Living with Cancer

Disclaimer: Our children do not know about my cancer diagnosis. If you have children who are friends with mine, please do not mention this anywhere near them. We will be telling them soon but need more time. 

It has been six days since my cancer diagnosis. Not even a week has passed and yet it feels like a lifetime. To say that I expected to go a full life without getting cancer would be a lie, but I certainly didn’t expect it to come knocking on my door at 41.

Here’s what I know: I have metastatic cancer of the liver. That means that I don’t have cancer of the liver, just that I have cancer that has already spread to my liver. Right now, they don’t know the primary source of the cancer.

How we discovered the cancer is probably the craziest story you will ever read. So here goes.

This summer, after YEARS of yo-yo dieting, fad dieting, etc. I decided I wanted to take a drastic step in getting my weight problem under control. My blood pressure had been rising even with diet modification and exercise, and I didn’t want to start taking blood pressure medication. I didn’t like the way the meds made me feel and I was convinced that if I just lost the weight, my blood pressure would improve. In October 2016, I joined a group of women on Facebook who were following the Beachbody program. I joined and after 3 weeks I lost 10 pounds and loads of inches. I felt great, I started drinking their protein shake, followed the diet religiously and managed to lose another 10 pounds. But then the beginning of three back to back business trips started and traveling caused the weight to creep back up. I spent January – June gaining and losing the same 10 pounds on Beachbody. By July, I had enough and was disgusted with myself. At the suggestion of my primary care physician, I decided I wanted to undergo gastric bypass surgery. This was a chance for me to finally once and for all lose the weight and my chances of maintaining the weight loss with surgery was very high. It was a scary thought and a big lifestyle change, but I want to live a healthy, physically active life with my husband and three children.

So, I started to prepare for gastric bypass surgery. I did online research and enlisted my husband’s help in finding the top bariatric surgeon in Israel. And my amazing husband was able to bump up my appointment with the surgeon since once I make up my mind about something, I want it done right away. I met with the surgeon in September and even though I was slightly under the minimal level of weight required to qualify for the surgery, he agreed to move forward. So, I started to actually gain weight in order to qualify for insurance purposes and he sent me off to do a host of pre-op tests.

The pre-op tests for gastric bypass is a long list: chest x-ray, stomach ultrasound, blood work, psychiatrist appointment, EKG’s, barium test, etc. My husband scheduled appointment after appointment, some that took 4 months to book, and after the chagim I had my first appointment. On October 28th, I went for the chest x-ray and stomach ultrasound.

A couple of days later, my doctor called to tell me that they found spots on my liver during the stomach ultrasound and – just to be on the safe side – she’s sending me for a CT. She told me not to panic, it could be anything, and we would get to the bottom of everything.

So, I didn’t panic but I did Google to see what could be spots on a liver. And, sure enough, cancer was one of the first things to come up in search. But there was no way I could have cancer! I feel 100% fine. Sure, I’m a little tired, but I get 5 hours of sleep on average, have three kids, home chores, etc. What mother of young children isn’t tired?? I decided not to panic but we did use whatever influence possible to bump up my CT appointment. By some miracle from G-d, there was a cancellation and I had my CT on November 8th.

And then on November 15th, our doctor called us into her office and told us that I have cancer. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write how I felt last Wednesday night, to put into words how terrible it was to tell people that we love that I have cancer. How surreal it was to hear the diagnosis, the physical sensation of real fear, the heartbreak of watching my husband cry.  Right now, it’s just too raw.

During this appointment, I was told that I needed to go for blood work to identify cancer/tumor markers, have a PET CT to find the primary source of the cancer, and to find an oncologist. But, selecting an oncologist will have to come after the PET CT since cancer is specialized. You see an oncologist based on the type of cancer you have and right now, we don’t know what type of cancer I have, just that it has already spread. I will probably also need a liver biopsy, although we are hopeful we will get all the answers from the PET CT.

The good news is that my blood test results are normal. Thank g-d. I had my PET CT on Sunday and I’m still waiting for the results. The waiting is sheer torture; I have good moments and really bad ones.

For now, I am continuing my life as close to “normal” as possible although my life will never be normal again. Last night, I worked until 12:45 a.m. and was up with the kids at 6:00 a.m. I made them aruchat esser and lunch, helped them get dressed and dried their tears, packed their bags for the day and dug out their rain gear. I hugged them goodbye and they went off to school. They sense that something is up but they don’t know and we aren’t in a position to tell them. I need to know more information like: what cancer do I have, is it treatable (please g-d!!), what is the treatment, how will I be feeling, etc. before we can tell them. I want to have as much information as possible so that I can answer all of their questions. For now, we just have too many questions.

My cousin Tova suggested that I keep a blog so that the people who love and care about us can stay informed. I never thought this blog would turn into a “cancer blog” but here it is.

Please pray for me.

Shira Batya Bat Chaya Yehudit


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