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The One Where I Was Diagnosed with Cancer

We all handle things differently. I’m not here to tell you how to respond to a diagnosis. I’m here to share my own experience and my own reactions, and maybe some of it will resonate with you. Or maybe you’re a caregiver and it will help you understand some things your loved one is going through.


This is an overview of the what, when, where, who, why, and how.


My life (as well as my husband’s, Nelson) was turned upside down on December 15, 2020. After a couple of weeks of inflammation in my lower ribcage, we went to the ER. I had been very stressed and figured a good dose of pain relievers or muscle relaxers would do the trick. After going through a long list of questions, the doctor didn’t have much for me and offered a CT scan as a final option. I said, “Sure, why not.”


Darned if you do, darned if you don’t. He returned a little bit later with an awful look on his face and said I had pancreatic cancer.


We sat there. Shocked. And all the synonyms that follow. Nelson called his brother who doesn’t live too far from the ER we were at. I think that was a good move for both of us – Nelson needed the support and I needed someone else to witness what was happening because it was completely unreal.

Then I felt the strangest peace come upon me. As I was being wheeled to the ambulance and transported to the local hospital, I was convinced I’d be dead in three days (no idea where that came from). And I was okay with that. It comforted me to know that I would die before my husband, our dog, and Queen Elizabeth II. The only thing that really bothered me were my roommates over the following 48 hours. Nelson was unable to go with me to the hospital or be with me that night due to COVID. Still, such a strange peace was over me.


The next couple of days included bloodwork and an endoscopy. The good news was that I had no markers for pancreatic cancer. The bad news was the tumor didn’t look good and I had no diagnosis. I was sent home on December 18th (our wedding anniversary) and was to follow up with the oncologist who saw me in the hospital.

After a PET scan and a couple of appointments with her, we still had no answers, just that it WAS cancer. However, the PET scan also revealed that the cancer was localized. This was a relief and probably the only thought that let me sleep at night.


I captured my feelings on video a couple of weeks after that dreadful night in the ER.


I continued to record several videos over the following weeks. Not knowing a specific diagnosis kept me moving through each day as if everything was going to be alright, and talking to the camera was cathartic.


Due to the location and size of the tumor, my local oncologist referred me to a surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center. The local oncologist said I’d probably have surgery and go through a couple of chemo treatments. Sounded easy enough, so we went to lunch to “celebrate.” I felt relieved, I felt positive. Surgery and a couple of rounds of chemo. No biggie. Here’s how I felt about all that:



Not long later, my attitude took a turn:



So as you can see, I was getting angry. On camera I had polite anger. But I was so tired of talking about “it.” Not knowing the specific kind of cancer was irritating, but more than that, just still reeling from having cancer. Me. Why me??

But we had to move forward. My first trip to Moffitt was on January 17, 2021, for a CT scan.


Finally, a diagnosis, and a reminder that God works in mysterious ways:



And that was the last video I made in 2021.


The following Tuesday I had a port placed in my chest and began chemo the same day.


In retrospect, I wish I had documented more and created more vlogs. But the reality was that going through treatment was rough and I did not have the mental and physical capacity to do so.


If you have been newly diagnosed and have made it to this sentence, my advice is to document, journal, take pictures. I didn't want to remember what I was going through and I certainly didn't think it would be of any use to me in the future. And while portions of that may be true, we have stories that should be told. We have feelings, physical ailments, and experiences that no one can learn from if we don't share them, if we don't record them in the first place. Medical professionals and our caregivers can't learn and grow if we don't speak up.


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MtRainier
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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Anyone who has been touched by cancer should know that they are not alone and that there are others who have experienced similar challenges.

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