So here’s how it all went down.
That Wednesday in late March, just two days after I’d freed myself from a job that felt more punishment than pleasure, I was looking forward to everything that was coming up. I didn’t have to sit at the desk I’d been chained to; the one which caused my back pains. The weather was gorgeous – sunny, but not hot. Perfect for the yard work I’d been planning in my head. I had a plan laid out for studying java programming, so that I could really *get* the object oriented bits. I’d put job hunting out of my head for the time being. I had a quilt or two to make.
And then I noticed that there was blood when I wiped after using the toilet that morning. “Damn, my period isn’t supposed to start until next week,” I thought, annoyed. Later, after a trip to the gym, I peed in the shower (yes, I’m one of those people), and noticed that there were chunks of blood. A nagging thought came to me that that wasn’t period blood.
By the late afternoon, I was experiencing a fair amount of pain, but thinking it was probably just a urinary tract infection, I’d reached out to my doctor who prescribed antibiotics over the phone. The trip to pick them up was difficult, but I comforted myself with the reminder that once the antibiotics kicked in, it would all feel better quickly.
Except it didn’t start to feel better, and instead grew increasingly worse. That night I had the strongest need to urinate, but couldn’t get anything to pass. Finally, as I stood, screaming, in my bathroom near the toilet, the dam broke and what erupted was nothing less than a scene from a horror movie. My bathroom floor was covered with blood and clots as large as an egg. The walls were splattered with blood. I sat down on the toilet and cried with relief, with pain, with terror.
Reil immediately made the decision that, yes, indeed, this warranted the trip to the emergency room we’d been contemplating. By the time we got there, I was once again in pain from the need to urinate. Luckily, the folks there got me situated in a room and started a catheter, which produced a fair amount of relief. A few hours later I was sent home with an appointment with ultrasound the next morning and the promise of a urology appointment later.
We got a few hours of sleep. I emptied my catheter bag. We dropped the kids at school and headed back to the hospital.
The ultrasound technician was friendly, and I was so wiped out that I didn’t notice when she began acting a little squirrely. Reil, on the other hand, did, and began making calls to the urology department to try to get a time for me to come in. Eventually we headed back to the ER to get them to send the order to urology, and minutes later, the ultrasound tech met us there, and spoke to the doctor.
A CT scan was ordered. I was pretty much out of it anyhow, so Reil ran home to pick the kids up from school. My catheter bag filled up and I couldn’t get anyone to empty it immediately- great pain until the nurse helped out.
Finally, the CT scan. And then a wheelchair trip across the road to the urology department, all the while my bladder feeling more and more full. Once there, it became apparent to me that the catheter had been knocked out of place, and that nothing was coming out of my bladder. Despite my pleas for help, they ushered me into an exam room, telling me that the doctor would come soon.
I stood there, waiting. Needing to pee. Have you ever tried holding your urine until it hurts? I was there, but I couldn’t let go. Everything was blocked. A young woman came in after about 20 minutes and I told her I needed help. Before she left, she told me the doctor would be there in a few minutes. Another 5 minutes. I called for help. I screamed. I finally opened the door and slammed it, which brought a couple of nurses running. I begged for their help, and they got me down on the table, removed the catheter, and oh! the relief.
I laid on the table and cried and cried and cried.
And so, it was almost anti-climactic when Reil and the urologist showed up, and the urologist turned to us and said “You have kidney cancer, and it has spread to your lungs.”
And in that moment, yesterday’s thoughts of enjoying freedom, planning my future, loving life, all slipped away.