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liver cancer ribbon

One week ago, I was sitting on my bed, drawing in my new sketchbook, trying to contain my excitement.  Ahead of me, only two workdays, and then a long-awaited vacation in Las Vegas.

Things have been busy lately, with lots of client meetings, the final weeks of school for the kids, Dave running for work.  All in all, life was flowing along as normal.

Monday morning dawned like any other Monday.  I woke up before my alarm, and started getting ready.  Dave had taken the whole week off, and was going to take Ben to school.

I took off for the office, and the boys headed out, too.  Their routine was to stop at McDonald’s on the way, to grab breakfast on the go.  All was uneventful, until about an hour after Dave got back home.

He started feeling sick and spent some time in the bathroom.  In between trips, he’d stretch out on the bed.  Dave is amazingly susceptible to stomach flu and various digestive ailments; but, it wasn’t until he decided to take a shower, and had to sit down, that things got scary.  Apparently, he got dizzy, and passed out.  While he was out, he vomited.  I am grateful that he didn’t aspirate and end up choking.  He’s not sure how long he was unconscious, but when he came to, he knew that he needed help.

Dave called out to Izzy, knowing that she was up and moving around out in the family room.  When she came to the door, he pulled the shower curtain up, to cover himself, and told her to call me at work.

I was sitting at my desk, plowing through my to-do list, trying to get wrapped up.  When Isabel called, it took a minute for me to understand what she was telling me.  As soon as I grasped that Dave had passed out in the shower, and wanted me to come home, I threw my stuff in my purse and took off for home.

When I got there, Dave was still in the shower.  He was really pale, and shivering, even though he was in warm water.  I got him up and he was able to get dressed. Thankfully, we live two minutes from a good hospital.

I took Dave to the ER, and they soon discovered that he was extremely dehydrated.  They drew blood and found that his white blood cell count was more than double what is normal.  The suspicion was a bug of some kind; but, they wanted to do more tests, to be sure.  They started IVs and then took him for a CT scan.

It was the CT scan that first indicated that things were not as easily resolved as they hoped.  The scan showed some sort of lesions on Dave’s liver.

The ER doctor decided that they should do a targeted MRI, and that, due to his dehydration and blood counts, it would be best to admit Dave for the night.

Izzy stayed with Dave during the MRI process, while Ben and I went home to get a few things for Dave to have with him.

All through this, Dave was much quieter than normal.  That alone had me worried.

The next morning, I headed up to the hospital after dropping Ben off at school.  Dave was awake, but still not as talkative as normal.  He’d had a terrible night’s sleep, thanks to a roommate, the pings of the alarms on the floor and all of the activity of a busy hospital…along with the anxiety of the unknown.

It took awhile, but finally a doctor came in to talk to us.  He let us know that there were several possibilities for the lesions.  They could be abscesses, caused by a virus or some sort of bacteria; they could be cysts, or they could be something malignant.

To determine what they were dealing with, the doctors wanted to do a biopsy.  This really worried Dave.  He’s never spent any extended time in the hospital, and had never had anything more than a tetanus shot.  Having a large needle injected through his ribs was something that scared him like nothing else he’s encountered.  I tried to reassure him that they would numb him, and that he really wouldn’t feel anything; but, exhaustion, tension and feeling really bad all factored in to keep Dave almost non-communicative.

I went with Dave as far as the room where the procedure would be done, and then was escorted to a waiting room across the hall.  Within fifteen minutes, they were looking for me, to let me know it was all done.  The change in Dave when I walked in made me laugh.  He was babbling non-stop, talking about how silly he’d been to worry, how the doctor could bring that “cocktail” up to Dave’s room any time, and how glad he was to be done.

Now all we had to do was wait.

By dinner-time, it was clear that the results wouldn’t be in that day.  Dave was able to eat some mashed potatoes and some green beans.  He enjoyed every bite, after a diet of IVs full of antibiotics and ice chips for three days.

The next morning, it was sounding like Dave would get to go home.  We were anxious to get out of there, as Dave wasn’t resting, and I knew that he’d be more comfortable in his own bed.

By noon, he was sprung, and I got him settled before heading out to fill the prescriptions for the antibiotics that he’d been given upon discharge.  One my way toward the grocery store, I called home, to let Dave know that I’d just be a bit longer.

Immediately, I knew that something was wrong.  Dave asked me to come home right away.  He said that the doctor had called.

When I got home, Dave was sitting on our bed, and his eyes were red.  The doctor had apologized…Dave had been discharged before he’d had a chance to get back to the room to talk to us.  He was very sorry to do this over the phone, but he had the results from the biopsy.

The samples indicated malignant neurological tumors.

I feel so terrible that Dave was by himself when he got that news.  The doctor told him that he was going to refer Dave to an oncologist that he trusted implicitly, because Dave is young and has a family.

Suddenly, the bottom dropped out of our world.

I know how awful it was to be there when my cousin, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I can’t imagine what that feels like to hear that for yourself.  I only know, now even more personally, how it feels to have someone I love have to hear those awful words.

Dave was told that the oncologist’s office would be calling to make an appointment.    For the next couple of hours, we sat around, stunned, waiting for the phone to ring.  Finally, they called and we have an appointment for this next Thursday.

These past couple of days have been surreal.  We find ourselves crying, holding each other, and just trying to keep busy.  Dave is a talker.  He always has been.  It’s the thing that I love the most about him and the thing that drives me the craziest about him.  I often tease him that “I just asked the time, not how to build the watch.”  We’ve started talking to people about what’s going on, and our differing methods of sharing have become very apparent.

On Friday, we went to pick up Isabel’s car from the service department where we’d had some work done.  The gal that runs the department usually deals with Dave, and when Izzy and I dropped the car off, we’d told her that he was in the hospital. When we walked in to pick up the car, she came over and Dave started to tell her about the findings.  She turned and made what I have started to refer to as the “Boo Boo Kitty” face, and I was done.  I burst into tears and had to immediately turn and run out the door to my car.

Yesterday morning was a bad morning. I was especially weepy, with even little things setting me off again.  My mom called to check on us, and suddenly, I was sobbing again.  I don’t know how to be this person.  Dave and I have been together a long time.  We’ll have our 21st anniversary in August.  I’ve always been the one with surgeries, or broken bones, or migraines.  Dave’s wrenched his back or smashed a finger once in a while; but, it’s been my long-held belief that he’s going to be the one leading me around, serving as my memory.

Dave isn’t acting sick.  The antibiotics are screwing with his appetite, and make him feel icky, but he’s not in any pain, and he doesn’t feel anything else is wrong.  His blood work is back to normal, as are the white blood cell counts.  He doesn’t have diabetes, high blood pressure or cirrhosis.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, else is wrong with the guy.  The doctors have decided that the bug that he had probably didn’t have anything to do with the tumors.  It may turn out that his sensitive tummy, the one that I always give him a hard time about, may actually save his life.

If he hadn’t gotten sick, those tumors might not have been found until things had progressed much farther.

Right now, we have a long four days until we get any answers.  Tomorrow, we’re going to my mom’s house to celebrate my birthday, which is on Tuesday.  My mom has asked me a couple of times what I’d like for my birthday.  I can’t think of anything that I want, except for this to be a terrible dream, or at least, something that we can easily fix.

The outpouring of love and support that we’ve gotten, from friends and family, has been so wonderful.  We are so very grateful to know that there are so many people thinking of us.

Dave has started a blog:  Dave Baltzell – Fixing things, feeling things and figuring it out.

We talked about it on Friday, and Dave liked the idea.  He’s been keeping a journal for longer than we’ve been married.  This will be an extension of that, and help to keep all of our friends and loved ones up to date on the next steps.  Today, he posted his first post, and I think that getting back into the process of writing every day has already helped him.

Keep us in your hearts.  We welcome feedback, and information or experiences that you have to share, and the wisdom & kindness of you all.

One week ago, we were blissfully unaware that our lives were about to be changed.  Now, we look forward to a fight like none we’ve ever faced.  Now is the time for courage, for humor, and for love.  We’ll take it one week at a time.

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