The one where I let it all go…
I’m going waaaaaay off the path today, but I have so much in my head that I need to get out. This is a raw post. I’m trying not to edit my feelings. Just a little warning.
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I have had this post in my head for a long time, and there was 1 of two ways it was going to go. Either I had lung cancer or I didn’t. Yep. You read that right. 37 years old and worrying about lung cancer. But it’s been my reality for a year and a half…a niggling worry in my head that wouldn’t leave me alone. A constant companion of ‘what if’. What if I have cancer? What will happen to my kids? My husband? I still have so much to do.
Where do I start…you may recall in February 2012 I had multiple pulmonary embolisms as a complication due to a surgery I had that January. One of those rare complications that you skip over when reading the fine print on your surgery forms. But I had it. I survived non-acute bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms. Basically, several blood clots in both of my lungs. Boy did I dodge a bullet. A big old death bullet.
While the embolisms were serious, they were treatable and the worst was over with those. BUT, the story doesn’t end there. During the CT exam used to diagnose my embolisms there were some other things on my scan that the Drs didn’t like. Things like spots on my lungs. Lung nodules.
And that is where my year and a half long mental battle begins. The worry the worry the worry because a resident told me it was very possibly lung cancer. Whoa. Not what I expected to hear. BUT, after the head pulmonologist at the hospital looked at my scans, he told me he didn’t think it was cancer, but we didn’t know for sure what they were, so we would check back in on them again in 6 months. Wait and see.
I don’t wait well.
And I left that hospital with the seed of worry already planted in my head. And once something gets into my head, there’s no getting it out. I couldn’t hear and believe what the head pulmonologist told me…nope I only hear the worst. Because there was a slight chance it was cancer, I couldn’t let it go.
So for 6 months I healed from my embolisms (which was a battle in itself), then all of a sudden it was time for my 6 month follow up CT scan. But that appointment didn’t really leave me satisfied either. I was told that the spots hadn’t changed much. SO I was to come back a year later for another follow up CT scan. I just wanted an answer and I wanted this whole nightmare over. But we were back at wait and see again.
Did I mention that I don’t wait well.
I handled things pretty well during this year time. I tried to push it to the back of my mind and forge ahead. But as the time for my next CT came closer I felt that old familiar feeling of dread. A year is a long time for things to change. I didn’t know what was going to show up on those scans.
My CT was August 6 of this summer.
I took this photo right before I got my CT scan (I’m not sure why I did, but for some reason I felt compelled to document this moment, so I did).
In between taking this photo and actually getting my scan, I had a moment where I just started to cry. But I couldn’t take it any more. I looked around at everyone (myself included) in hospital gowns, on gurneys, with IV’s, all in the depths of their own diagnoses, fear and illness, and saw myself just for a second, and it was all I could take. I thought I was quiet and unnoticeable in my emotional moment, but there is such kindness in this world. The kindness in that hallway will stay with me for a lifetime. People reaching out offering me kleenexes and encouraging smiles while battling their own demons, was one of the most amazing acts of kindness that I have experienced. And it brought me hope. Whatever happened I had to face it. It was up to me on how I was going to do this.
So I got my scan and went on my way. I had to wait until August 20 to find out what they revealed. The wait darn near killed me.
Let me tell you, these past couple of weeks have been the longest, most agonizing days of my life. I have been filled with dread. Pure dread.
I felt like this scan was going to be a turning point in this journey. Either the news was going to be good, and I didn’t really know what I thought good would be. Does good mean that the nodules didn’t get bigger? That they got smaller? Could I hope that they would be gone?
OR this news was going to be bad, and would thus mean a long tough health battle ahead.
I didn’t know what to do. How would I deal with a worst case scenario?
I wasn’t coping.
I was carrying on because I had to. Thank goodness for having little ones or I would never have gotten out of bed. Seriously. I felt like I had a big dark cloud over my head that was growing bigger everyday. Every worst case scenario kept going through my head over and over (my husband jokes that I always go to Def Con 5). A constant negative noise that wouldn’t leave me alone. And the worst case scenario for me here was the big C word. Cancer.
I couldn’t have cancer. Could l? I’m not the face of cancer. I don’t smoke. I’m healthy. I’m 37 years old for Pete’s sake.
But cancer doesn’t have a face. People get cancer. For no reason it happens. It could happen to me.
But it didn’t happen.
Today I got my results and the nodules have basically disappeared. The best case scenario happened for me today. A scenario that I didn’t even entertain because I thought it was too good to be true.
But the nodules have basically disappeared. Disappeared. The spots turned out to be ‘infarcts’ which basically is lung tissue that dies from no oxygen supply, which happened as a result of my embolisms.
Basically I now have a barely there little scar left on my lung. A scar. A benign, harmless scar.
I’ll take it.
Words cannot express my relief. My gratitude. I am more thankful than I can say. I feel like a cloud has lifted and I can move ahead with my life.
I have struggled for the past year and a half with worry. So. Much. Worry. A year and a half is a long time to agonize. So I’m going to take some time to wind down now. And make plans. I just couldn’t make plans before because that’s what I do…I kind of shut down…it’s how I cope. But now I’m making plans because this mental nightmare for me is over. Over. No more scans. No more worry. It’s over.
Big ol sigh of relief.
Thank you universe.
Glad to hear you are OK & your nightmare is over. I went through almost exactly what you did last year with a big cancer scare, so can completely empathize . . . although my nightmare lasted only a few months – not a year and a half! Wow. I was having anxiety attacks for the first time in my life over the whole thing – – I am not sure I would have made it through as long as you did! The not knowing is so hard.
Hugs my friend & hooray for a clean bill of health!
Thank you so much for your comment. I am so sorry you had to go through that scare…it’s a nightmare. I completely relate to the anxiety you experienced. And I am SO thankful that you too received good news!! So thankful.
I’m really looking forward to seeing you in September!
Thanks for sharing your story and so happy to hear that everything is well. I’m not a patient person or a good “wait-er” either. Thank God it disappeared! 🙂
Thank you for your kind words Sarah! I definitely am not a good wait-er! But I am so thankful for this experience…I have much to look forward to!
Thank you Sally!
I am so glad you are ok 🙂
Cancer is a very scary word that none of us want to hear for sure.
Thank you Terri! It’s the scariest word. It’s a word I wish none of us had to ever speak. 🙂
So glad you received good news – thanks for sharing.
Thank you Debbie!
Oh so glad to hear all is well; time to exhale now !
What a day for you. 🙂
Thank you Elizabeth! Definitely exhaling and enjoying! 🙂
What a gift! Congrats times a million! Horrible that you had to endure such heartache for a year and a half, but amazing how I’m sure you will treat time now. So happy for you and your family.
It definitely is a gift, and one I’m so thankful for! Thank you for your kindness Ashlie!
Oh Jo-Anna! What a scary year! SO glad you are okay? Thank you for opening up and sharing. Xo.
Thank you Elaine! It felt so good to open up and let it go…now it’s time for me to get back to life! 🙂
Thanks for sharing and I’m glad everything turned out ok despite all the waiting!
Thank you Stephanie!
Wow, what a story. That is a lot of anxiety to handle, but I’m glad you’re outcome was a good one. Go out and celebrate that weight being lifted!
Thank you Jaclyn…I feel very lucky and like the weight of the world has come off my shoulders! Having a glass of vino tonite to celebrate!
What a relief! Now you can move forward!
Thank you Gena!
I know all too well the feeling of being able to take a deep breath when it comes to tests like these as I do not (and I mean do not do well with waiting like this) so what a great relief to you and your family that it has all come back clear. Thank you for sharing your story, I love when bloggers open up another part of their lives to their readers.
Thank you Alex! It really is a terrible feeling isn’t it? And it’s hard to explain to people because you look the same on the outside. But the waiting darn near killed me! 😉 It felt good to write this post – I just really wanted to get this all out of my head, and I need to start living again without all the worry. I felt that by purging it all I could let it go! I feel very blessed.
Thank you for your kind comment…
Jo-Anna I am so glad that everything turned out so well. It is so hard to wait and not worry, isn’t it? I am so very glad that on the day that you had your last CT scan, God placed people in the x-ray department that were able to comfort you and be there for you! God is always with us, even when we worry and fret over things. Thank you for your blog and for being so open and honest with us! Praying that God continues to bless you and your family!
Oh thank you so much for your encouraging words Charlene – they really mean a lot to me. The world is full of so many kind people!
Blessings to you as well!
Wow, so brave to write this post and share your experiences. Many people have near-misses of one kind or another – really shifts your perspective. What a blessing to come out on the side you did.
Thank you Dani! I feel lighter by getting it out of my head. Thank you for reading and commenting…it means a lot to me!
Oh, Jo-Anna….your story is so scary! I am so thankful that you are OK. Breathe!
Thank you Melanie! I’m feeling very blessed! 🙂
I am so glad! I am so glad that everything turned out alright. I can’t imagine the stress and loneliness you must have felt on your darker days. Thank you for sharing – I know it must have been difficult!
Thank you so much Kelsey! It was a very hard time, but I’ve learned that I’m much stronger than I realized! And I’m so very very thankful! 🙂
I am so very happy for you that everything turned out alright in the end, although it doesn’t take away the year and a half of worry. I live everyday with chronic illness, and it is simply awful. I know that going through this will change you forever, for the better, you will be more empathetic in realizing what others are going through, even when things “look” fine to others from the outside.
May you live a long, happy and healthy life filled with many blessing,
Thank you so much for your kind comment Maureen! I have learned so much from this time…and for that I am truly thankful. 🙂
And I also just wanted to say that I’m so sorry for your battle with chronic illness…I can only imagine your everyday struggles. I wish for you the best! And a long and happy and healthy life as well!
Grateful to read your blog and hear the amazing news that you are well. The waiting and wondering “what if” when our health is concerned is a huge challenge.
A friend here in vancouver introduced me to your amazing site a few months ago. I love to check-in regularly for inspiration. When I read your post today I wanted to send you a big hug from the west coast.
Stay beautiful and keep sharing, your efforts are appreciated by many. Take care of yourself Jo-Anna.
Thank you Meg! And I’m so happy (and inspired) to hear that you are enjoying my blog…I continue to be amazed that people are reading along with me! 🙂
You are a very, VERY strong person…. and what a nightmarish way to learn that about oneself.
But you have now survived a year and a half of the most terrifying worry anyone can go through….. “what will happen to my kids?”…… it’s a bit easier when little ones are not involved in the scenario.
I had the big “C” scare when I was 27, with a 6 yr. old and 4-1/2 yr old at that time. I had bone tumors eating away one of the bones in my arm, from the inside out, and my tumors were real…. just the type was unknown. My husband was a ROCK….. solid, dependable, comforting… wouldn’t have made it without him.
When first discovered, I think I went into a state of some sort of shock that lasted the rest of that day! I was definitely in denial. But I didn’t have time for worrying any longer than that! My doctors wanted to do surgery the very next day!!
Although I could not arrange supervision for the children in one afternoon, surgery did take place 3 days later. It was, without a doubt, the worst 3 days of my life. I don’t think I could have survived 18 months of “waiting”… not knowing….. I do not “wait” well either.
My tumors turned out to be benign, although aggressive…. re-occurring, eating more bone away each time, as it traveled up my arm. Six surgeries and 3 years later, I had ended up with my leg bone in my arm! Now I’ve been tumor-free for more than 25 years, with only 2 complaints…. 1) knee problems – since half the joint is missing, and 2)…. and definitely the one I hate the most…. I can’t pick up my grandchildren, as my left hand/arm can only lift about 5 pounds. 🙁 …. just very grateful I was and am right-handed!
I’m so glad that your ordeal is OVER…. no long-term, lasting effects like I have. But I truly think your experience was a whole lot worse than mine….. you had to “wait”… agonize, worry, stress, etc. for a much, much longer period of time. I waited a few days for my pathology results, and once known, while it may have been naive on my part, I never had the fear that when they occurred again, that they all of a sudden would turn out to be cancer. I don’t think I could have survived your 18 months!
Wow, what an ordeal you have been through too! I’m so relieved at your happy ending and I’m just so happy to hear that you are now enjoying your grandchildren (who I’m sure are loving you just the way you are!)!
And thank you so very much for your words of encouragement and understanding! Your note was very powerful and I appreciated you taking the time to send it to me! I wish for you continued good health and happiness!
Wow that made me cry on this very early morning. My husband had a couple of PE’s just after our second baby was born and they were scary but I can’t imagine living through what you have this past while. That horrible awful feeling of dread is so paralyzing. I’m so glad everything turned out all right. So glad. What a story. All the very best to you Jo-Anna.
Thank you so much for your note! First, I hope your husband is well…PE’s are very scary indeed!
And I wanted to thank you for your kind words…I feel so inspired by everyones support, and your note means so much!
Sooooooooo Happy for you! And thank you for sharing your story. Let’s continue with prayer in thanksgiving. Hugs
Thank you so very much Elda!
Thank you God for all good things. Congratulations! Live your beautiful life to the fullest!
Thank you so much Joanne!
Good for you for opening up! I cried … I cried because I know your fear. I cried because I am so happy for you. And I cried because I am still so angry for myself. That sounds so selfish but I truly am happy that you don’t have to go through what others do. God is looking down on you and has blessed you. Live life, use that “best” soap, that “good” perfume, the “good” dishes … don’t save that good linen for company … what’s the point? Every day is a gift!
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so amazed at the outpouring of support for that post! I feel so lucky and vow to live my life to the fullest!
And I hope all is well with you…I wish for you a life full of happiness and good health!
Congrats on the great news! What a year you’ve been through…..all the best!
Thank you so much Liz!
The Grace of God has lifted this burden from your life! I rejoice with you and am thankful for your good news. Every day will be different now because of this reminder that tomorrow is not ever guaranteed. Praying for God to strengthen you as you get back on track with life and for Him to give you wisdom as you live each day with greater purpose because of this suffering. Eat well, rest as needed and take care. I wish you days filled with great blessings. Janita
Thank you so much for your kind words Janita! I appreciate them so much!
I was so sad to read this, I’m so sorry you had to go through this and for so long! A year and a half must have been an eternity. I am so happy that you are all right. You are so strong to get through this and for sharing it! Take care xx
Thank you Sam! I’m feeling so great now and full of relief! Thank you for leaving such a kind and thoughtful comment. 🙂
Ack. Jo. What a beautiful eloquent post. I too am exhaling for you. So glad to read your words. So happy for you. No more wringing our hands! Wish I was there with you this week to really celebrate. But we will. Oh yes we will! Love you, my strong, beautiful friend!! Thank you for sharing yourself here. For all those who have responded there are so many more grateful to have read this. See you soon. My arms will be wide open. Can’t wait to hug you! Cheers to you lady!!! Your “Do” is now “Done”!!!!
Thank Lori! Such a relief I can’t even tell you! Can’t wait to share a bevvie with you when the summer is over!
aww JO….happy tears for you….luv ya bunches friend…xo
Thank you Lucy! 🙂
God blessed you… What a wonderful blog this week. I know I’m a month too late for you even to notice this post but I am writing it anyway. I teared up reading this post… it trully touched me. this kinda thing makes the person who writes this blog more human… Not just “the person who writes this blog” but JOANNA…I am so glad to hear that everything is ok and that you are moving forward…
Thank you so very much for your thoughtful words! They are as welcome now as a month ago! I feel so very thankful!
Thank you for taking the time to be so kind!
Have a wonderful week!