Personal Stuff

A Very Personal Post: Where I’ve Been And Where I’ll Be

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Greetings readers and friends. It’s been a while, huh? Yeah. Sorry about that. I feel I owe you all an explanation. So here it is:

As many of you may know from previous not-really-travel-related posts, I’ve been looking for work for the past year. And not just any work. I want a job I will enjoy; I want a job at which I will excel; I want a job that doesn’t make me want to die that will offer me a tiny bit of freedom and/or adventure. There are jobs like this, and I’ve sort-of found several. But they aren’t ‘hey look at me, I’m employed at Company X now–check out my 401K and dental insurance!‘ kind of jobs. They are more freelance-esque. And by freelance-esque I mean entirely freelance, entirely short term, and entirely unpredictable. So, like, one week I’m super busy and then the next week I’m in training for the Olympic thumb-twiddling team. As such, I’ve not even been able to make an ‘I’ve found work’ announcement, because I really haven’t found work–not in a past-tense fashion. I’m constantly finding work. It’s a gerund thing.

Is this what I want for the long term? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out how to make my life work. And in the midst of all of this, something else happened: I was diagnosed with cancer.

If you want to know more details about that, continue reading below. If you don’t, please skip to the next set of asterisks (asteri? What’s the plural of asterisk?) to continue with this story.

***

I went to the ER one night last month. I was having extreme abdominal pain–pain that I’d been experiencing on and off for about six months but could not get diagnosed. The doctors looked at some older scans and said ‘hey, it’s probably your gall stones’. And I was like ‘I have gall stones?’ And they were like ‘Yep. Let’s take out your gallbladder.’

And I was like: ok. Sounds good.

And so they did.

The pain was, in fact, my gallbladder, and since having it removed I have no more pain. Yay.

But while they were in there, they also took out my appendix. Because ‘it had something funny looking on it’ and because ‘ it’s not like you need an appendix anyway’. I left the hospital 36 hours after being admitted, two organs lighter, and expected to feel better in a couple of days. And I did feel better in a couple of days. Yay.

And then I went to my follow up appointment, where my surgeon explained to me that the funny looking thing on my appendix was actually a tumor. He explained that the funny looking thing on my appendix was actually a very, very rare form of cancer.

Long story as short as possible: my diagnosis is pseudomyxoma peritonei, which is a mucin-producing tumor typically originating in the appendix, as mine did. What mucin-producing means is that said tumor basically spits cancer cells out into the rest of your abdomen, and eventually you fill up with abdominal tumors. And that’s a very bad thing.

But wait! Because of my friend the gallbladder (may it rest in pieces), they found said tumor super, super early. Which means I’m probably not going to fill up with abdominal tumors. Yay.

***

What this diagnosis means is that I have spent the past three weeks in all of the appointments. So very many appointments. My car now automatically drives to the hospital in much the same way that it used to automatically drive to the airport.

What this diagnosis means is that I’ve switched gears from trying my damnedest to find fulfilling work to desperately trying to complete the (admittedly fulfilling) work to which I’ve already committed before I run out of time. Because…

What this diagnosis means is that I need very major, very scary surgery. The technical description for what I’m having done is called Cytoreductive Surgery (CRS) with HIPEC. It’s long, it’s complicated, and as an added bonus, I’m also having a complete hysterectomy. This surgery is happening the day after tomorrow. I am entirely terrified.

Me on day 1, 3, and 6 of my initial surgery. Seriously. Hire me.

Specifically, I am terrified of:

You know–surgery. Being cut open. Tubes and beeping and being unable to move. Needles (ok, mainly only the one needle they are putting in my spine.) Pain. Definitely pain.

Complications. While my surgeon seems very hopeful about my age and general health, the various scary things he will be doing to me come with potentially life-altering complications. I’d really super like to not have any of these happen.

Recovery time. I will be in the ICU for a while, and in the hospital for even longer. I do not do well being confined. Raise your hand if you are surprised to learn that (why is no one raising their hand?)

Follow-up. If this had not been caught so early, it would have been how I died. Likely not for ten years or so, but almost certainly. For the rest of my life, I will have to watch this. I’m 36 years old, which I maintain is far too young to start thinking about your own mortality.

But even more specifically, I am terrified of this: I am terrified of this diagnosis and resulting treatment really, truly ruining any chance of me ever having a career again. Because really, there’s no good time to get cancer. But there are worse times. You know, like ‘almost a year into a job search when things have finally started looking up’.

So yeah. That’s where I’ve been, and that’s where I’ll be, at least for the short-term. Longer term goals include:

A possible business trip 23 days post surgery. I intend to get there if it kills me, but it just may, so I guess I will have to wait and see about that.

An awesome blog research trip six weeks post surgery. I won’t risk death for this one, but I’m really hoping it happens. Because it looks life-changing (you know, because I need more life change?)

A definite epic trip six months post surgery, which I’m not even sharing yet because it is so awesome (and amusing and surprising) that it deserves its own blog post. So stay tuned for that.

Beyond that, I really hope that I am able to continue to do the kind of work I love and occasionally get paid for it, while continuing to travel and enjoy life. Because I’ve said it before, but this time I really mean it: life is short.

I promise I will be returning to The Suitcase Scholar with more regularity. Just maybe not for a while. Or maybe really soon, depending upon if the hospital has good wifi. Stay tuned. There’s more to come. 

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