On September 29, 2015 my sister, Nina, took me to a competent cardiologist in Queens, New York, Dr. Javen Suleman, to check out my rapid breathing and host of other symptoms. See link for this cardiologist below.
I began to explain the symptoms as stated in the prior blog. Those symptoms began in late July and became more prevalent as the months went by. Immediately an EKG was administered and it showed a clearly high heart rate in the 130s+. Along with the rapid short breaths, tiredness and signs of severe exhaustion, the cardiologist made an on the spot decision to ensure I had no blood clots. He ordered a CT scan at the local hospital. Upon arrival at the emergency room, I was immediately taken to the cardiology department and a CT scan was performed. Results of that scan was revealed to us about 45 minutes later. Diagnosis: Definitely no blood clots, however, it was worse. A mass or commonly called a tumor, was founder in my right lower lung. No other tumors were found elsewhere. At first it was a guess that it was lung cancer from just looking at the CT scan images. I never smoked so lung cancer was a low probability.
I remember little from that point on until about 2 weeks later. I remember looking at the images of my lungs on the computer screen that evening and then I went blank. What happened next is a recollection from my sister and others who were with me in the hospital.
I was transferred to New York Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan on September 30th.
How I got there was a mystery until a few weeks ago. All I remember was being wheeled in a wheelchair across a busy New York City street by someone and hoping I did not get run over! I do not remember leaving the original hospital in the borough of Queens, New York. I do not remember arriving at the hospital in Manhattan. I was not on any heavy doses of any drugs to alter my mind. I could not immediately remember some basic information such as my name, what year it was etc. This I was told by my sister. All I remember vaguely are conversation and directives for me to follow. All this time, I was in excruciating pain and severe discomfort. I was told of my cries for help and the inability to sleep due to the pain. One of my brothers told me later that he thought I would not live through that ordeal. That night upon arrival at the hospital ER, the administration of pain management began. Three days later I was feeling some reduction of pain with the combination of morphine in the IV and oral oxycodone along with some sleep aid.
The Actual Diagnosis:
Ewing Sarcoma, stage 4 of a rare bone cancer attributed to children and not generally adults. This manifested within just a few months. From the size of the mass, it was estimated to be about 6 months and it metastasized in a soft tissue, my lungs. It was not lung cancer. I had all the symptoms of cancer, but those were not caught by my primary care physician in Orlando. Learn more about this type of cancer at the link below.
This condition is not attributed to anything I ate or did. It is a genetic fusion of two chromosomes where #11 and #22 on my DNA string blended together and caused my body to develop destructive cells in my bones. There are only a few cases of this type of cancer in adults. I understand I am the first case of adult Ewing Sarcoma in the hospital and they were extremely cautious in preparing my treatment plan. This was now about day 7 in the hospital. By this time my pain was being managed better and better each day. After a series of Scans, X-rays, MRI and Biopsies, the confirmation of the cancer type and the treatment was decided upon by a team of doctors and oncologists. On October 13th I was given my first chemotherapy.
The Emotional and Mental Impact of my diagnosis:
I felt the reason I could not remember was from pure shock. The moment I heard the comment, “ …99.9% cancer…”, I went blank. I could not make a single decision for myself. Thank God for loving family and a sister who took the time to speak for me when I could not do it for myself. I felt like everyone was not talking about me having cancer, but about someone else. I was in severe denial. I later realized I was probably going through the stages of grieving for myself with the first stage being denial. The next stage is anger. I did not get angry at any point in this process. The third stage of bargaining was briefly felt when I began to ask God over and over again to take me back to the time and feeling prior to a few months ago when I was extremely healthy. Depression is the 4th stage and I fell into this stage head first or was already there.
About 2 weeks after being admitted in the hospital, crying became uncontrollable. When family would visit, I remember just crying and feeling as if I would never see them again. I kept replaying in my head my children and when I was a capable and healthy mom. I missed them tremendously. I kept going backwards in the past and not being able to focus on the present situation and the possible future. Eventually my doctors recommended I talk with the resident psychiatrist, Dr. Anne Dickerman. After about 2 sessions in my room, she recommended 2 drugs to help with my temporary depression. A low dosage of antidepressant and an anxiety drug to help calm my mind. I began taking those and about 7-10 days later I was able to refocus on the current situation and looking ahead. I was able to smile for the first time in months. I was starting to feel like I have some level of control over my thinking and behaviors. I was finally accepting my faith. I was ready to win this battle and come out triumphant. I was able to see my life years from now and I was gearing up for the bright future that lay ahead. I realized I arrived at the last stage of grieving which is acceptance.
About the 3rd week in the hospital, my wonderful children came for a weekend visit. I was able to have great conversations with them and tell them how much I love them and encouraged them to push forward and make their lives full and enjoyable while focusing on their goals and aspirations. I was finally beginning to feel stronger in spirit, mind, body and soul.
I was released from the hospital 30 days from date of admission. October 30, 2015 I walked out of the hospital eager to go home with my bald head! My hair fell off 2 weeks after the first chemo session. I did not care about that. All I wanted is to get home, put up a good fight and focus on my future. Chemo #1 was behind me. Now I am ready for the months ahead and the ongoing treatment.
The focus on my future:
I remain very positive and I feel blessed to have great kids, family and friends who are constantly supporting, helping and praying for me. Little things such as rides to doctors and appointments thus far have showed me those who are willing to stand with me and help without questions. This is a humbling experience for me as well as those around me who are my care takers and there are many. From those who bought me comfortable clothing, to good lotion for my drying skin from the chemo to those who took the time to cook meals for me and my employer for their unconditional love and support. I am blessed to have a sister and my brother-in-law who takes care of me 24/7 when needed. Thanks to those who send cards and flowers. They brighten my day each time I see read the cards and look at the flowers. I am no longer on any oral medications such as pain killers or sleep medications. I have gained back 8-10 pounds after losing about 30+ pounds during the ordeal. I still struggle with a few medical issues relating to the cancer. Those are actively being worked on for continuous improvement.
I will share in my next blog the medical issues, treatments, the reactions to chemotherapy and the new experiences as I continue to be optimistic for a bright future. I learned one have to always have hope and faith in oneself and a Higher Power on this arduous journey to recovery. I had to learn a new way of life and adapt to change rapidly in order to ensure success. I had to leave loved ones behind and shift focus 100% to myself and my recovery. I feel I am emotionally stable and acutely focused mentally on my recovery and well-being.
Again, thanks for the support and if you are healthy and can help or donate your time, please do. There are others out there who need help and who will forever be grateful that someone took the time to lend a helping hand. Finally, know yourself and pay attention on how you feel on an ongoing basis. Follow your gut feeling when it comes to your personal health. Thanks again, and watch for my future blogs on Sunday mornings.