September 23

staying on it

About 15 years ago I was having a series of respiratory infections that were leaving me sick 50% of every month. I went to 5 different teaching hospitals in Chicago and all told me it was within the realm of asthma. I pushed on knowing that it was something else. Finally a doctor agreed in 2010 and recommended that I go to Denver to spend a week at National Jewish Hospital for a week of testing. I left with a diagnosis of one lifelong illness and came back with 3 additional diagnoses. A life-changing surgery resulted and more follow-up a couple of years later showed, in yet another surprise diagnosis, something called Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous condition that requires endoscopies every couple of years to make sure no cancer has developed.

There’s so screening done for Barrett’s because it’s expensive, requires general anesthesia and is less common. As a result, esophageal cancer is considered an especially deadly form of cancer because it’s rarely caught early. So when my very earnest GI doc called me to tell me that he spotted Barrett’s in a routine post-surgical endoscopy, my teary but calm response was, “But we’re gonna stay on it right? You and I? I’m going to do everything you tell me to do and you’re going to promise me that you’ll do everything you know how right? And together, we’re going to make sure that my husband gets his wife and my daughter gets her mom for as long as possible. Because if something changes we’re gonna be on it and get it early right? We’re gonna stay on it, right?” “Yes. Yes we will. We will stay on it.” he replied.

So if I am late in returning your guild’s contract or your question about that fabric you need, it’s because today I’ll be lying on the gurney with an IV in my arm, counting backwards into sleep so my doctor can biopsy as much as he needs to in keeping that promise to me and my family. In some ways I dread this ritual but in other ways I am proud that I’m also keeping my promise to my family and myself and very grateful that I can afford to get this testing done. You may get me someday Cancer but I sure as hell am not gonna make it easy for you.