In my last blog post, I talked about my 6 car accidents and why I believe the universe was training me for that night. As my daughter, Sara, said after reading the blog, "ohhhhh, I'm a cliffhanger!" Lol, yes, and here's part two.
We arrived at Connecticut Children's Medical Center nervous for Sara, in disbelief about our near car accident. We raced inside, hoping to be seen immediately as Sara had begun vomiting, and she was a shade of pale I had never seen before.
We explained that she had started experiencing pain the day before. She said she had been in pain through the previous night, but it wasn't too terrible. She didn't say anything until the morning when we arrived in downtown Ogunquit Maine. We planned to spend the day at the beach. She said she wasn't feeling well and felt faint in the morning. She had fainted on several occasions before, so we told the rest of the gang to go ahead, and we would meet them. I sat with Sara a bit and gave her orange juice and a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin, thinking that it may just be a low blood sugar thing and she hadn't eaten in a while. She ate a little and drank a little, and then we headed toward the beach. Unfortunately, I didn't know the area (pre-GPS), and we ended up taking probably the longest route possible to the beach.
12-year-old tough-as-nails Sara was a trooper, and we ended up on Marginal Way and sat on a bench for a bit to let her rest. We finally made it to the beach, and she spent the day not moving much. I checked in with her often, but she didn't let on how much pain she was in. We started to pack up and head back to my brother's house for the night, but Sara really started feeling bad, so we decided we needed to head back to CT in case she needed medical care. We drove back with her in pain, and she vomited once. We arrived home around 11:00 and tucked her into bed, thinking she would be better in the morning. My husband checked on her around 2:00 am and said she was moaning in her sleep; he thought that maybe it was appendicitis and we should go to the hospital. We left our other 16-year-old, 14-year-old, and 10-year kids at home, promising to update as soon as we knew what was happening.
The doctor at CCMC saw us immediately and decided she had all the signs and symptoms of appendicitis. Instead of waiting for tests like an ultrasound, they decided to bring her right into surgery. Nervously we waited for them to get us when it was over. Sara was tired and still in pain but was discharged the next day.
After a month of healing, we went for a follow-up appointment to make sure all was well. We met with the surgeon, and she said everything looks great, have a nice life!
Later that day, I dropped one of my sons off at soccer practice. I was still in the parking lot, when I received a phone call from the surgeon. As I sat in my car, I heard the surgeon tell me words I was not quite comprehending. Pathology report, very rare, carcinoid, nuclear medicine, oncologist, very rare. Very rare.
Still parked at the soccer field in disbelief at what I was hearing, slowly, it all came into focus as I tried to piece together what she had just told me. She started by apologizing that she had just looked at the pathology report AFTER we left, and she had done hundreds of appendectomies, and never had she seen a pathology report come back with anything other than normal. It was very rare, she kept repeating, very rare to have a carcinoid tumor on an appendix! It's very rare!
Stop saying that!!!!!! Tell me it's common; it happens all the time, and tell me she will be fine! She said she was referring us to a pediatric oncologist and setting up tests with nuclear medicine. A less than 5-minute phone conversation turned our world upside down. I called my husband, trying to explain what I thought I had just heard. Complete panic set in, but we knew nothing yet. We choose not to tell Sara or anyone anything yet. But it felt like testing and appointments were too far away, and nobody had any urgency to get us in to see the doctors. I enlisted the help of our pediatrician, who pulled a few strings to get us an appointment with a fantastic pediatric oncologist. We went for a consultation without Sara since she still didn't know.
While we were nervously sitting in the waiting room, a friend walked in. He was there for a check-up. He said, "Hi!" enthusiastically, and then he stopped and said, "wait!" why are YOU here?!" This just became really real, and this appointment set in motion five years of all kinds of testing. We waited an entire month for the first test. It was a hard month of "what if's." After the first test came back, we were told that it looked like the cancer was contained in the appendix and was removed successfully with the surgery. It looked like she was cancer-free, and no additional treatment was necessary. We were finally able to tell Sara, who was, of course, as shocked as we were. But, the miracle was that if she had not had appendicitis, the cancer may have been growing slowly and silently for many years, and the truth is appendiceal cancer IS very rare. In the US, it has been thought to affect about 1 or 2 people per 1 million per year. Cancer of the appendix is hard to diagnose in its earliest stages because it has few symptoms. There are no reliable blood or urine tests for diagnosing appendix cancer.
So, Sara, you are 1 in a million!
It has been 12 years since her surgery and seven years since being declared cancer free. She has done many fantastic things and helped many people along the way. She has many more plans, and a lot of living left to do! We're so proud of her; clearly, the world needs her here! I am grateful for the miracles in my life.
Photo credit to her friend Kasey
I love this photo!