It was now a few months since my surgery, another blood test. The CEA/tumour marker was not down, instead slightly more elevated. Not by much, but the main concern was that it was still present. Some doctors were wondering if I still had scar tissues from the recent surgery and hence the raised tumour marker. But Dr. Lynch was adamant that I see Dr. Martin Tan. You could tell that he didn’t believe the scar tissue theory. I was very annoyed. I was on top of the world and this guy was talking utter rubbish. But I thought I will just humour him and went to see Dr. Tan. He looked me in the eye and said “I am sorry Mrs. Ganesan, but there is a malignancy somewhere and we need to find it” rubbish I thought, but never mind I will do the tests and prove that I am fine and you lot are wrong.
So they started with the most probable and were going to work their way up. First stop the stomach region. So it started Colonoscopy, Endoscopy, scans and MRI’S. Sometimes, four procedures on the same day. The procedures itself was not painful but the preparation, fasting and eating jelly day after day was just becoming tedious, and then the concussion that they make you drink before the procedure was even worse. That stuff was making me sick. Barium!! Keep away from that. To put it bluntly you start shitting bricks. With all these tests, I was either constipated or down with diarrhoea. My stomach was churning with radioactive isotopes. It was a wonder that I was not glowing in the dark.
Hubby didn’t bring me roses, instead he would bring me sushi. Because he knew that was the only thing that I was able to keep down. Everything else churned that stomach even more. He didn’t sing me any songs (thank god for that) instead he would just be there for me, telling me that I was strong and doing great.
My advice to the young ones, don’t look at the size of the diamond, just look into their eyes and see if you see kindness. When the chips are down, diamonds and muscles wouldn’t matter. You need someone who would walk the journey with you. Find that rare diamond.
I met with the school teachers and explained that there is a bit of a concern with my health, and if they could help keep an eye on the boys, watch them for any behaviour changes, empathy etc. They were great, they were amazing. One teacher in particular, who was also a mother in that school, met me after Hari’s soccer game. She came up to me and asked if she could give me a hug. I didn’t even know her that well. She gave me the biggest hug. It was so sincere and genuine. This world is a beautiful place and that is because of these angels. Don’t be afraid to give a stranger a hug. It may not mean much to you, but to the receiver it is thousands of unspoken words. Ranges from, I empathise you, I feel for you, I am there for you in any small way I can, have hope, everything is going to be okay, you have a friend in me and you are not walking alone. It means everything to know that you are not walking alone.
Most of the tests came back negative. Some of them highlighted the fact that I am indeed a unique person. I had a few extra bits and pieces inside. I guess it makes up for all the stuff the doctors removed out of me. An added attachment near the naval area, an extra spleen to name a few. Finding the extra spleen was a string of interesting tests. One of the scans showed that my pancreas was of an odd shape. By this time there was a pool of doctors who were working on my case. Initially they thought that it was possible to have a slightly different shaped pancreas and nothing to be concerned about. But it didn’t sit right with some of the doctors. One of the doctors had this silly idea that I may have two spleens and one may be sitting in front the pancreas and hence causing the picture to show an odd shaped pancreas. So they took my blood, added radioactive isotopes and after a couple of hours injected it back into me. Then another scan. The spleen works as a blood filter. So when it filters the blood, it would trap the radioactive isotopes and be rather visible on the scan. So, yep I had two places gleaming like the Christmas lights and the conclusion I had two spleens and nothing wrong with the pancreas. Phew.
For some reason I was a bit anxious the day before this test. Not sure why, but the whole procedure freaked me out. My hubby kept saying, “don’t worry, this is nothing, you will be fine”, I didn’t want to hear that, his words were just irritating me, I thought “what do you mean this is nothing, this is big, have you done anything like this, this is freaking me out and you are trying to make it look like I am fussing over nothing”, he knew I needed someone other than him at that time, he suggested “why don’t you ring Merryn and see if you could catch up with her”. So I rang Merryn, she was going to drop everything and come to see me. This was all happening in the car. I didn’t want to see her at home. I didn’t want the kids to see me like this. We decided to meet in an hour’s time in a restaurant.
I am not sure if I believe in Telepathy or not, because it seems almost impossible to be just a coincidence. A few minutes after I planned this with Merryn, one of my old friends from Sydney rang, they are heading towards Adelaide and wanted to catch up. They have been on a road trip for months. The last time I heard from her was from Broome in WA. Now she was going to be in Adelaide in a couple of hours. I was so excited. I had not seen her in years. Tears to cheers in two minutes. Cancelled the plans with Merryn.
Kylie’s husband is another that I have always admired. He was struck with a rare type of Kidney decease. He didn’t stop living, as a family they did everything. They had to alter a few things to accommodate his treatment. But they wouldn’t settle for just moping and coping. There were road trips, fishing, camping, cooking and a whole lot of entertainment. Joe had gone through a similar test and he said “honestly, it’s not nice”, you could see in his eyes that he empathised with me. Somehow, I felt less freaked out after hearing this from Joe. The carer’s job is such a hard one. You have to know when to say “you are going to be fine”. And sometimes you have say, “this sounds really horrible, I wish you didn’t have to go through this”. But hubby was great in knowing that sometimes, he had to allow another person like a friend or my cousin to take on that role.
Test after test went on for about 2 years. At times they had to stop as I had too much radioactive garbage in my body and scans were not clear. I requested a small break and we went to Queensland for a holiday. We had the best time of our time. In spite of all the tests we tried to live a normal life as possible. Holidays, inviting people over for meals, kids activities etc went on as normal. Just took a bit more planning and organisation on my part. I couldn’t feel the cloud over my head. Remember I was doing the tests to prove everyone wrong. But on my part I thought if I didn’t know either way that would annoy me even more. Tests became almost routine. I had become an expert at the fasting procedure. Being without food was not that hard, but no water is harder. I will push the envelope to the last possible minute for that last sip of water. Test after test came negative.
It was now Dec 2008. I was referred to Endocrinologist as one of the other scans indicated that I may have a cyst in my thyroid. Ultra sound to the thyroid revealed that it was indeed a rather large lump on the right side of the thyroid (it could be the left, any way one of them). I was back at the St Andrews radiology the next day for a biopsy of this lump. By this stage I was on first name basis at St Andrews Radiology. There were a few people in the room. One was the ultra sound technician from the day before who was doing an ultra sound to show the other two where to prick me to get the cells for the biopsy. The other two looked like characters from Sherlock Holmes, brief case and magnifying glasses. Someone taking a needle to my throat didn’t sit well with me. I thought the best thing to do is to make light of the situation. I told the other two that they looked like they are from Sherlock Holmes. We had a chuckle. Dr. Watson turned into Dr. Vampire. First set of cells were taken. Ultra sound guy was holding my head or hand not sure what, but he was a gentle soul, who was almost apologetic for the procedure. The other two Sherlock Holmes Characters told me to stay put until they checked to see if they had enough cells. Nope, they need to go in again. They suggested that they give me a local anaesthetic as they were probably feeling guilty for sending a needle through my neck. I was very happy. My happiness didn’t last long. The local anaesthetic goes into the neck as well and that hurt more than the other needle for the biopsy. Once the numbness set in I didn’t feel anything and not sure how many more times they went in. I didn’t care, I didn’t feel anything.
Hubby came to pick me up. I was chatting to him quite well. Half way through the journey, it was like someone had an on/off button and flicked the switch, sudden pain took over my mouth, throat and neck area. I stopped talking midway through the sentence. I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva. I had gone through so many tests until then, they were uncomfortable, some a little painful, but this was the first time it was just unbearable. I just cupped my neck with my palms hoping the warmth of my palms would make it feel better. Hubby drove the car very gently, avoiding all the bumps and ruts on the road. We got home and I slowly mumbled, “This is it, no more”, tears escaped and ran down my cheeks. Hubby said gently “just rest now, we will talk about that later”, I kept saying “no more”, he gave me a hug and asked if I wanted a cup of tea, I signalled that I can’t swallow. He went to pick the kids or return to work. I am not sure, I just wanted to be left alone. I put a pillow between my neck and chest and held on to the saliva in my mouth. I couldn’t swallow it. Severity of the pain subsided by night time.
The test results came back saying “inconclusive” My specialist suggested that I see a surgeon at the earliest and said due to the size of the lump it is probably advisable to remove it. He made the appointment with the surgeon. Dr. Kollias was fully booked. But he still managed to fit me in by coming in early to the surgery and hence creating a spot. This was on X’mas Eve 24th Dec 2008. He suggested that we remove one side of the thyroid, the side where the lump was. He was looking at the first week in January for the surgery. I requested that it be after the 19th of January.
Our wedding anniversary falls on the 19th of January. I knew a surgery like this would mean I would be on baby food the following days. I wanted to go out on our anniversary, wine and dine with my man. Hubby was anxious, he would have preferred it to be sooner than later. Dr. Kollias was not so worried and we set the date for the surgery end of Jan 2009.
I was feeling fine overall, however, the lump was now becoming a bit more prominent and I could feel its presence when swallowing. Not exactly painful, but it was there just a minor irritation. At times I felt extreme tiredness. I put this down to be being a working mother with too much to do. None of this stopped our way of living. We had guests, we had dinner parties, a whole lot of cooking and our house was an absolute entertainer’s paradise. My end of year party was a blast as usual.
Someone asked me recently how on earth did I drag the attention to the day to day chaos and happiness even though I was going through a horrible ordeal of my own? I think for me it is the day to day chaos that got me through all this. There was no time for self pity. I believe that idle mind is a temple for negativity.