I was laying in the pull-out bed of the local children’s hospital and my mind was spinning. My mother was sitting in a rocking chair in front of me, calming my 7-week-old son and humming to him. My husband lay beside me trying to get some sleep. We had been told earlier that our newborn was going in for surgery the next morning to correct a digestive issue that had appeared on a sonogram. It was just another bump in the road. Sam, my son, was born with complications. I had expected the perfect introduction to motherhood, one where I could post pics and say “Mom and baby are resting and wonderful.” I didn’t get that. Upon our return to our home, things were never quite smooth. I was bone tired. If someone came to visit, I begged for time to lay down while they watched my beautiful son. I didn’t want to eat. I had gained fifty pounds while pregnant! Now, a month later, I was down 20 pounds. I couldn’t breastfeed, it just wasn’t working. My body was sore, but I chalked that up to a normal childbirth effects.
A few weeks after Sam’s surgery, I started to experience pain in my upper abdomen. It felt sharp at times. I was returning to work as a middle school teacher and didn’t know how I was going to manage. I went to my doctor with the pain and we did tests, and all that was found were slightly elevated liver enzymes. My doctor referred me to a GI doctor and sent me for gallbladder testing. Everything came back normal, yet the liver enzymes continued to climb. I returned to the classroom for three days, and the pain increased. After a day of shopping, I found that I couldn’t breathe without sharp pain. My doctor instructed me to go back to the ER. As they gave me a shot of morphine, I remember looking at an intern and asking her, “could this be cancer?” And she shuttered and said, “Don’t go there.”
For five days I was separated from my newborn. I laid in that stark white room not knowing what the hell was going on. I was in pain, which was getting worse. I was finally told on the third day that my CT scan showed a liver that looked like it had been sprayed with bullets. I was ordered to undergo a colonoscopy, endoscopy and eventual liver biopsy. The scopes both came back clear, much to my relief. But the liver biopsy was proving difficult to get done. After the liver biopsy was performed on a Friday, we returned home for a weekend of waiting. I awoke that Monday morning to a phone call from my family doctor, who was just happening to see Sam for his four-month check-up that day. Her office told me she had preliminary biopsy results and would give them to me at his appointment. For some reason, I didn’t think anything bad was going to come of it. I got Sammy ready for his appointment and my mom agreed to come with us as my husband was working. The whole drive there I remember thinking, this is the last time I am going to look at these trees the same way, at life in this light. At the office, we sat, and my doctor just came out with it. “We got some results, and they aren’t good. You have multiple malignancies on your liver. You have cancer.” My mother immediately began to sob. I started to cry and shake. Cancer? Where did it come from?
I was scared, lost, hurt, and mad. I had stage IV breast cancer and it was in my liver. I knew this wasn’t good. I was 35 years old. I had a four-month-old who was my life. What was I going to do? I resolved myself in that moment, after the screams and the tears that I would do everything in my power to get through this and live with it. I wasn’t going to let cancer get me without a fight. The oncologist started me on chemotherapy the next week and throughout our initial appointment, he listened and answered questions but never gave me any sort of prognosis. He was in the fight with me. He let me cry and held my hand. That was over two years ago now. Since that day I have been on 4 different chemotherapy drugs, 2 different hormone therapies, done 10 rounds of radiation and had countless scans and blood draws. But I am still here and I have been very much a part of Sam’s life. I have fatigue, I have pain, and there are days I spend in bed. But I have kept my promise to myself and to him that I will keep on, keepin’ on. The joy of being able to hold him each and every day is what keeps me going, especially on those hard days. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be living with cancer, but I am. I am living.