There’s nothing like a near-death experience to make you appreciate the pain (both physical and mental) associated with waiting. The waiting you do for everyday events is annoying, but not near-death, unless you count the road rage you feel when you’re waiting for someone to learn how to drive. Sometimes the people you mentally wound also cause near-death experiences for the people in the surrounding vehicles. Maybe that’s why I have an unusual belief that I’m going to die in a car accident.
Wait for it.
Luckily we own a truck, so we can’t technically have a car accident. Yes, I just said that.
While I may be safe from the car/truck accident experience, I have had a few exciting medical experiences.
One of my experiences was in Las Vegas. In 2006, I was there for a conference and I wasn’t gambling on my appendix rupturing, but that’s what happened. What I thought had been the flu turned out to be the beginning of the end of my appendix, and nearly me.
I arrived at the hospital by ambulance and then waited on a gurney for five hours before I made it to the surgical area. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The first words I heard when I got to emergency were from a group of medical personnel talking about the great cookies that someone brought in and what they (the doctors and nurses, not the cookies) were going to do for dinner. Now how was I supposed to compete with home-made cookies? No one can.
If I’ve learned anything from this experience, I know I should have brought some cookies with me…even store-bought.
Not only did I wait to get out of the emergency room, but once I got to the waiting area for surgery, I had to wait for someone to bring the results of my blood work that was taken five hours earlier. When the anaesthesiologist saw the results, he called emergency and I could hear him yelling while I was wheeled into the operating room. Now I knew just how serious it was. Fortunately, I was soon out cold and didn’t have time to worry about it.
After my surgery, when I first spoke to my doctor, I found out that my appendix had ruptured at least a day earlier…maybe more. I went into the hospital on a Sunday and didn’t leave until the following Friday. Luckily, I had bought medical insurance before I made the trip; otherwise, I would have had a $95,000 bill. For those of us in Canada, this bill was in US dollars. With my insurance, I never paid a cent.
Now, in addition to escaping a huge medical bill and surviving a near-fatal wait, I have a great story about Vegas where I can accurately say, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, including my ruptured appendix.”
Having survived the appendix experience, my next waiting challenge occurred four years later. As the not-so-subtle title indicates, my waiting was associated with breast cancer and I would have willingly waited a lifetime not to hear the words, “You have cancer.” Fortunately, in my case, waiting for tests, having them, and waiting for results took long enough that I got to wait months before I heard those words.
In 2010, I started noticing a reddish spot on my nightgown each morning. It never occurred to me that it could be blood. I mean why would that be anyone’s first thought? It was much easier to believe that I was a messy eater and that I had spilled something on myself.
Eventually I figured out the spot on my nightgown was blood and it was coming from my nipple. Sadly, I didn’t realize this was a symptom of breast cancer, so I waited a bit before I went to see my doctor. Yes, I know, any normal woman would have been a little freaked out and gone to her doctor. Well, as you may have figured out, I’m not always normal.
The visit to my doctor’s office marked the beginning of tests. I waited for appointments and then went for those tests. Obviously there was something wrong, because I kept getting sent for more tests. I waited for results; they were inconclusive. Eventually I was sent to another city where I had the opportunity to have the same tests (and wait times) repeated. As a bonus, I got to have a few new tests (another opportunity to learn) that included an MRI biopsy. This test, which is not available in all hospitals, was the one that showed the full extent of my cancer. My wait to understand the scope of my cancer was done.
Or was it?
When I had my mastectomy in March 2011, the samples taken during surgery were sent away for analysis. Waiting for the pathology report was the longest 14 days of my life. The results (for example, the stage and grade of my cancer) would determine which treatment options would be recommended to me. The wait to find out if chemo and radiation werein my future was different than any other waiting I’d done. Think of it as being worse than waiting in line when you have to pee and the line in the women’s washroom doesn’t seem to be moving. There’s the fear that things won’t turn out the way you want.
In the end, while I didn’t pee my pants, I found out that chemo and radiation were in my future.
My first chemo treatment was in May. I received chemo treatments every two weeks until 16 weeks had passed. I finished my chemo treatments in August. I then had a four week break (like a staycation) because of good behaviour and to recover from the chemo treatments. In October, I started five weeks of radiation treatments that took place five times a week. In November, if you don’t count the medication I continue to take, my treatments were over.
I had spent one year fighting cancer and waiting for my life to return to the way it was before I started my cancer journey. Ironically, I’m still waiting. Once you’ve had cancer, nothing is ever truly the same. Don’t get me wrong, it can be pretty darn close; however, I’m still at the stage where I have regular doctor appointments to ensure that I haven’t developed uterine cancer as a result of taking medication to make sure my breast cancer doesn’t come back. How wild is that?
And, although it may sound like I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop (my breast cancer returns), the truth is I can push this possibility to the back of my mind. My focus is on being alive and being able to do new and exciting things. A life of possibilities is definitely worth the wait.
I can experience the thrill of everyday waiting, where I give the toaster the evil eye to get it to pop and I mentally coax the bus to come. I also have the opportunity to look forward to a special event like my son getting married.
Life is good and the wait for the medical events to end was worth it.
Over 30-years of writing experience, over five years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.