In July I was diagnosed with an esophageal tumor that sat on top of the opening to my stomach. It was a rough summer to say the least. So let me rewind tell you what happened in the summer of 2014. I have had heart burn as long as I can remember. As a child I remember telling my Mom that my heart hurt. I always seemed to have a stomach ache after I ate. I started medication for the heartburn at 18 and pretty much stayed medicated on and off for 15 years. This past summer it got way worse. I couldn’t sleep, eat, I was nauseated, and it became hard to swallow my food. I finally made an appointment with a specialist in June. He took one look at me and said “You are young and healthy. I am sure you are fine. We can increase your dosage if you like.” I wasn’t really satisfied with that. I asked for a scope so we could see what was going on. He complied, although he said it would be expensive and a waste of time.
I went in the next week for a scope. Let me just say that I totally get why Michael Jackson was hooked on Propofol. It was the best sleep I had in at least 8 years. I counted to three and I was out. It was glorious. When I woke up I was moved into a waiting room where the doctor met me and my husband. He said that they found a lump in my esophagus, but wasn’t worried. He needed to run a few tests and do another scope. He was in and out of the room in under three minutes. I looked at my husband and we both got up and walked to the car. I wasn’t sure what to think. First thing you think when you hear lump is of course the “C” word. No one wants to say it out loud, like if you say it you will be curse with it. So we went home and sat on the couch. I sat quiet for a few minutes and then decided that I needed to cut the lawn.
I jumped on my trusty riding mower and put in my ear-buds. I cut grass for about three hours. I just drove around basically cutting dirt. I began to think about what would happen if I did in fact have the “C” word. My honest to God first thought was “Who will my husband marry?” He would need to find someone very quickly. It was not going to be easy. We would need to start looking right away. When I got off the mower I asked him to sit down so we could talk. I opened my laptop and went to Match.com. I said that I wanted to take a look at what was out there so we could be prepared for my departure. I held his hand and said “Honey, you are bald and have three kids. We need to start looking.” He looked at me and told me to calm down and shut up. I explained that I needed to make sure he and the kids would be taken care of when I started to walk towards the light. He did not find any of this humorous, which was not my intent, but I had to laugh. Let’s be honest, the match.com people seems to be relatively successful, it can’t hurt to look.
The next week I went in for the second procedure. Once again I had the best 20 minute nap. I woke up in recovery to my husband holing my hand. I asked where the doctor was and he said he had left. I asked what he found and my husband said “it’s a tumor, but the doctor said not to worry.” So I sat up and asked when the doctor was coming back so I could ask any of the nine million questions I had. My husband said he wasn’t coming back but that he would call us later. I said a few very un-lady like words about him and got dressed. What kind of doctor lets the husband tell the wife that she has a tumor? What an Ass-Hat.
So once again we went home and I got on my riding mower. The grass didn’t need to be cut, but I got on anyway and rode around for about two hours. My husband stopped me mid-mow and said the doctor was on the phone. I jumped off and got on the phone. We had a quick conversation about the tumor. He stated that he did not believe it was cancer, but he doesn’t really deal with this type of procedure. He said I could wait about six months, and then do another scope and re-evaluate. Why on earth would I want to keep a tumor in my esophagus that was blocking the opening to my stomach? I am 34 years old. I have three kids, a balding husband, and way too much shit to do. I need to know if I have cancer so I can find my husband a wife.
Once again I sat that night with my husband and we talked about the tumor and what kind of wife he would like if I were to kick the bucket. I asked “I know you are drawn to blondes, but is that a sticking point?” He laughed, but stated he was firm on her being blonde. We then sat there and I cried for about an hour. It was the hardest thing we had ever talked about. So I of course deflected and continued to discuss his new wife. She would have big breasts, blonde hair, a sweet ass, and if possible a background in gymnastics. She would need to be tidy and a good cook, as well as patient with the kids. I soon realized that my replacement was nothing like me, but that was probably for the best.
About two weeks later I found myself in an oncologist’s office. He had reviewed my file and started talking about the next step. I assumed that I would have some type of laparoscopic surgery to remove the tumor and go about my business. It was not that simple. The doctor informed me that he would need to cut me from belly button to sternum. He needed to remove my esophagus so he could take the tumor out. The tumor was wrapped around the base of my esophagus, basically crushing it. The good news was this guy was brand new to town and I was like his third patient. Wait what?? Yep, I was literally the third person in our town to go under the knife with him.
My husband and I sat and looked at each other trying to figure out the best time to do the surgery since it was the beginning of the school year, and we would need to coordinate the kids. My husband asked if we could do the surgery in a few months so we could get help with the kids. The doctor said, “You need to do this within the month, you have four weeks to set up the surgery.” Holy crap. Four weeks was not enough time to get sorted. My head was reeling. I was not ready to be a fillet-o-fish. I still wear a bikini to the pool for crying out loud. Not only did I have a tumor, but now I must have a huge scar down my stomach. Yes, I know this was vain and I shouldn’t care, but I did.
We set the surgery date and spent the next month gearing up for the surgery and five-day hospital stay. My family was amazing. I spent most of that time telling my husband that if it was cancer we would be fine and I would find him a suitable replacement. He was a good sport, for some reason thinking about finding him someone made me feel better. I know it sounds strange, but I thought that if I had to go, I wanted him and the kids to have someone.
The morning of the surgery we walked in and I was whisked upstairs to the surgical floor. I kindly asked the nurse to administer something for my nerves. I was quietly thinking that if I pulled out the IV and ran, I could head for Mexico and act like this had never happened. Within a minute of whatever the nurse gave me, I was calm and apparently quite talkative. I told the anesthesiologist that I beat my kids with a flip-flop and he was next if he screwed up. I kissed my husband goodbye and to be honest I don’t remember going under.
I woke up and saw my husband, told him I loved him and asked the question that I wasn’t sure I wanted an answer to. He replied, “You’re OK, it’s not cancer.” I was elated. It was the best news a mother of three could ever receive. I passed back out. The next time I woke up I realized I had a tube stuck in my throat and I became automatically pissed. I was in a ton of pain and I could swallow. The next five days were tough. I am allergic to pain medications, so I recuperated from major surgery with liquid Tylenol.
So the summer of 2014 was one for the books. It taught me a lot about myself. I never would have guessed that my major concern when faced with my own mortality was that I needed to find a wife for my husband. I thought I would have been more concerned with what I was going to miss. I figured that if I was sick and going to expire, I can’t actually miss it. The best thing I could do would be to make sure my family was OK when I left. I am happy I didn’t have to find a wife for my husband. No, I am thrilled that I didn’t have to do that. But I am grateful for the experience. There is no time like the present. So soak it up and enjoy; fillet-o-fish scar and all.