Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What the Hell...

Five years ago I woke up one morning and had a painful white patch under my tongue on the left side. I was 8 months pregnant, on steroids every day for rheumatoid arthritis and thought it was surely just some weird pregnancy symptom.  I doctor hopped and ended up at an oral surgeon who did a biopsy to "rule out the very unlikely chance of cancer".  I remember being so hugely pregnant and the nurses being afraid I was going to go into labor when they did the biopsy.  I also remember it being the single most painful thing I had ever done in my life.  Stitches in my tongue when 12 months pregnant and a crazy toddler and a full time job.  It was fun.

But, the biopsy came back negative and the doctor told me it was a callus since my teeth are so crowded and it would go away and not to worry about it.  Cool.

Over the last 5 years, I had that beautiful baby girl, I worked my butt off in my career, my toddler became a little man, and we moved to Oxford, MS for a new job opportunity and to be closer to family in Memphis.  The tongue patch never went away, but it only bothered me maybe 3 times a year when it started to hurt kinda like when your taste buds go haywire.  It always only lasted a day or two and life moved on.

However, this past May I noticed a lot of pain from the area.  I ignored it at first but the pain did not subside.  I gave it a look (not super easy to see the underside of your tongue), and it looked much larger and appeared to be spreading down the back of my tongue.  Alarming.

I had not been to a single doctor in Oxford yet, so more doctor hopping ensued and I found myself at yet another oral surgeon.  He was much more concerned than my previous one 5 years ago and ordered a biopsy again.  He took 3 large sections of my tongue (I am not going to keep harping on this, but SO painful) and found that the displaysia had moved from mild to moderate.  That is a pre-cancer sign and once it hits severe, cancer is likely to form.  To say he was concerned is an understatement and he made me go to another doctor asap for a second opinion.

I then ended up at an ENT and he took a 5 second look into my mouth and immediately made eye contact and said "I am telling you right now that you have cancer and we are going to take this seriously".  I may or may not have burst into tears in his office like a blubbering baby.  You like to think you would handle news like this a bit better, but I guess I am human after all.

Basically, he said all indications are that this will one day become cancer, so why wait for that to happen?  He wanted to be proactive, prove the cancer is present now, and attack it immediately.  I had to say I agreed, as terrifying as it was.   

So, I scheduled yet another biopsy for 2 days later and was told to get my ducks in a row and plan for where I want my cancer treatment to take place. 

Spinning.  I was spinning and nauseous and cold and hot and scared and angry and devastated.  

I went home and cried on Brian. I called my poor mom who was at work and sobbed (literally, sobbed) on the phone to her for like an hour.  I apparently needed to get some emotions out.  

My amazing family immediately jumped into action and by the next day, we had a google drive and calendar set up for all resources and to-dos, we had a group Skype call - 8 people in 3 different states - and I seriously felt wrapped up in a warm family blanket of everything is going to be ok.

I had my surgery on Thursday morning and the official diagnosis came in as expected.  Squamous cell carcinoma.  It sounds yucky.  We decided I would go to MD Anderson in Houston, TX which is the #1 rated cancer center in the country, possibly the world.  I originally thought it was out of our reach due to cost, but my selfless family insisted I go to the best and we would make it work.

This leads me to the part of this whole thing that has brought on the most tears of happiness and gratitude.  My brother set up a GoFundMe account and sent it to friends and family to help with these bills.  As of right now, less than a week since it went live, it has raised over $12,000 and I have even more in personal checks people have sent me directly.  We head to Houston in a week and the flights are covered already and we have totally free accommodations set up for our 10 day stay.  I cannot even wrap my mind around how generous, kind, and supportive people are.  I am humbled and so, so grateful.  I know I will never be able to repay this much kindness, but it will be my mission to do so every day in any way that I can.

I have my PET-CT scan today to see where/if the cancer has spread beyond my tongue.  I will get my Stage and the severity.  I am so scared about what I may learn, but I am ready to get some answers and solid information so that we can move forward.  Whatever we learn this week, the plan remains the same - attack this crap with everything we have and don't look back.  We are going to be aggressive, positive, and informed. It will be hard and yucky and painful, but we are facing it head on and with gusto.  

Thanks for all the prayers, love, and support.  I have already benefited from them immensely.  Here we go!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Tiny Bite of the Big Apple

After we left the beautiful wedding in Pennsylvania, we simply had to drive a few hours up the road to NYC.  It was not in the original plan, but how could we be 3 hours from Cheri, Alex, and Penelope and not visit?

The best part is that it was actually everyone in the family!  Mom and Dani made the drive with us from Memphis and then hooked up with Joey and Megan who took them from PA to NYC.  Joey just happens to have been accepted to a highly prestigious acting school for 6 weeks to study the Meisner technique at the Maggie Flanigan Studio.  Look it up - super impressive!!

Anyway, so that meant we had all 4 siblings, mom, all 3 grandkids, and all 3 spouses/boyfriends all in NYC randomly for a whole day and a half.  Crazy!

It was a short period of time, but we made the absolute most of it.  First of all, huge shout out to Brian for taking on the Manhattan and Brooklyn traffic like a boss.  It was nuts, and he did so good.  Second, also car-related, we got some up close and personal time with NYPD when our car was broken into.  On our first night, we parked the rental car down the street from Cheri and Alex's apartment in Bed Stuy and the next morning we saw the window was smashed out.  The only things we left in the car were Violet's booster seat, a water bottle, and some allergy medicine, so I guess those things are worth stealing these days.  Luckily, it did not ruin our trip and we got a replacement vehicle later that evening.

Anyway, while dealing with the car and the police, we got breakfast in Brooklyn and played with the cutest niece ever invented.  She and Violet had fun uniting their twin cat sisters.

Then, we embarked on the kids' first subway adventure.  Jeremy was SO excited about this.  "It is a train that goes underground and underwater, Mom!"  Wow.

We popped out of the subway and headed into the Natural History Museum for a visit to the dinosaurs.  It was so huge and I think we made it about an hour and a half with the monsters before we had to leave to feed the beasts.  It was a lot of fun, though.  So freaking huge.

Next, we got food from the carts (hot dogs, falafels, pretzels, and smoothies) and copped a squat for a picnic in Central Park.  Perfect weather, yummy food, perfect people to share it all with.

Then we headed over to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty from a distance (that is a later trip with older kids) and to hit up the Sea Glass Carousel that just opened.  We also played a bit in the fountains located at the park thanks to Alex and his scheming ways.

Finally, we wrapped up our Manhattan trip with some delicious Carvel ice cream and another subway ride back to Bed Stuy.

It also happened to be Alex's birthday and Joey and Megan's wedding anniversary, so it was quite a hot mess crazy time.  We cooked out yummy burgers with a side of Chinese takeout (because why not?) and it was fun and cramped and wonderful.

So many amazing thanks to Cheri and Alex for hosting us, Mom and Dani for getting the rental car and watching Clue 70 times with the kids.  We made some great memories and had an absolute blast!