A year ago this week, I was pacing around the kitchen where I am now sitting comfortably. I was crying then due to some of the worst pain that I could remember, and considering what I had experienced in the past, that is saying a lot.
It was early afternoon. I had just come home from the hospital after surgery to remove a cancerous lesion on my kidney. I was taking a high dose of the opioid Dilaudid (hydromorphone), alternating with extra strength Tylenol. But it wasn't working, and I was afraid to take more.
I could hardly breathe. I called the office of the urologist who had performed the surgery. A receptionist said she would mark my message URGENT, but when an hour passed and I didn’t hear back, I called Melissa. I was so glad to hear her voice and to know that there was someone who would always call me back when I said it was important. She said it was OK to take more. Someone from the urologist's office finally called back around 5:30 – when it was no help at all.
I thought of this recently in the context of how something bad can sometimes lead to something good.
The bad was that last May, I was anticipating going to my cousin Nancy's 60th birthday party in California but developed double pneumonia and landed in the hospital on the day that I had expected to fly out of Boston.
During a 10-day hospitalization at Brigham and Women’s, I had a scan to determine the extent of my pneumonia. It showed something that would not have otherwise been found: a small lesion on my kidney.
The attending doctor told me that if this was cancer, it was a miracle on top of the other miracles that had come my way. Finding it this early and by accident meant it could be removed before it had the chance to spread. There is no routine screening for kidney cancer, and it is usually found after the development of full-blown cancer.
At the time, I was not nearly as pleased as my doctors were. My thought bubble would not have read "Yay!" but more likely would have been "WTF?"
Outpatient tests showed that it was indeed cancer. Surgery was set for after I had the chance to recover from the pneumonia.
The surgery took care of it, with no further treatment needed. Now I see that episode in a different light.
My make-up trip to California in September was fabulous. I got to see the America’s Cup and spend more time sightseeing with my cousins than I would have otherwise.
The scar on my right side is now just a section on the road map of the things I have survived.