I’ll Do It Without Him
I have had 2 cancer scares since my husband left. We had been through an epic health crisis together in 1999. I mistakenly believed he was commited to the marriage and would honor his vows about “in sickness and health”. When we came out the other side of my stroke at age 35 during my second pregnancy, I believed we would get through anything together. He gave the marriage what he believed was his best effort for 16 years after the stroke before he finally gave up trying to make it work. During those years, I became accustomed to his being there for me while I struggled to cope with my disability and its inherent health challenges. We separated in 2015.
The first cancer scare was when a lump was found in my breast on a routine mammogram. It was more of an emotional challenge for me to manage on my own since the tests were relatively simple and minor. An ultrasound and a needle biopsy showed the lump to be a benign mass that would not require treatment. It was a huge relief, but I was naturally a wreck until I had that diagnosis. I felt I had dodged another bullet.
During a routine ultrasound of my kidneys in 2017, the technician told me to wait in the room in the middle of the test. This had never happened before in the years of having the test done every 6 months. I knew something was up.
She returned with a doctor. She showed him the images. He told me to go have a CAT scan of my pelvis and not to wait. There were “masses” scattered throughout my pelvis. This language was creepy and scary.
I couldn’t get to the CAT scan appointment fast enough. I wanted answers to all of the scary questions. Whatever it was, I just wanted to deal with it and have it behind me.
After living through brain surgery in the sixth month of my second pregnancy as a 35 year old mother of a two year old, I knew I could get through anything.
The CAT scan showed several masses throughout my pelvis, one of which was the size of a newborn baby’s head. I consulted with my gynecologist about the next steps. He told me they should come out because “they didn’t belong there”. He referred me to a gynecological oncology surgeon. More creepy language.
Time was moving too slowly as I tried to navigate the system of medical care. My mind was consumed with lots of nasty “what if” questions leaving little room for other thoughts.
My brother happened to be visiting from California when I finally got to see the surgeon. I was grateful to have another intelligent, caring adult to go to the appointment with me. The surgeon recommended doing an “exploratory laparotomy” whereby he would remove the masses through a full abdominal incision. There was no easy way to remove all of it so it could be sent out for pathology to determine what they were. We scheduled the surgery as soon as possible. Still, I had to wait about 10 days which seemed too long.
With my life hanging in the balance again, I made an appointment to talk to my therapist.
During the process of unloading all of this at our session, at one point I said, “I can’t believe I have to go through this alone”. She told me, “You’re not going through this alone, you’re going through it without Dirk”.
Those have been some of the most valuable words I have ever heard from a therapist. I reframed everything I was doing and saw that I was figuring out how to do everything without my husband. I found friends to drive me to and from the hospital, and hired a home health aide to stay with me for 2 weeks following the surgery. I wasn’t alone.
There was an interminable 10 day wait for the results of the pathology. I had dodged another bullet.
Thank you for reading :)