Part 2. Shock and Awe

My stomach has both been churning and tightening as the days on the calendar have been advancing this month. Each day represents a one year anniversary of sorts for me with the first really big demarcation being today. It was one year ago, April 23, 2015 that I went in for an MRI because of severe back pain.

The only place I could find relief...the infamous ottoman.

The only place I could find relief...the infamous ottoman.

The beginning of April 2015 I felt a hitch in my groin and as the weeks unfolded the pain spread to my back and right hip. I could not sit, I could not lie down with my legs stretched out, I walked with a limp and slept face down draped over an ottoman. It was the only position that gave me any sort of relief although my elbows and knees were rubbed raw. The pain was clearly getting worse, not better with time. 

I have had MRIs done a handful of times, but this one was excruciating because it required that I keep my legs stretched out straight, flat, and unmoving for the 40 or so minutes it took to complete the imaging. The minute I was rolled out of the tube I brought my knees up to my chest, rolled to my side, dropped to the floor and sobbed. Birthing two children paled in comparison to this pain. With the MRIs I had done before the technician always said the same thing upon completion, “ The radiologist will review the results and your doctor will be in touch.” On April 23, 2015 something different was said. “Your doctor happens to be in the building and can come see you now.” I thought how fortunate I was to be able to get an answer so quickly and not have to see him at our scheduled appointment the next day. Pain had clouded my discernment….when a doctor can see you NOW it means something is serious!  

My husband, Wes was sitting in one chair. I was kneeling on the floor, arms folded on the seat of another, head resting on my arms when the doctor came in. With a somber look on his face he said, “I’m afraid I don’t have good news. You have cancerous lesions on your vertebrae.” In pain and numb, I couldn’t really absorb the information. I heard the words but my being was saying “no”. There was an impenetrable shield surrounding me and were it not for that shield, it felt like I would have died with the force of that shockwave. Something I feared and fought for so long had come true. Breast cancer, a 2009 diagnosis, had metastasized.

Over the next few days, the impenetrable shield began to give way and in its place was a weird sort of comfort. Though the doctor spoke words you never want to hear, six years of wondering, worrying and fearing cancer’s return were over. I had an answer…there was no longer a question. Fortified with heavy duty pain killers, I don’t remember much of those early days other than I was “existing” not “living”. When I wasn’t in pain I was nauseous from the pharmaceuticals my body was unused to and I lay on the couch all day, everyday, panting, hoping to keep the vomit from erupting. Other than managing bodily functions, Wes was doing everything for me. I took no phone calls, saw few visitors, had no interest. I was tired. Tired of cancer being in my life, tired of fighting it, tired of thinking what the road ahead entailed. When I could think about the future, I could see no reason for wanting to experience it. The months ahead seemed daunting and for what purpose? It seemed like cancer had no interest in leaving me. I wanted to die; I was ready to die; I was ready for the relief it would bring physically and emotionally. My life force began to slip away. My biggest worry was how long it would take and could I tolerate the pain while alive. Until this moment in my life no one could have convinced me that given the pain my family would experience with my death I would choose death anyway...