Here's what happened. The last week of August I had some nausea and diarrhea. I figured that was garden variety Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Over the next weekend, I noticed a little bit of pain near my right hip. This is a funny pain that I thought I knew well -- my endometriosis pain. I figured that in the four years since my laparoscopy, despite taking continuous birth control pills, my endometriosis had grown back. Luckily, I had made an appointment for my annual check-up with my gynaecologist for the end of September. He would take care of the endometriosis. And believe me, he did take care of me.
In mid-September, I was attending a genealogy conference that I had been long anticipating. On the Saturday afternoon, I became really sleepy... more than I thought I could blame on the conference speaker! I went home, climbed in bed and stayed there. Really, I couldn't get up to get supper for Lena. And I developed a pain in my upper back, on the right hand side. That sounded familiar and sure enough, on Monday (I was too wiped out to make it back to the conference on Sunday) I talked to some colleagues who had had gallbladder trouble. Our group diagnosis was that my gallbladder was unhappy, maybe full of stones. Gee, take out my ovaries and my gallbladder and I'd be ready for action. But as you know, that wasn't the problem.
I was able to get an appointment to see my GP about my gallbladder the following week. Good thing I saw him then, as I developed a terrible lower back pain the night before the appointment, and I needed some painkillers. After explaining my various pains to the medical student and GP, and to rule out weird possibilities like ectopic pregnancy, I was off for blood tests and an abdominal ultrasound. I was able to get the ultrasound at the same clinic where my gynaecologist practises, a few days before my appointment with him, so I figured I had a chance to get my results a little early. Sort of.
When I saw my gynaecologist he said he was sure that, with the birth control pills, the endometriosis shouldn't be back, and he'd been monitoring me on this for four years. That said, he told me that the ultrasound showed "something" on my liver, so I should stop the birth control. I "knew" that gallbladder problems can appear in the liver too, so this fit my working theory. For some reason, however, the doctor decided to do a breast exam, which I don't remember him doing at my previous post-laparoscopy check-ups. He found a lump. "Did you know this was here?" he asked. "Uh, no." When I felt the lump, it felt to me like a "fullness" that I had had five years before in the other breast. I had had a mammogram then that showed the fullness was nothing to worry about. This seemed the same.
So I didn't worry about the breast lump. But when I got home, I fainted. I called my gynaecologist and he recommended I go to the Emergency Room. I did. They did blood tests that confirmed a number of unusual liver results. But they couldn't reach the doctor or the ultrasound clinic to find out what exactly was wrong with my liver, so they concluded that I had swooned, adjusted my pain medication slightly and sent me home.
My gynaecologist wasn't done with me though. He ordered a CT scan of my abdomen, STAT, and put my GP in the loop. Even after the GP called and told me the ultrasound showed a number of spots on my liver, the Internet helped me believe I had an unusual but fairly benign condition related to birth control use. I'm pretty good at wishful thinking, aren't I? Otherwise, I would have had to admit that this wasn't a fullness, but a large breast lump.
Before long, the CT scan results were in. They showed a number of what appeared to be metastasised tumours in the liver and bones as well as a sizable breast lump that appeared to be a primary cancer. That's the news I got on the Friday before our Thanksgiving.
Wishful thinking went out the window at that point. All I could think was, "Fuck."