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Make Every Day Count

I woke up Tuesday June 18th of this year not feeling right.  Every time I stood up I felt light headed and nauseous. I thought to myself, “here comes baby number 3” and laid back down in bed.  If you know me well, then you know I sent my husband to the store to get a pregnancy test.  I am always taking those things with the slightest inkling that I might be pregnant.  When I saw the test was negative I was surprised.  As the day went on I became more light headed, and my heart was racing just walking from room to room.  This was so far from my norm, so I decided to go to the emergency room.  

The doctors ran a few different tests and found that my hemoglobin level was 8.1.  For those of you who don’t know what hemoglobin is - it is the oxygen carrying component of red blood cells. The normal range for a female is 12-15.  This explained my symptoms, but we weren’t sure of the exact cause.  You also don’t normally get a blood transfusion until your levels are below 7.  So the ER doc sent me home and told me to follow up with my PCP.  

I couldn’t get in with a PCP until Thursday, so all day Wednesday I continued to feel lightheaded and palpitations with any sort of activity.  The color of my skin was so pale and I felt horrible.  I was also having black tarry stools.  When I finally made it to my PCP appointment, they tested my hemoglobin again and it was 6.5.  So back to the ER I went to receive a blood transfusion - 3 units to be exact.  I was admitted to a local hospital and the next day I was scheduled for an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).  This is a procedure where they are able to see your esophagus, stomach and part of your upper intestines.  I was thinking, “okay I probably just have a bleeding stomach ulcer.”  I had been under a lot of stress with moving and trying to balance life as a wife, mom, and business owner.  So it made sense in my mind. 

After I awoke from the procedure the doctor came over and told me he found a mass in my stomach.  He said it looked like what’s called a GIST tumor - gastrointestinal stromal tumor, but they couldn’t say for sure without the results of the biopsy. 

The next step they took was to do some imaging of my abdomen.  They had me drink some dye and an hour later I went down for a CT scan.  The mass did show up on the scan along with some nodules at the base of my lungs.  The doctors were concerned with the nodules on my lungs so they took me back for a CT scan of my chest.  This is where everything really hit me and my mind started going scary places.  What if I have cancer?  What if it’s metastasized?  My son won't even remember me.  So many thoughts and tears in that moment. 

They did all of the testing they could for me and then told me they would like to transfer me to UH because they have more advanced testing for my condition.  Getting on that stretcher to be transferred brought on a whole new set of emotions.  As a former nurse, I could now feel exactly how my patients did.  Scared.  Uncertain. 

But I will say I have the best support system a girl can have!  The calls, texts, hospital visits, flowers and cards were all so appreciated and for sure brightened my days.  My family and friends prayed with me and for me.  Churches were and still are praying for me.  Knowing this is just comforting in itself.  

So now at UH I have 4 different teams of doctors seeing me - Internal Medicine, GI, Oncology, and Surgical Oncology.  They all collaborated together and the first test they wanted me to do was called a PET scan while they waited on the biopsy from the EGD.  A PET scan is a test where they put a radioactive drug into your IV and take imaging of your body.  These tests are usually done to detect cancer and while terrified going in, I was trying to remain positive.  After getting the results, my family and I were a little less worried.  The stomach tumor did show up as highly active on the scan which makes them concerned it could be cancerous, however the lung nodules did not light up.  The doctors were still concerned about the nodules and were thinking of doing a lung biopsy.  But the biopsy of the stomach tumor finally came back and it was was inconclusive.  The doctor from the previous hospital was only able to get a sample from the outside layer of the tumor.  They needed to be able to get inside of it, so they scheduled me for an ultrasound guided EDG for the next day.  

I had the test done and there was nothing else they could do in the hospital for me as it can take up to 7 days to get the full biopsy result.  I got to go home after being in the hospital for five days.  Thankfully the results came back pretty quickly and my surgeon called to tell me that it is a GIST tumor and that this is good news, but we won’t know for certain if it is cancerous or not until it is removed. He then decided he would like for me to go for a lung biopsy before we take any further steps. 

So this past Friday the 5th I checked in for what’s called a video assisted (VATS) wedge biopsy.  They put you under general anesthesia for this.  They cut in between my ribs right near my left breast and my upper back and removed a wedged shaped portion of my lungs where the nodules were found. They also inserted a chest tube to facilitate any drainage.  When I woke up I was in an extreme amount of pain so they started a patient controlled anesthesia pump (PCA).  I was more comfortable with the pain being controlled, but after awhile I became very nauseous.  I could barely get up out of bed post op.  They had to straight cath me twice to empty my bladder, because I wasn’t able to go on my own.  After a few hours stopping the PCA pump and having the chest tube removed, I was feeling a lot better.  I was able to get up and walk around and the nausea was subsiding.  I was able to pee on my own and that was their sign that they would be okay with me going home!  

They were able to freeze a sample of the lung biopsy in the OR and it showed up as “Organizing Pneumonia.”  So now I’m home resting and recovering.  I will be meeting with the surgical oncologist this coming Tuesday to figure out the next steps - likely removal of the stomach tumor.  

I am so thankful for everyone who has helped and encouraged me during all of this. I pray for anyone who may be going through something similar.  My biggest take away is to remain positive and have faith.  Dwelling on the situation or thinking the worst will only cause negative feelings and I believe that can affect your outcome.  You just also never know when your world is going to be turned upside down so be thankful and count your blessings every day.  Love yourself more, love your friends and family more and your enemies most because they need it the most.  I’m remaining optimistic and I have faith that I am in good hands and things will only get better from here 🙏🏻

Things that helped me: 

"Be strong and courageous; do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

A prayer for Healing. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, little a watchful Shepherd you care for us and provide us with Your love and send people into our lives to care for us, especially in time of sickness or pain. I pray for healing for myself and for all who suffer because of illness. In the midst of our pain and weakness, strengthen our faith that we might be filled with hope in You. In the midst of our frustration and discouragement, give us the patience we need to accept our own limitations. In the middle of our fear and loneliness, help me to know I am not alone, that You walk with us each moment of our lives. And Jesus, help me to bear this trial for love of you, who so greatly suffered for me. Be with me Lord, in my time of need. Heal me in body, soul and spirit that I may rejoice in your grace and blessings. Father God, lastly, give me the courage to understand that all things are your plan, for I am yours, armed with that courage, may I respond as your Holy Son did, not my will, but Yours be done. We ask this prayer in Jesus's name. Amen.

Raise A Hallelujah -


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