My time off had gone well. I went back to work, finished my Christmas decorating and shopping. I probably went a little overboard, because there was a voice in the back of my head that worried that this would be the last Christmas that I would get to spend with my family. Unreasonable yes, but I couldn't help how I felt. The severe depression that I battled periodically throughout my ordeal went in and out of my psyche like the magic bullet went in and out of JFK. I never knew when it would strike or what effect it would have on me at the time.
I wrapped presents and started to plan my holiday around my work schedule. I wouldn't be home at midnight on New Year's Eve for the first time since my son was born. I came up with a plan where we would celebrate with the Brits online at 7 pm so that I could get to work by 11. I also planned out Christmas Eve so that we could still do all of our traditions and I could get to work by 11. It was all going along fine, until one night at work on my overnight shift.
The pain wasn't that bad, but I knew it well. When I found blood in my urine, I knew for sure. I had a kidney stone. One of the things that I am plagued with in life is that I manufacture calcium-oxalate kidney stones. So, on top of cancer, I had that to deal with. I got used to the pain a long time ago, so I was able to finish my shift. I was asked to stay late that day, and I didn't want to do that with a kidney stone pass in progress, so I went home on time.
Unfortunately, I continued to bleed and have some stabbing pains throughout the day. The bleeding got to be excessive in the evening, and I ended up in the emergency room. I have to say one thing about my life. With all of the annoying stupid problems that I have, it's a good thing that the hospital is right up the street. I could walk there if I had to. At least it's convenient.
So, a few x-rays and a catscan later found that I had kidney stones in both kidneys. I was not excited. I didn't make it to work that night and went home late and tried to get some sleep. By the next morning I had passed the small kidney stone that was in my tube. There was still one stone that was too big to pass. Sooner or later, I would have to go to the operating room for a lithotripsy or to have them lasered and removed. It would not be my first rodeo with any of that. I had already had one lithotripsy in life and been in for laser removal three times. Just more fun for someone who was suffering from the extreme stress of upcoming cancer surgery.
The surgeon had told me that I would not die of DCIS. At least not my case of it. It was completely contained and would be a simple fix. That is, if you can call a total mastectomy simple. What I was facing now, was just more medical procedures. There would be more appointments, more tests, more trips to the operating room, and so on. I was seeing dollar signs. I was seeing lots of dollar signs. I was seeing a scenario where I became a weak person because of all the procedures and surgeries. I am not weak. I've spent my whole life becoming the strongest woman I know. I did not want all of my hard work building a self sufficient, strong willed, highly intelligent, capable, wise woman to go to waste. I didn't want to fall apart.
The good news was that the idea of having kidney stones removed didn't scare me. It was old hat and that didn't bother me. I didn't have a clue how it would go along with the mastectomy, but I figured that we were about to find out.
I went to see my urologist a couple of days later. I was still bleeding and he asked me if maybe I was menstruating. I told him that I wasn't, and that it couldn't be because I was through menopause. He didn't seem convinced, but he left it alone. He talked to me about the stones, which, incidentally, the hospital emergency room staff had told me that one of the stones was not passable. My doctor informed me that they were both unpassable. Lucky me. He did say that with the new machine that they could lithotripsy both of them at the same time and resolve the problem. I hoped that was true. I hadn't had any luck the first time I went for a lithotripsy.
Lithotripsy is a high powered ultrasound that can aim at a target. The theory is that when aimed at your kidney stone and zapped, it will shatter the stone. Then you can let it wash out in urine naturally. I have my doubts about it since it didn't work before, but he insisted that it was much better now. He scheduled me for some more imaging in order to pinpoint the stones, and I went on my way for the day.
The next day, the bleeding continued. I called the doctor. They said that they thought that it had to be vaginal. They hadn't seen anything that would make them think that I would still have blood in my urine. Upon investigation, they were right. I was having my period.
As I continue, I will tell you all of the ridiculous things that happened in relation to and collusion with my cancer. It was a wild roller coaster, and almost no one knows everything that went on. I will tell the whole story. I want everyone to know that like my story; all stories are unique. The reason that I am telling every complication, every relationship issue, every work issue, trouble with pets, family, bills, insurance and so on is so that hopefully everyone can see just how personal each person's journey is. There is no mold or formula or pattern or routine. We each have our particular demons and challenges and frustrations and fears. No two women are alike and no two women's cancer stories are alike.
I hope that this helps at least one person cope with their story and what they are going through.