Friday, August 12, 2011

The big C word.

I have Cancer. Its true. And if it were happening to you, you might decide to simply keep it to yourself or only tell family or hide in a hole. And while the last 6 hours have been an emotional roller coaster and I have numerous times considered going into a Vicatin enduced coma for a few hours like I did last summer when a health crisis consumed me, I wont.

For those who know me…really, really know me, from my high school days, or college or my neighbors or my Moms Group friends, you know that I talk. I talk about everything. I over talk things. I am detailed, wordy, and share everything. It’s my heart. I wear it on my sleeve for all to see and I not only let you see it but describe it in great detail for those of you who I think might not see it the way I want you to.

Just last night I found myself if a very funny conversation via text with a dear friend who I am trying to help with daycare needs. My extensive e-mails to his wife became a topic of conversation with my husband and my neighbors and more than once I was called “crazy”. Crazy or not, I’m consistant. The same I’ve always been. And you gotta love me for who I am- cause I’m not changing!

For those who know me, really, really know me, you’ll understand that by sharing this so soon and in such great detail I might make you feel uncomfortable but its me. It’s who I am. It’s my therapy. It gets me through. For those who don’t know me and are really just a facebook friend from a different or current time in my life- there will be no apologies along the way. I’m good at saying I’m sorry but I have very little regret in life. Uncomfortable or not- take me for who I am. I’m me. Katie Bechtel Fulton. And this is my story….

“What’s Carcinoma?” I asked my Nurse Practictioner as I looked down at my two kids and their two friends I was babysitting for the day playing quietly on the floor of the doctor’s office-knowing full well what it was and just needed her to say it to make it real.

“ Well honey, “ she said as she turned her head slightly to the side in a look of sympathy.

“It’s Cancer”

“I’m sorry, what did you say? Cancer. Why didn’t someone call me? I have my babies here. I’m here. It’s been a week since my procedure. Didn’t you know sooner?”

Much of the next 20 minutes is a blur. She explained to me that I have SquamousCellCarcinoma . Its Cancer. Found most often on the skin. There are three types of general skin cancer. Basal, Squamous, and Melonoma. She gave it to me Leyman’s terms. Basal is topical. Just on the surface. Think of a mole. That’s it. You get it removed and you come back in 6 months. A big deal but on the skin cancer scale- pretty easy. I don’t have basal ( I asked her twice if I had the easy one. Her answer was no). Then there is Melanoma. This is the Big Daddy of skin cancer. Its deep and it can be deadly. It can spread to organs and lymphnodes. The treatment is aggressive and the scale tips the other way significantly on this one. ( My NP kept reassuring me I did NOT have this one). Then there is Squamous. This is what I have. Its below the surface. In the tissue. If left untreated or undiagnosed, it can spread and be serious but most cases do not spread to a point where they cannot treat it.

She removed my stitches ( read the details about the lump here As I laid back on the table with tears running out the sides of my eyes. I could hear my kids playing. My heart began to race. I could feel their presence in the room. My hands began to sweat. Then Alaric asked in his sweet R2D2 Robot voice,
“ Why are you crying, Mommy?”

“Pull your shit together, Katie!” I yelled inside my head. I gently told him my owie hurt. He and the other three kids continued to play.

The NP knew I was beginning to lose it. She had just got done telling me that surgery would be necessary. Dermatology at Carle would handle it. While the Pathology report indicates that the cancer was contained, its imperative to remove more tissue from the area. She told me this surgery would be very important to my recovery and prognosis. She told me they would go much deeper and much wider. They would remove more than necessary to test tissue around the site. (I’ve learned since that reaccuurance of Squamous Cell Cancer at the point of origin is fairly common so again, this first surgery has a lot of value).

I wanted to know details. I wanted to know when and where and how. I wanted it gone NOW. I really did feel lighter since having that ugly lump removed. I had been feeling so much better with the stitches, knowing I was going to get them out, have an ugly scar, and move on. All of a sudden-the pain in my chest where the lump was ached. I wanted it gone. I wanted the scar, I wanted all the cells filled with cancer, I wanted the stitches, I wanted it all gone. She told me I would need to wait atleast a week for the current incision to heal properly but I could make my surgery appointment before I left today.

She told me she was going to get my doctor to come see it and talk to me. While she was gone, I played with kids. I checked a text message and responded. I stared at my chest in the mirror next to the table I had been lying on. I looked at Alaric and Amara’s sweet, dirty faces. I pulled out new toys from my bag. I offered suckers to all four kids. Thank God for overstuffed diaper bags with everything I could need. The kids thought this was a special day- suckers at 9AM! They sat quietly on the floor and played- angels.

She returned to tell me that my doctor didn’t want Derm to handle it but rather the Surgery Department, specifically Plastic surgery. Because the incision is on my collar bone and they would need to go deep, having it on the bone could be difficult. Have surgeons doing it would allow them the expertise to dig deep, evaluate the bone and the tissue surrounding it, and do the best job for me. I was grateful. I don’t even like my current Dermatologist. He and I had numerous choice words last summer when his decision in medication sent me to the ER in the middle of the night.

I wanted to know about how deep and wide. Not because I care how it looks. I don’t give two shits. I don’t want scars on my face necessarily but I’m not someone who cares that much about the little details of looking good. Skinned knees are still a badge of honor for me and a good cut or awesome bandage is a story to tell- a memory to reflect on. For me, I wanted to know for size. How BIG was this going to be. Would it be all that people would see. “my cancer”? While I knew I would talk about this endlessly, would I be able to cover it when I didn’t want to. She looked at what I had. She took her fingers and made a mark on my skin.

“20 maybe? 20 stitches across- no more than that for sure. You need this, though” she said. I know I did.

20 is a lot. 5 stitches was a lot for me. More than an inch long. I explained my owie lots this week. 20 would be harder to explain.

I left the room with papers in hand to schedule my surgery. Honestly, I was surprised I didn’t get a pamphlet with CANCER on the front.

I walked holding hands with all 4 kids and shooed them to the lobby to make the appointment for surgery. It all seemed surreal. I waited. I sent a text message, pretending I was OK. I smiled at the kids. I stared at the wall. I waited. And I found out surgery department would need to call me directly after their department’s Pathology reviewed the course of action.

I buckled all 4 kids in their seats and gave them toys to play with. I turned on the air and stood outside the car. I called Brian.

“Its Cancer!” I cried. “Its Cancer, Oh God!”

30 minutes later I was home. All 4 kids in front of the TV with snack, juice, and tons of toys to entertain ( Thank God for TV at times). I sat on the front porch. Crying. Sobbing, more like it. I had told Brian I could handle the day by myself. I would be fine. I didn’t need him. Its not that big of a deal. Luckily he didn’t believe me and he left work immediately.

I cried to my mom, I cried to my brother, I cried to my best friends. I cried by myself. Not sad. Maybe alittle pissed. At who? I don’t know. I’m in the best shape of my life. In January 2009, Brian and I committed to changing our lives forever. Eating different. Exersicing. Putting our health first. I’ve lost more than 50 pounds. I’m now a runner. Carbs are scared of me. I’m strong. Brian is the same. And yet, we’ve both stuggled with our health along the way. I have an Auto Immune Disease I battle control with daily. And now this. Now what? I went to get Kleenex. I opened the fridge. I saw the almost empty bottle of wine I didn’t finish at Happy Hour last night. I thought about chugging. I closed the door and went to check on the kids.

“What’s that in your hands? “ Mara asked when I went to see how they were.
“What?” I looked down and saw my Pathology report sheet in my hands. I realized I hadn’t taken in out of my hands since I received it. On the care ride home, while I peed, on the phone with those I love most. It was stuck to me. I needed it. To show the words. To read them endlessly. To make it real.

“ Its nothing, Baby” I said

Back to the porch. More crying. Some more sobbing- lots of booger wiping.

My friend said to me, “let Brian take care of you.” I responded, “ I’m fine. I’m good.” “ Just let him take care of you”. And I did.

Brian pulled in the driveway and met me on the porch. We cried. He held me. I shook terribly. He looked in my eyes. He told me we would get through this. He held me tighter and took the weight from me.

I handed him the Path report- first time I had released it since I received it.

And I laughed. Bri did something dumb that made me laugh. It felt good. It felt great! I had had a few giggly moments since diagnosis and I loved them. I held on to that.

I remembered back to last year when I was sick and I told myself over and over and over that I would not let this define me. I was me and I would be OK. I said it to myself and Brian and I walked in the house to help the kids with their shoes so they could play outside. Thank God he came home to me. Thank God.

While the kids played, Brian and I sat down and talked. I even went to the fridge and took a few swigs of that wine. We talked about how I was feeling. About what we would do. About dermatologists and doctors. He listened. I cried. I worried about all of you. I worried that I wouldn’t make enough calls before I posted this on the blog. I worried someone else might be upset. I worried I was adding stress to other’s plates and platters. I don’t want to burden. I hate that. I told him I was considering a Vicatin coma. He laughed and nodded ( he would bring me the bottle if that was what I wanted). I told him I was considering blogging. He laughed even more. He knew me so well. We talked about it. He supported me and my crazy brain. We hugged. We kissed, he looked at my scar. I realized I had been covering it with my hand as much as possible. To feel it. Not to feel it. Who knows?

Brian called my pastor and asked for prayers. I went to the neighbors who were home and told them and cried with them. My dear friend came over with hugs and cried with her while Brian put all four kids down for rest time.

I’m blogging. I’m writing. I’ve stopped often while writing to cover my scar. To feel it. To not feel it. To look in the mirror at it. What it looks like now. What it will look like after my next surgery. With my ring covering it. Reflecting. Deep breaths. Big Sighs. Silent prayers.

I’m so grateful. Grateful that I live in a small community with a clinic like Carle. Amazing doctors who looked at ME and saw ME, not just my case. For my NP, who looked at my kids on the floor and looked at me and knew she was going to help me keep my shit together so I didn’t scare the kids. For my best friends who know already and send love . For Alicia, Jenny, and Rach who may read this first before even checking their voicemails. For my neighbors who are my family, and my family who is my everything. For my soul mate. For my piece of the puzzle. For my kids. I have a support system like no one else. I know I’m not alone and I’m so thankful.

I’m scared. I realize my eyes have filled with tears before I even knew to blink. I catch my breath and realize I may have been holding it while I prayed to God. I’m shaky. I’m a good caretaker, not a good patient. I like to help, not accept it. My lips hurt. I get concerned I’m going to have an outbreak and take steps back with my other health struggles while I try to deal with this one. I breathe. IN and OUT.

My three part mantra that has gotten me through so many struggles in the last 3 years plays like a broken record in my head.…

“This Too Shall Pass. God only gives us what we can handle. Everything happens for a reason.”

I’m here. I’m me. I’m Katie Bechtel Fulton. Today I have Cancer.


Queen of 'arts said...

I have sent you an email, and then knowing you, I knew I should check out your blog. Sure enough in your honest and no b.s. way was your story. My mantra is, "I lie in the hand of God." Now you can use it; I know you believe the words. You are in my prayers along with those of many others.

Jeff said...

Katie, let me and Dee know if you need anything at all.

Jill said...

Oh Katie what crappy news - I have had both basal and squamous or however you spell it and I have to admit that the SQ one scared me more than the basal cell so I understand your fears. So I wish you were here right now so I could give you a big hug make it all better for you!!

Lisa said...

I know you've got a GREAT support system and I'm so grateful. If ever you need one more person to vent to; I'm here. My family is praying for yours (especially for you!). Love you!

Jaci said...

I can't believe my EYES! Your blog has put me in a state of shock AND inspiration! I love you and know if anyone can beat this , It's YOU! You have our love, support and nightly prayers! Please keep us updated as I thoroughly enjoy your voice in your blogs. I miss you, love you and am here for you! Thank you for opening up, like you do... you make the world a better place to live in! Hugs!

Alicia said...

You are amazing and strong. I love you so.

Kandace said...

I heard the prayer request in church today. I knew it must be you since I had read your previous blog. I came home and saw your recent post. I will be praying for you. If you need anything, just let me know. I'll try to load you up with some wine and chocolate soon..I know it's not on our "diet" but sometimes you've got to make exceptions.