I feel like I’ve been starting every post with “it’s been awhile…” and that it’s totally true, it has been awhile! I’ve had some sort of writer’s block lately that has made it nearly impossible to articulate my jumbled thoughts and feelings. Not to mention, this past ~6 weeks has been quite the adventure!
I officially had my one year post treatment scans in early November. They had been on the calendar for a little over a month and I was looking forward to my five-day weekend.
A few days prior to my scans, we found out my boyfriend tested positive for COVID. I would have bet so much money that he had some sort of head cold, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I had a mild (read: semi-severe) panic attack when we found out because this was everything I had been trying to prevent the entire pandemic. All I wanted was to protect the people in my little bubble and now that was slipping away. On top of it, Dan and I chose to quarantine separately and I was worried about him. Thankfully Dan had relatively mild symptoms and recovered just fine. At the time, I was nervous we’d have to move my scans since I was exposed to the virus, but Mayo let me have them so long as my tests remained negative. They remained negative prior to my scans, but the day after I took another test out of precaution and I got a positive result. I was essentially asymptomatic but it became nearly a two week mental game of waiting to feel sick. I’m pretty sure I convinced myself I lost my sense of taste and I had random headaches. The mind is a dangerous place! I did, however, buy myself one of those blood oxygen sensors. I wore that shit around my neck and checked it constantly - you know, just in case!
Alright, back to the scans. I had my scanathon in early November and didn’t quite get the results I had hoped for. My brain was clear but when I met with my doctors the following day, they told me there was a spot near my liver that had slightly lit up. My doctor wasn’t super concerned, but given how aggressive my cancer was she wasn’t going to take any chances. She promptly ordered a follow up MRI. This was a pretty big hurdle for me, mentally. This was the first time that I had a speed bump with my scans. Aside from the first shit storm when I was diagnosed, every scan I have ever had showed some sort of improvement. Although my doctor wasn’t worried, this was the first scan in nearly two years that showed something wasn’t quite right. These are the exact situations that cancer patients and survivors have MEGA anxiety about.
I had my follow up liver MRI about a week and a half later. I had more anxiety about walking into Mayo with a positive COVID test than I did about the actual MRI. (Don’t worry, I cleared it over the phone with them beforehand). I got a phone call from my doctor Monday morning (the day after my liver MRI) with an update. I saw the caller ID and immediately panicked. They don't call you to tell you the good news! I answered the phone with a shaky voice and Renee said, “Hi Hailey, I want to talk to you about your MRI, is now a good time?”
Turns out, the cancer isn’t back! (Had ya there for a moment, didn’t I?!) I did learn that I do have gallstones, and they’re trapped in my bile duct. Which could explain what was showing up on the PET scan. So, a follow up with a GI doc was next on the list. (Also, I felt slightly vindicated because Mom and I have self-diagnosed my 1.5 year long random barfs as gallbladder issues and no one believed us!)
Fast forward a couple of weeks to yesterday and I had my ERCP procedure to clean out my bile duct and remove the gallstones. I’ll likely have to remove my gallbladder soon, but due to COVID, scheduling is a bit tricky. My ERCP was a real treat, though. The procedure itself was pretty simple, but I went under anesthesia and spent about 2.5 hours barfing in recovery. I kept complaining that my stomach felt like it was being stabbed and the nurse just kept telling me “this isn’t supposed to be a painful procedure” Which is the most unhelpful thing ever. I get that it’s not supposed to be painful, but I’m barfing my guts out and I’m pretty sure someone is stabbing me inside my stomach, but sure nurse, you tell me how I should be feeling! I’m 99% sure I had a drug-induced panic attack, and thanks to COVID, I had to be in recovery all by myself! I was sweating, crying, barfing and grasping onto the hospital bed because my stomach was killing me. After calming down and falling back asleep a much nicer nurse helped me get dressed and wheeled me out to my dad waiting in the parking lot so I could go home.
I haven’t talked much about the scan results because it was sort of a lot for me to process. The fact that they showed my cancer hasn’t come back is a really, really great thing - but I was honestly preparing myself for the worst. This gallbladder issue is obviously inconvenient and it's just another procedure I have to go through. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal, but there is still a certain amount of anxiety associated with these procedures, tests, etc. that sort of puts me into a funk.
Aaaand, I think that’s enough word vomit for one post.