bad joke or that he was lying to me. I remember thinking "is this mother-f#%ker lying to me?" but I simply asked him, "do you mean cancer? real cancer?". After a quick "yes" he launched into a quick explanation of the liver resection surgery that he said I'd need, asap. I expressed my dismay by saying "Doc I'm still sore from the last surgery and your telling me I need another surgery already?". His response was, "Hopefully yes, at stage 2 we can do the surgery. If you were stage 3 or 4, I'd be telling you to get your affairs in order right now".
As I was leaving, I was thinking, "man, I wouldn't want to have that guys job, and have to tell people stuff like that". But when the door closed behind me, and I was outside alone, I started shaking a little bit.
That day I wrote the Veterans group again...
Date: September 25, 2012
Well I did make it to work today. I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon this morning too. I got some potentially bad news from him.
They biopsied my gall bladder after they got it out. They found a stage II adenocarcinoma. Within two weeks I have to undergo another surgery to remove some lymph nodes and a part of my liver. I looked it up on Wikipedia and I guess this can be pretty serious. As I write, I'm still trying to get my head around this (pretty much been trying to get my head around this all day).
The prospect of another surgery is the biggest bummer. I'm going to focus on that for now. I know that I'm actually lucky the Doc's found this out now, and I'm lucky to have lots of support around me.
Let me know if there is a group next week. I want to see you guys again if possible before they cut me open again. I'll probably be off for a month after that.
I went back to work after that doctors appointment. I looked up Gallbladder Cancer on Wikipedia. It's not something you hear about everyday. I learned it's in a class of cancers categorized as a 'rare disease'. Then I went to the American Cancer Society's website and looked it up on there. I wanted to see the survival statistics. When I saw them I was utterly terrified. I closed the door to my office and composed myself, then I must have wrote the 'potentially bad news' e-mail after that.
The ensuing months were filled with tests, appointments, and treatment. To get help navigating this, I sought advice from old friends, and made new ones along the way. More letters were written as the story unfolds. But those are stories for another day. Please feel free to share this with anyone who might like to read it.
Salty Rose, 2019