Thursday, January 23, 2014

The C Word

It sure has been a while. After Christopher got out of the Army, we did our best to settle into civilian life and navigate our way through the maze that is the VA. Time started to run together, life became semi-normal as we spent our time fighting the VA and it seemed as though there was really nothing worth going on about. Thursday, December 12th, everything changed.

Christopher had gone to the doctor a few times over the previous months to check out some stomach pains he was experiencing on and off. After waiting out the 90 day delay of switching to a doctor that was actually willing to help, we finally fought our way to a scheduled CT scan. The scan went off without a hitch and we drove home, proud to have finally won the battle for care. During that drive, Christopher missed 8 phone calls from his doctor. As he was checking the message when we walked in the door at home, she called again. He was told he needed to come into the office immediately. Being the stubborn and impatient man he is, he refused and demanded to be told what was happening over the phone. Dr. Patel was initially reluctant and refused multiple times before she finally gave in and promised to call back within 15 minutes after she collected her information.

He hung up the phone and I think time may have actually stopped. Fifteen minutes came and went.  So many thing crossed our minds in that time and our fears grew and grew. An hour later the phone finally rang. My heart raced and I held my breath as I searched Chris' face for any clue as to what might be happening. He said one word: tumor. A big one. The rest of the conversation was a blur of shock and terrifying words no one wants to hear. Only one thing the doctor said seemed to process: I've never seen a tumor this large that was not cancerous.

A colonoscopy was scheduled so a biopsy could be taken. We lived on autopilot for the next six days. The procedure was done and a sample was taken. We were told results would come back in three days.  Miraculously, Dr. Patel called the very next day. That was the day I found out my 26 year old husband has colon cancer. I thought our time living in fear and uncertainty, of Chris' life being in danger, had ended with the Army. I thought our life together would be predictable and boring and safe in the civilian world. But that one word, cancer, was worse than any separation, any deployment. A fear has taken root in my chest that's like nothing I could have imagined and I don't think I've taken a full breath since that call. Deployment taught us to never take a single moment together for granted and although we didn't forget that when Christopher left the Army, it has taken on an entirely new meaning now. With every new detail we learn, each passing moment grows more precious.

How could it not when you learn your husband has a tumor in his large intestine that is bigger than a grapefruit? The doctors are saying it could have been growing for more than ten years. In addition to the tumor, there is also an abnormal spot on his liver that is visible in the scan. It could be nothing, or it could be a sign the cancer has spread. If a biopsy shows the spot is cancerous, the cancer will be in his lymph nodes too. Only time will tell.

Tomorrow is the surgery to remove the tumor and take the biopsies. The surgeon will be creating an incision the entire length of his stomach in order to explore the surrounding area as well as remove the known cancerous areas. Most of his large intestine will be removed. Part of his liver may be taken as well.

All we can do now is wait. And wish. And hope. And pray.