D-Day (Diagnosis Day)
It is a typical Monday afternoon in my house. I am making some macaroni and cheese for my 2 and 4 year old’s for lunch. They run and play with a few of their friends who are over for a play date while I chat with my friend. Suddenly my phone rings. I see that it was my gynecologist office calling and know that I need to take the call.
Let me go back a few steps from here. A year prior to this I have gone in for my annual pelvic exam, my results came back showing that I had HPV. At the time my OB’s nurse told me that it was very common. Most people have HPV and never realize it because their body fights it off before they ever know they have it. She said it was nothing to worry about, but did mention it does increase my chances for cervical cancer in the future.
The following year I went in for another annual pelvic exam. A few weeks later my OB’s nurse called again letting me know that I had some abnormal cells on my PAP and that they would like me to come in for some further testing, a colposcopy. She again mentioned that it was nothing to be concerned about and that I could schedule the follow up testing at my convenience, there was no rush. I decided that this was not something that I wanted to sit on, so I went ahead and made the appointment that day.
A week later I went in for a colposcopy. As we were walking to the exam room my doctor let me know that I had the absolute minimum number of abnormal cells that they would call me back for. She assured me that really this was just routine, and I had nothing to worry about. Even as she was doing the procedure she said to me “Yep, super boring, nothing to see here… Although I am going to biopsy this one small spot.” As I walked out of the exam room she said “I will see you next year.” I left the office, and didn’t give it a second thought.
Now here I am, 5 days later, making macaroni and cheese for my kiddos and their friends. I see that my gynecologist is calling. I assume that it is my OB’s nurse calling again to let me know that my test result came back normal. I ask my friend to excuse me, so I can take the call real quick.
THE PHONE CALL
I answer. “Hi Keziah. This is Dr. Russell, do you have a minute to talk.” My heart sinks.
She tells me that I was being diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma In Situ, a type of Cervical Cancer. My world is shattered. I looked out my back door as our conversation continues. She asks me if I know if I want any more children because I am going to need a hysterectomy, and relatively soon. She assures me my cancer has been caught early and it is completely treatable. I am hearing the words that she is saying and it all seems overwhelming, but I am taking it in. As she tells me that she will no longer be treating me and referring me to an oncologist I lose it. Suddenly it is real. I suddenly, out of nowhere, have cancer.
As the call ends I realize that I now have to turn around. I have to face my friend who is still standing in my kitchen, over hearing my entire conversation. I have to look at my children. I have to call my husband. As hot tears stream down my face, I realize I have to turn around and face my life, but with cancer.
MY NEXT STEP
I take a deep breath and turn around. My friend is right there to pull me in and hug me with everything she has. She tells me to go to my room and call my husband, she will take care of the kids. I feel embarrassed that she was there in my worst moment but looking back I am so glad she was. She was supposed to be there. She wrapped me up exactly how I needed to be, she allowed me to process this information and talk to Brandon away from my kids. She allowed me to shelter my children from the very raw emotions that I was feeling in that moment.
I call Brandon at work. I let him know that I had heard back from my OB and that is wasn’t good. Before I finish he tells me he is coming home, and we will talk then.
I now have a few moments to myself to try and process what has just happened. I sit at the foot of my bed, with my head in my hands and sob. I allow my heart to break. I let myself be sad, and angry and scared. My stomach hurts, my brain swirls.
I think “It is going to be okay, she said it was caught early.” “What if it is not, what if she is wrong?” “What if this is it, the beginning of the end?” “What will happen to my kids when I am not here?” “Did I do something to deserve this?” “What did I do wrong?” “Why would my own body allow this to happen?” “It is going to be okay, she said it was caught early.”
Brandon arrives home. I now have to look the person I love the most in this world in the eye and tell him his wife has Cancer. I see the tears well up in his eyes as his heart breaks. I feel his hands reach out to hold me to try and comfort me and look for comfort from me at the same time. I hear his voice quiver as he tells me that everything is going to be okay. For a moment we are both broken, together. Then I feel him pull back just a little bit, hear his voice recover, and see him start to hold back his tears as he begins the endlessly difficult task of being my rock.
From there the day moves on. My friend goes home. Brandon and I focus on the logistics of what will happen next. Who we are going to tell and when and how? We research the oncologist my OB has referred me to. We research exactly what Adenocarcinoma In Situ actually is. I work out to relieve some stress. We drink some wine to help calm our nerves.
I fight back tears as I put my babies to bed. As I read them their good night books I realize they are what I must fight for. They are my focus. I cannot allow this cancer to consume me both emotionally and physically. They need me, and I cannot let them down. I hold them each a bit longer and harder before I walk out of their rooms.
I lie in bed and cry. Brandon holds me. My brain continues to try and make sense of the fact that I have cancer. I feel broken, I feel helpless, I feel a little piece of myself die. As that innocent, naïve, carefree part of me drifts away, I suddenly hear one word come from my heart. “Live.” It feels comforting. I hear it again and again as I lay there and drift off to sleep.
The day is finally over. It is not the Monday that I was expecting. It is the Monday that changed my life forever, that I will never forget. It is March 28th 2016, my D-Day.
Read more about my journey with Cervical Cancer here.