Life sometimes goes too fast for us to stop, take a breath and reflect. That’s how it’s been for me and now that the holidays are here I finally have a bit of that time.
I start chemo on December 26th. That’s my biggest and best Christmas present ever. It might seem strange that I’m looking forward to it but when you consider the past 18 months’ struggle you’ll understand why.
I was diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal desmoid tumor in summer of 2015. Radiation is also not an option so that left chemo. Even with chemo I have limitations. After over 2 dozen surgeries and losing all my large intestine and several feet of small intestine I have trouble absorbing nutrients and oral medications. Which means oral chemo may not work.
That wasn’t even the only problem I faced. The worst part of my story is that I couldn’t even get an appointment with an oncologist. I tried in my hometown and as far as 4 hours away but there were insurance issues, doctors not taking new patients and even an office that no matter how many times I called and left messages or talked to receptionists wouldn’t give me an appointment. When my longtime gastroenterologist told me that without treatment I would die, I made a decision that probably saved my life and definitely changed it.
I decided to move 1800 miles away from all my doctors, including ones that had seen me grow up over 28 years, my family and all my support system. I left behind my home in the hopes I could find a doctor who could help me. I’m lucky that I had a very good friend, now fiancé, who invited me into his home and was willing to become a caregiver for me.
I was also lucky because after getting my insurance straightened out I found excellent doctors thanks to recommendations from a fellow F.A.P and desmoid warrior who lives less than 25 minutes away. On a snowy December Monday morning I had my first appointment with my primary care doctor and by Friday I had an appointment with an oncologist and he had decided on a course of action. Which brings me to this point-starting my daily chemo med the day after Christmas. It’s the first step to finding a drug that may help at least stabilize my tumor.
Am I hopeful? Yes. At this point I’ll be happy if the chemo just stops the growth of the tumor. If it shrinks the tumor I will be ecstatic. I accepted the fact that I may not live a long life when I was 15 so to me every day I have is a gift that I didn’t expect.
I hate that I had to leave all my family behind to finally find doctors that would treat me but, in the end, it was the best thing for me. It is the biggest life change I’ve ever undertaken and it was especially hard since I am disabled and have 2 rare diseases, chronic pain and other chronic illnesses but it is also the best decision I’ve ever made.
If someone had told me last Christmas that I would move halfway across the country, see more snow in 3 months than I have in 43 years, and start chemo while planning my wedding, I would have thought they were crazy. But here I am and with luck I’ll still be here in 5 and 10 years. After all, we all need goals. For now, I’ll enjoy my new life and all the Butterfly Moments that my fiancé, Stefan, and I are making.