Monday, January 24, 2011

Of Spines, Surgeries And The Big C

Well here it goes… I can finally talk about it in complete detail. Everything here is too chaotic to make up and should I be lying about anything in this note, God will smite me in a most excruciating manner.

In October, 2009 I started to have these back pains. Nothing important, or so I thought at the time. As the months progressed, they started to get worse. In about late May to early June, 2010, the back pains became so severe that I couldn’t even move without feeling that sharp, agonizing torture. To describe the feeling, did you see the movie X-Men: Origins? The part when sabretooth grabs the teleporting guys spine? Yeah that’s what it felt like every day.

I finally went to the doctor. You know what he said? He took an x-ray and said that I had gas. So I took some meds but the pain was still there. I went back and the doc then said that I was constipated. So I cleaned out my system. It didn’t work so I went back and this time the doc sent me to ER to get an MRI. The doc at the ER said that he didn’t think I needed to go through an MRI. He said that I had a torn abdominal muscle and gave me some Advil to relieve the pain until it heals.

I then went off on a lonely trip back to Iloilo last December since my mom passed away. I don't wanna talk about that since I think I posted something before about that particular heartache. Well anyways while I was out there the pain never went away. It actually seemed to get worse as each day passed. I couldn’t even sleep in a bed. I would just curl up on the chair or push the chair to the side of the bed and try to sleep that way. Pain killers were my bestfriends, so to speak.

And then I had fever. I thought I had dengue or something since the symptoms for it were manifesting. I went to the nearby clinic to check Unfortunately the doctor was out and I was referred to a hospital. One doctor asked questions, you know, the protocol to know my history. During this interview session, the pain that I usually feel before rushed in, as if the fever was not enough.. He said that something must really be wrong for the pain to still be there at that intensity. He then asked a doctor at the radiology department to help him out so I could undergo a CT Scan. When I went in for the scan, I couldn’t even lie down, let alone keep still with the IV tube for the contrast stuck in my hand. I stayed still as long as I possibly could. The scan wasn’t finished but I just couldn’t stay still anymore. I started to sit up, pulling the IV tube out, and bled on the table. From the scans that they were able to take, it turns out that I had a spinal tumor on the thoracic 10 vertebrae. The technical report sounded like this: Patient underwent a CT Scan and a destructive osseous lesion involving the thoracic 10 vertebrae and is suspicious for malignancy with an infectious process less likely.

After the scan I was immediately sent back to Manila for further testing. While I was there in the hospital a needle biopsy was done. At first the sample of the tumor that was taken was diagnosed as a hyperparathyroidism induced “brown tumor”, which turned out to be another misdiagnosis. It was recommended that I be sent off to another hospital for further evaluation and surgery with a neurosurgeon.

I was scheduled for an explorative operation of some sort (that's what they call it) to know what I'm sick of. During the surgery, as the surgeon cut into the tumor, I bled on the table. It was then that they discovered that the tumor had developed its own circulatory system and latched itself onto mine. As this happened I went into cardiac arrest and was clinically dead for 2 minutes. The surgeon had no choice but to seal the tumor and reconstruct my spine. I was in surgery for a total of about 18 hours. Only less than 30% of the tumor was removed.

I'll be having some surgeries this coming weeks and if I survived that, I'll be having a series of radiation therapy sessions, all the while going through intense physical and occupational therapy, to try to shrink the goddamn tumor.

Yes, I have the big C, ladies and gentlemen. I have cancer.

I was told by my neurosurgeon that I might never going to be able to walk again after completing the series of operations that I will be having. I spent a lot of time coming to the conclusion that I would never have the life I had, that things would never be the same again. I also found out that the correct diagnosis of the tumor was a “giant cell tumor”, technical term “osteoclastoma”. These tumors are common but only in elbows, knees, fingers, ankles, and toes, not in someone’s spine. I guess mine was unique.

I came back to my place, tumor and all, to try to find some sense of normalcy. When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the one that I love thought I was some kind of a fairytale that didn't exist.. So I lost my career, my love, and probably my legs in the future. What more could I lose? How much time? Does it really matter? All I want to say is to shut up and stop complaining about how your life sucks, there are people out there who have it exponentially worse than you. As for me? I’m not complaining, I’m merely giving you a reason to stop complaining about your problems.

I’ve experienced every kind of suffering imaginable, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. I know for a fact now on what to expect if I should ever be condemned to hell. The only thing I hope for when my time comes can be summed up as:

I was alive... I didn't merely exist...

I miss you. 
I am scared, I was, and still not prepared for this.
We will talk.
You deserve to hear everything, 
I just didn't know how.
But I gathered enough strength to let you know.
After all, I love you.