Punchy Mommy Believes in Life

How I evicted the worst uninvited overnight guest and took back my life

Tag: Diagnosis

Not everyone can carry the weight of the world


So here’s what I knew. I had a huge tumor in my chest.  The tumor invaded my superior vena cava and completely blocked it while making its way into 80% of the right atrium of my heart.

Holy shit.

There’s a tumor in my heart.

After I received the results of the x-ray, I called Brother and Sister to let them know that something was going on.  My parents were in Italy at the time.  They were about two weeks into their three-week trip. Brother and Sister assured me that everything was going to be ok, but when the CT scan results were in we all knew that nothing was ok. At the time, Brother was interviewing for a job. He offered to fly to us when he was done. I didn’t think it was necessary. But, the moment I hung up with him after reading the results of the CT scan, I knew we couldn’t be alone. I quickly called back and choked out please come, we need help. I called Sister to tell her the news to. I didn’t know it at the time, but Brother and Sister were talking too. They decided that they would both come. And they did. In less than 24 hours Sister had arrived a four or five hours later Brother arrived. I was so relieved to see them. Please don’t leave us alone. We need you. We need help with Little Man. I have a tumor in my heart. 

The world changed when they arrived. It hit me that something was really happening. The spinning stopped and this new information finally weighed down on me. I saw it in their eyes. There really is a tumor. There really is a tumor blocking my superior vena cava. There really is a tumor in my heart. I looked in the mirror and I saw someone who had eyes that were puffy and red from crying, with a face that was puffy and swollen from lack of blood flow. This person looked sick and she was me.

With Brother watching Little Man and DH and Sister watching me, I faced the next test, a fine needles biopsy to properly diagnosing the tumor. I laid in the hospital bed with DH holding my hand while the radiologist consented me. A nurse appeared. The same one that was there for my CT scan the previous day. I was so happy to see a warm and familiar smiling face that I started to cry. She said, don’t cry, don’t cry. You’re going to be ok. I’ll be with you the whole time. And that’s all I wanted. Someone to be with me the whole time. Please don’t leave me. I have a tumor in my heart.  

Your chest isn’t meant to be punctured with needles. And, I’m not talking about acupuncture, although I probably could  have benefitted from a session. I laid down on a cold table which moved in and out of a CT scanner. First the doctor needed to figure out exactly where the tumor was, then he needed to figure out how he was going to get the biopsy. Once that was all sorted out, he inserted a thing tube through my chest, between my ribs and rested it against the tumor. Then he used a tool that was about as long as a yard stick, which he stuck through the tube into my chest and into the tumor. Every time he squeezed the trigger on this dagger, it made a loud cracking or popping noise, which indicated that it had grabbed a piece of tumor tissue. He did this 12 times, taking 12 biopsies. I was cold. I couldn’t stand the noise the dagger made. Afterwards, I asked the nurse what color the tissue looked like. She paused before she answered and said pink. I think she was lying. I envision the tumor being dark grey or black. Maybe speckled. Definitely ugly.

While I had a dagger in my chest, Sister was on the phone to Italy telling my parents that they needed to come home now because their youngest, their baby, had a tumor in her chest. By the time this was all done all I could think about was getting into bed. I needed my bed, with it’s soft comforter and fluffy pillows.  I needed to curl up.  I needed to cry.  I needed to wake up the next morning and see that this was just a terrible terrible dream. The weight, oh the weight of it all was too much to bear.

Is it true that somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue?

storm and rainbow

I got the chest x-ray. DH, being a doctor, looked at it on our computer at home. And, there it was. A shadow. It was near my lung. Its lines were blurred. It was out of focus. But there it was. Something.

I was convinced I had lung cancer. I had childhood asthma growing up and if there was any weak link in my body I guessed it would be my lungs. After DH and I looked at the x-ray, I got in touch with  my doctor. No wait, I tried to get in touch with my doctor.  She wasn’t returning my messages. I called and called. DH was home early that day and he called too. Little Man woke early from a nap and the three of us went to the park to take our mind off everything. Finally DH got through to a nurse who read the x-ray report over the phone confirming what we saw, something. The report actually says, There is an irregular right perihilar opacity recommend nonemergent follow-up CT to further evaluate. DH told the nurse that he wanted to speak with the doctor and a few minutes later his phone rang. He walked away from where Little Man and I were playing and proceeded to have a loud and mean sounding conversation with the doctor. I was freaked. Eventually, the conversation ended. DH said that the doctor wasn’t alarmed by the results of the x-ray but recommended that I have a CT scan of my chest just to make sure. She told DH, we get one of these about once a month. If I had any idea of how upset your wife was, I would have called myself instead of having my nurse read you the report.

I cried the whole weekend while DH assured me that it was going to be ok and that x-rays are notorious for being inaccurate. I had the CT scan on Monday morning and by that afternoon the results were in. DH and I blew up the doctor’s phones to get through to her so that we could get the results as quickly as possible. The hospital refused to give us the results directly. Finally, the doctor called us mid-day.

Can you come in this afternoon so we can go over the CT results? Yes, of course. But, what does the report say? Well, I really want to talk about it with you in person. Ok I understand but please, tell me, what does it say? Well, it’s, it’s not good.  It looks like it’s a tumor.

My world began to spin faster than a teacup ride. DH and I melted on the floor of the bathroom and between us cried a gallon of tears. I cried so much that I must have cleaned out my tear ducts because now my tears come right out of my nose. I still thought it was lung cancer. What else could it possibly be? It was a tumor in my lung, I was convinced.  DH called his office and asked two of his colleagues to watch Little Man so we could meet with the doctor.

We dropped Little Man off and then drove straight to the doctor’s office. We cried the whole the way there and walked bleary eyed into her office where we were taken back to an exam room quickly. Choking back tears, the doctor said the following: blah blah blah blah large blah anterior mediastinal mass blah blah blah invasion of the superior vena cava with extension into the right atrium. Blah blah blah.  And then she said, as if it mattered, the following measurements are likely to have underestimated the true size, but the mass measures roughly 4.1 by 3.6 by 3.8 cm in size and extends towards the tricuspid valve. Overall, the entire mass measures approximately 8.7 x 6.4 x 11.8 cm in size. Blah blah blah blah blah lymphoma should be strongly considered although other malignant processes such as germ cell tumor or malignant thymoma cannot be excluded.

Spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning.  That’s all I remember. That and, strongly consider lymphoma. Wait, lym what? Oh, it’s not lung cancer it’s lymphoma. Duh, I should have thought of that.

The doctor wasn’t reading fast enough for DH so he started to read the over her shoulder.  He gasped at one point, I think where he saw that the tumor was invading my superior vena cava. That’s gasp-worthy. Based on these results, the next step was to take a fine needle biopsy of the tumor to get a proper diagnosis. That was scheduled for the next day.

DH and I left sobbing.  We picked up Little Man and tried to act normal for him. I don’t think he understood what was going on, but he did give me a few wondering looks as I silently cried while reading books to him. It was a beautiful sunny day and as we sat on the floor of his playroom reading, all I could think was, is this the last time I would ever read to him?

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a 
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that your dare to dream, Really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops, 
High above the chimney tops, 
That’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow

Why then, oh why can’t I?
If happy little blue birds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I? 

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