Show and Tell – Surgery and Tumors
But Life Happens. And then you have to deal with it.
The question I get asked most is… how did you FIND it?!! A bone tumor is after all tucked away deep into your body and not something you just “feel” one day like a lump.
So, today I decided to share my story here in case that would maybe encourage one other person to act on a subtle message that comes to you in some way or the other …
It is after all other people’s stories that made me find mine !
After a rant (totally instigated by me) on facebook about my lack of a proper exercise routine ( a long story – not for my blog), my friends encouraged me to take action. So I did.
Some weeks into it, I felt a dull pain in my hip, but nothing too serious and I definitely had no incident that I could recall causing injury. I ascribed it to the new fitness regime and carried on. After all – it was fine when I exercised, but would wake me up at night and I had to use my fist to push myself up and around in bed. I didnt pay much attention to it during daytime as the pain subsided during the day.
During that same period, I got news that a friend’s husband was diagnosed with cancer, at a very advanced stage – and without me asking, the person sharing the news told me (unbeknown to my hip pain) – “….apparently he just felt a pain in his hip.” (probably not that simple, but that is how the story came to me). Him being a very active, healthy, fit person who did the Ironman competition amongst many other races and marathons, it was a big shock and bothered me a lot. But for other reasons – not because of my own situation. Strangely I did not even relate it at all to my own hip pain. Just carried on.
Soon after that, I met up with another friend for lunch – casually told me that since she last saw me (which was not too long before that), she felt a pain in her hip and found a tumor after they investigated. For a brief moment, my mind did flicker up with a thought of…oh my… I have had pain in my hip?! But again – I just left it there.
A routine visit to the doctor to schedule my mammogram etc… with the normal line of questioning resulted in my doctor asking if everything else is ok. Yeah, sure – can’t be better – it is after all holidays soon..but um…. well… I don’t know…. I have had a pain in my hip for about 2 months now. Maybe I should just get up more and move around. I felt kind of silly to report on this “pain” and almost left it out. She said that best to check it out if it is not injury related and has been there for more than a month. At this point I was getting ready to leave for the holidays, busy finishing an interior job for somebody, having a guest that I needed to take around town and all the other year-end scrambling that required more hours than a day offered. I was very tempted to simply not go.
I probably would have still considered putting it off for a later, more convenient stage in the hope that it would be gone by then if it had not been for these friends’ stories in the back of my head. So I agreed to go for an MRI – still with not the least of a worry that it could be ANYthing. I was still putting the blame for the pain on the new exercise routine that was too much too soon for my deteriorated state of physical being!! The little voice spoke up and said – JUST GO !
I was about to get ready for the airport, when the results came in and the nurse from the doctors office called for me to come in and see the doctor. I could simply not go in, at risk of missing the flight, but she insisted that the doctor wanted to speak to me before I leave and preferably in person. I explained my situation and the fantastic doctor I have, came to my house and brought the set of MRI’s to me!!!! With the news that I had a tumour found on the top of the femur, right where everything gets together in your hip area, I had to zip open my suitcase and make space for this pack of unexpected news that now invited itself to go on holiday with me…..for follow up.
Maybe it was a good thing I had to get on a plane. Because God knows I would have googled “bone tumors” straight away if I had time to sit on the internet instead of in the air.
The tumor was of considerable size and the pain could or could not be as a result from that. See – I did have an inflammation in the muscle around it, and the tumor was thus an incidental finding. Had I ignored the pain and the inflammation later healed, I probably would have never found it….unless it became aggressive, had spread or had some other way of presenting itself……but the stories of my two friends prompted me to go ahead and have an MRI instead of brushing it off as aches and pains from a body that has fallen out of shape.
As a mother, of greater concern to me, was the effect that worries of this kind would have on my children and being wheeled into theatre… I left the girls with some tears welling up in their eyes. I kept mine till I was behind the doors…where the lady on the left wipe them for me… she saw them standing there and just whispered…don’t worry – they won’t see. My husband took these photos…. he knew I would have done the same. He knows me too well.
This week I ditched the crutches…after 5 weeks on them. My surgeon took the decision to have a pathologist present inside the theatre to do some immediate tests while they did the biopsy as well as to freeze some bone marrow at the beginning of the procedure for lab testing afterwards. I had great confidence in the specialist under whose care I was and while in theatre they decided to remove the whole tumour that was inside the bone, for reasons that played out under the procedure. Afterwards, I was thankful for that decision they took.
I made the journey back home with flight socks and in a wheelchair and looked oh so fashionable ! But I was grateful that it was all removed, with great positive results and nothing but crutches as a reminder to this little detour life took. The crutches was to support the weight for the artifical bone/ cement that they had placed into the space where the mass was so that it would have time to settle and the bone density could return to normal strength.
This is what I learnt in this process though:
- Life can change dramatically in one phone call. Be grateful for every day of good health. So cliche – I know. But still.
- When you get unsettling news – don’t panic. Just deal with it one step at a time. Panicking about the outcome and the future would have just added an incredible amount of stress on top of a situation that I had no control over.
- To share or to keep it secret? Many people wonder what to do while going through difficult and uncertain times. I choose to share simply because it opens up an opportunity for those who love and care for me, to show their support and send me their love and hugs which helps me cope and carry on. That is what people are there for. There is no right or wrong in either approach though. Do what is right for your own best state of being.
- People sometimes say to not say anything in public – because people don’t care – they are just curious. That be true to some extent, but sometimes when you speak out you realize who are the (simply) curious ones and who are the caring ones and often get taken by surprise how caring some people are that you did not realize before. And by the way – nothing wrong with curiousity – it makes people understand your situation better, it educates, inform and help them in their own circumstances or help them know in which way they can support you.
- Focus on a positive outcome. I had such encouragement from the girl lying in the bed next to me. She had a rotator cuff pain that kept bugging her. Turned out to be a bone tumor. The biopsy showed it malignant. Her shoulder blade was removed and replaced with a new one and as a result she could not use her arm for the next 4 months. She had a 2 yr old who skyped her and was eager for Mommy to be home. It broke my heart…but she assured me – even with all that…. it was a good outcome. The tumor is gone and all removed. She made me think of a positive outcome and that made me less worried going into theatre that day.
- If you do have some ailment that does not settle in a couple of months, have it checked out. Go to your doctor and discuss it. If that little voice speaks up – go for a scan/ MRI/ x-ray. Bloodtests are not always indicative on its own.
- I was wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to have not know about it and just not find it?! It was after all all good in the end but I had to go through the ordeal and it was painful and unsettling. But sometimes there are byproducts from a process like this… like slowing down, putting life in perspective and re-prioritizing. Try to look for those reasons and meaning of it all beyond the obvious.
Today I am thankful for the stories that were shared with me. And I hope that maybe if somebody read this and had a little voice that was telling them to go look further and deeper into it, then hopefully this will encourage you to do so. Even if just for peace of mind.
I share this humbly and with deep sadness – my friend’s husband was laid to rest this week. May his soul rest in peace for he touched many lives on his journey.
I am thankful that I can be back home and put all this behind me. I am extremely grateful for every person, doctor, friend and mostly family who cared for me deeply and wonderfully and my children who stepped up and did the daily duties and the domestic demands I could not take on….telling me to slow down and being understanding on the change of plans this holiday demanded. My husband already knows he is a hero in these situations.
All’s well that ends well.Ilze