My Healing Journey: The Beginning (and… how IVF may have saved my life)
In my last blog post I shared how having a mindfulness practice has been a huge support in helping me navigate all the change and challenge in my life these last four years. It’s truly been invaluable and has helped me stay grounded in the midst of so much whirling, swirling change and uncertainty.
Over the months to come I’ll be sharing more of my journey with you: what I’ve learned these last four years, some of the resources and supports I’ve used and found deeply helpful, and how you may be able to apply what I’ve learned in your own life.
Today, I want to take you back to the beginning of my healing journey…
It was the fall of 2015 and I was in Denver, sitting in a sterile exam room about to get a routine physical at the fertility clinic where my husband and I were going for in-vitro fertilization. (IVF).
I told the nurse practitioner: “I’m a pretty boring patient. No medications, no past medical history. There’s not a lot to report, except I’m having a hard time getting pregnant.”
As the exam wrapped up, she did a quick physical exam and palpated the area around my neck. “What’s this tiny lump on the left side of your neck?” she asked. After discussing it with my doctor they said it wouldn’t be wise to proceed with the IVF until we had a definitive answer about what it was.
Fast forward a couple months and I’m sitting in an empty exam room at my Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) doctor waiting to get my stitches out after I’ve had this “tiny lump” removed to be biopsied. It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
I’m checking email on my smartphone and making my grocery list for items I still need to pick up for our big holiday dinner in a few days. Entirely unprepared for the news I’m about to receive.
“Melinda, your biopsy results came back yesterday and it looks like you’ve got a follicular B-cell lymphoma. The good news is that it’s low grade and low stage…”
But at that point, his words started to blur together as tears filled my eyes.
What? Cancer? Did I hear him right?
Tears welled up and and fear started flooding in. And my mind begins to fill up with questions: What does this mean? How could this be? I feel great. I have no other symptoms. How could I have cancer?
If you’ve ever gotten news like this, you know how completely discombobulating it can feel. Your whole world is suddenly turned upside down.
The next morning I got up early to drive to Farmington, NM, the next town over from where I live in Colorado. My local hospital couldn’t get me in for a PET scan, but the imaging center in Farmington had an opening at 8 a.m.
I’ll never forget sitting in Starbucks on that chilly November morning, with my husband Patrick, drinking my decaf soy latte and eating a ham and cheese breakfast sandwich after my test was done. There was a lot of small talk… and in retrospect I think we both were still in shock by the news.
Fast forward a week and my oncologist calls me: “We got your scans back and this tumor is low-grade and localized. Often these things will go away on their own but for now I would advise we simply observe it and hold off on any treatment. “
Great news. Huge sigh of relief.
And by the way, this was all happening the same week one of my best friends went into hospice and died the day after my birthday. And my husband and I were in Hawaii hosting a festival on our land that over 3000 people attended.
Looking back, I’m amazed that I was able to move through it all with the semblance of calm and ease that I did.
I certainly let myself feel all the emotions that came up. I took long walks by the ocean and let the tears and anger and sadness and fear all swirl around in me.
And… I talked to my dear friend who had just passed. In fact, the morning she died I was taking a walk on the beach and I found five heart rocks. I took it as a sweet sign from above that she was walking alongside me.
My cancer ended up spreading and in the summer of 2018 I started a 2-year course of treatment that is thankfully helping to shrink my tumors.
I’ll be sharing more about my journey here as time goes on, but I wanted to start at the beginning.
I think that the medical staff at my IVF clinic insisting I get the little lump in my neck biopsied easily could have saved my life.
And maybe my story will be the catalyst for you getting your own little suspicious “spot” or “lump” checked out.
See, I’d felt that lump there for a couple years. I’d had a fine needle biopsy done on it the year before that had been “inconclusive” but I didn’t do anything further because I felt great and had no worrisome symptoms.
Of course now I would never wait two years to get something like that checked out.
It’s so easy to put things off, shrug them off as “nothing” and go on with our busy lives. But please, remember my story the next time you find a little lump or bump and aren’t sure what it is… better to get it checked out ASAP and know what it is one way or the other.
Pay attention to your body and check things out sooner than later. Get those routing check-ups and screenings. It’s always so much easier to treat something in the earlier stages than once it’s advanced.
And if you’re healing from any kind of cancer or serious illness right now, know that you are so not alone.
If you ever want to drop me a line to let me know what you’re going through I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers and send you the same healing white light that I send myself (and others I know who are on their own healing journeys) each morning in my meditation.
Be well, friends.