Let’s get one thing out of the way. Yes, I am Jewish (well, at least I was raised Jewish). And on top of that, my mom is a shrink. So with that combo, I’ve developed a set of neuroses of Woody Allen proportions. I don’t know how much you know about upper-middle class Jews, but we like to go to the doctor. A lot. Often times for no reason other than to just go; often times for imaginary ailments that WebMD insists are cancer. Well, the funny thing is…this time it was. Cancer, I mean. But I’ll get back to that.
2013 has been a veritable parade of bogusness for me. So allow me to indulge myself, and take you on a journey. I had been pretty miserable for about a year, as it was, working a job I unfortunately no longer loved, living in a place that both my husband and I had “gotten over.” We celebrated our 1 year anniversary in January. Eating the top tier of our wedding cake was the most exciting thing that had happened in like, well…since our wedding! We were really happy together, but, unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum, and life was just kind of bleh around us and our adorable cat.
So one day, I’m scrubbing the ol’ shower, like you do. I’m really getting into it, because I’m tired of the bullshit that had become of the caulk and grout. Two days later, I wake up with the worst back pain I’ve ever had. But like most
72 27 year olds, I’m used to joint and muscle pain due to my ever-thrilling chronic knee problems. I didn’t think much of it…until it wouldn’t go away. And I mean, this bitch is getting worse.
Now I’m a video editor, and that means I sit for 8 solid hours a day (if I’m not getting up to stretch like I’m supposed to). And after a few days, this back pain is so bad, that it’s starting to hurt even when I’m sitting. So I go to a chiropractor. Three days, two sessions, and an X-ray script later, I start to think that my wallet won’t be able to handle this. So I skip the X-ray, and go straight to Urgent Care, because it’s Sunday, and now I can barely walk without extreme pain.
These jokers give me some muscle relaxers, and a shot in my butt check, and send me on my way. But after a day or two, the pain returns…with a vengeance. I go to my primary doctor, and she gives me Codeine. Great. Awesome! It works for…maybe a day. And now we’re getting to the point where I cannot stand, walk, or sit. So I’m spending about 60% of each day laying on my living room floor. My doctor has ordered an MRI, but for what ever cockamamie reason, my insurance won’t cover it without going through 6 weeks of physical therapy first. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable going to get treatment before I have a diagnosis. There could be something seriously wrong with my spine that could be aggravated by PT. The pain is so severe at this point, that my primary doctor sends me to the ER. I get an X-ray, some morphine, and then send me on my way with a little bottle of oxycodone, claiming that since my condition is not life threatening, they cannot do an MRI.
Great. The morphine did the trick. For like 3 hours. And then I’m right back to excruciating, stabbing pain. In fact, the very next day, I couldn’t even sit on the damn toilet I was in so much pain. I ended up having to kind of throw myself onto the bathroom floor, pants around my ankles, and wriggle my way into a half-decent state so my poor male roommate could help my geriatric ass up.
Fast forward a few days, and my PCP is able to get me an emergency appointment with a (get this) Pain Management Specialist. Glorious. Obviously, this guy will know what’s up. And maybe he can convince the insurance company that I actually do need a diagnostic MRI. He prescribes neurontin which, for those of you outside of psychiatric cirlces, is prescribed for bipolar disorders, seizures and…pain? My mother (the shrink) instantly recognized the name of the drug for its’ neurological indications, and had never heard of it being prescribed for pain. But it did help out for a couple days. Mostly in the “well my back still hurts, but I don’t really give a f***!” department. I probably looked pretty much like this guy…
But of course, the pain returned, and I’m put on more pain-killers and Percocet. Nothing is helping. Finally, and I can’t believe we didn’t think of this sooner, we figure out that the out of pocket cost for a damn MRI is only $150 more than my COPAY. So I drag myself over with my cane and my dear, sweet, and incredibly patient husband, to the Imaging clinic. And I finally have my diagnosis…
A herniated disc. Delightful. A life-long problem that can only be helped by steroid epidurals, physical therapy, and the always-popular “strengthening my core” (I should probably mention now that I’ve been overweight since I was 8 years old).
Well, no bigs, I suppose. The only thing that will fix it is bed-rest and an incredibly strange shot in my lumbar spine. Eventually (2 months after the herniation actually occurred) I start to feel like a normal human-being again.
But, while all this has been going on, a nurse practitioner at one of my many physician’s office felt that my thyroid might be a little enlarged. “It’s hard to tell, though, since you have such a thick neck.” And with that gem of a compliment, I proceed to get an ultrasound and a Radioactive Iodine Scan. This is miserable, because a week before the procedure, I can’t have iodine, which is in…well, everything. I have to make everything from scratch, and I can’t have dairy or seafood. It was a bummer, but hey, at least I lost a few pounds.
These tests and my newest doctor, an endocrinologist, determined that I needed a biopsy of my thyroid. No big deal. My father had thyroid cancer 2 years ago and as my mom explained it, “if you’re going to get cancer, it’s the best cancer to get…” She herself is a two-time breast cancer survivor, so my genetic goulash is, needless to say, far from ideal.
I’ve got my biopsy appointment. It’s coming up. I’ve taken to random bouts of crying at work due to anxiety and the complete loathing of…everything. There have been rumblings of “changes” coming up at work, but I know I’m safe. I’m one of the hardest, most efficient workers they have, right? On a Friday, we find out that one person has been fired. No big deal. Maybe that was it, right?
I’m starting to get worried, because Tuesday is my biopsy. What if they tell me I have cancer, and then I get fired? Nah, that’ll never happen, my coworkers all tell me. So I come to work Monday morning, ready to face the new week! At 10am, the President and CEO of the company call me, and my roommate (he’s one of my coworkers as well) into the conference room. And that’s when we get the axe. 7 out of 17 employees laid off.
“How are they going to possibly keep up with all of the work?” I ask.
“Who the f*ck knows…” my disparaged roommate replies.
They say we can continue to freelance with them, which actually pays more than what I was making anyway so great! But *gulp*! What about my thyroid? I can’t possibly have cancer! I’m only 27. No no no, there’s only a 15% chance it’s cancer. I’ll be fine…
To make a really long story only slightly shorter, I got the dreaded call that Thursday. I have what they believe is a Stage 1 Papillary Carcinoma. In an absurdly cliche moment, I stop my car, in the rain, with my sheet-white husband staring at me from the passenger seat, listening to my thick-accented Indian endocrinologist explain the next steps.
That night, roughly 3 hours later, we hop on a plane to go to my husband’s best friend’s wedding. We haven’t seen any of these folks since our own wedding a year and a half earlier. It went over a little bit like this…
So that about brings us up to speed on my diagnosis. My husband and I will be uprooting ourselves from this godforsaken penis of a state (did I mention we live in Florida?) and returning North for my treatment, so I can stay with my family, and we can sort our new life out, post-cancer.
But I have to get to the post-cancer part first. And so it begins…