Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I plan to write more about my experience in the hospital when I'm stronger.  Today, I just wanted to write something about blessings.

I have learned that blessings can come in the most unexpected forms, from the most unexpected places and the most unexpected people.  Sometimes we recognize blessings right away.  Sometimes it isn't until much later that we realize we received an unrecognized blessing.

Over the past weeks, I have received so many blessings I can't imagine listing them all.  Many of those blessings came from people who I would least expect.  I am so thankful for the blessings God has put before me recently, but more than that, I'm thankful for the new ability to recognize how blessed I am.

I've gained so much strength and faith through this experience.  I could have never imagined that such a horrible time in my life would end up being the biggest blessing of all, in so many ways.

I've said many times that I am a lucky girl.  A friend of mine recently reminded me that I'm not lucky................I am BLESSED!

I hope to continue to write more about my experience as I get settled at home and become stronger.

Right now, I just want to thank everyone who took the time to pray, help, listen and be there for me.  You will never know how much those small gestures mean to me.  THANK YOU!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Let Go and Let God!

One of the toughest things I have had to learn over the past weeks is how to let things go.  By nature, I have always wanted to "fix" the people and things around me. 

One of the first things my GI doctor told me when he gave me my original test results was "It is important for you to make yourself a number one priority." I thought I'd know how to fight for myself because I'm so good at fighting for others, but it hasn't been that easy. I have no idea how to put myself first.

Not once have I felt sorry for myself during this time.  I've tried to stay positive and make the best decisions in order to get through this and on the other side of it.  I am amazed and so blessed to have the wonderful support and the many prayers from friends and strangers.  Its overwhelming to say the least.  It has also been difficult to accept this outpouring of support at times.  If you have known me for any amount of time, you know that I am very hard on myself. No one loves beating myself up more than me.  I'm better at it than any of my enemies. There have recently been times that I have thought I don't deserve all of the support because what I am going through must surely be God's way of punishing me for all of the "bad" things I have done in my life.  A part of me feels that this is my sentenence for my past mistakes both big and small.  That is the part that has been so difficult to let go.

I have made so many mistakes in my life. I have hurt people and I have been hurt.  I'll bet there is not a person out there who hasn't made mistakes becuase none of us are perfect, but I beat myself up forever over my past mistakes - big or small. 

I'm trying to learn that I've punished myself enough for my past mistakes and now its time to let it all go and move forward.  I am a good person.  I am a caring person and I deserve the best chance in the world to get through this illness and live a healthy, happy life.  If someone believes otherwise, its time to remove them from my life, pray for them and let it go.

As tomorrow approaches, I can't help but be nervous and scared about my future.  I honestly don't know what the next days, weeks and months will bring but I do know I've made the best decision I can for my health and well being in hte long term and now I have to put the rest in God's hands.

I have been blessed in so many ways recently and those are the thoughts and blessings I'm choosing help to carry me forward.  The next days and weeks will require every ounce of strength I have and negative thoughts and hurtful people can no longer have room in my head and heart.  Its time for me to learn that I cannot fix everything and everyone around me so now I'm concentrating "fixing me". 

One of my former co-workers gave me a tiny box with several dolls.  They are Guatemalan Worry Dolls. The legend is that people in Guatemala, especially children use the dolls to help shed their worries.  You tell each doll one of your worries, then place the doll under your pillow before you go to bed as you say a prayer.  The doll will take away your anxiety for that worry and leave you to sleep peacefully waking the next morning with the worry behind you.  I will be sleeping with the dolls under my pillow tonight.

I have felt the love and prayers each day as I approach my surgery and it helps me let go of all the other stuff.  I know that God has this and the only thing left for me to do is be ready to work hard at recovering so that I can live a full, meaningful life.  Tomorrow is my second chance to begin a new "normal".  I'm ready.

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cancer Sucks - Life Interrupted

My first experience with cancer was during my teen years when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Eventually, the cancer spread to the bones and although she fought a long hard battle, cancer won the war.  I didn't really understand what cancer meant at that time but I knew I hated the word.  At 17 years old, I drove my Nanny to Pinehurst and waited while she had chemotherapy treatment.  I'll never forget how sick she was and how hard she battled for her life during that time.  I'll also always remember the last time I saw her and how much it hurt to lose someone I loved so much before I was ready.

My next personal experience with cancer was when my aunt was diagnosed with a form of leukemia.  She battled cancer for years and thought she had beat it several times.  I thought if anyone could win against this disease it was Faye Carpenter.  She was the toughest person I knew, but in the end cancer won the war.  This time, I watched cancer take an emotional toll on my daughter when she lost her favorite aunt and someone who she had such a close relationship with.  That was one of the most difficult times of our life and I prayed I would never again have to see my daughter experience the pain of knowing someone she loves has cancer.

Almost a year to the date of my Aunt Faye's death, cancer deicded to attack my family again.  This time the battle is with me.  Now, that word I hate so badly, the word that has taken so many of my loved ones is now trying to take me on.  If you know me, you know I often joke that things rarely go "my way".  I seem to have to fight harder than most for everything and my life has been one hard knock after another.  Some of this is my own fault and the result of bad decisions and some of it just dropped into my life for reasons unknown.  I've often complained that my life is difficult, that I have to fight for every little thing and that I always seem to need to work harder than most for much less.   I know now that was God's way of making me strong and preparing me for this battle. 

For as far back as I remember I have worked 2 jobs, sometimes 3 to support my little family.  I always took for granted the thought that things were going along well, that I was making it and my life was "working".  I never realized that things were fine as long as every little thing went as planned without interruptions or unexpected problems.  Every once in awhile a little snag would come along but I was able to figure out a way to get by and keep moving forward.  Then came cancer.  I'm learning that cancer is nothing like the little snags in my life plan I have experienced before.  Cancer tries to not only destroy your body, but your financial state, your emotional state and the entire life you have taken for granted.

I hate that cancer is making my life so difficult.  I hate that it has interrupted my plans and taken away my ability to make decisions.  I know I'm going to need to get past the anger of how this disease is trying to destroy my life and I'm going to learn to handle this and keep battling.  I can learn to be tougher than I was.  The one thing I hate more than what cancer is doing to me is having to watch what MY cancer is doing to my family.  I can handle just about anything.  I can deal with what cancer is trying to do to my life, but when I see cancer hurt my family it makes me more angry than anyone can imagine.  

I have always tried to take care of the people in my life.  I try to make everyone happy.  It bothers me when people around me are sad or in need.  This characteristic has gotten me in trouble more times than I'd like to admit, but its my nature and I'm not sure it will ever change.  I don't really know how to put myself first or take care of me and that will probably be one of the hardest lessons throughout this.  I want to make everything OK for the people I love.  I feel a tremendous amount of guilt when I see the burdens they are dealing with because of me. I'm not sure how to deal with those emotions. I don't like that cancer is trying to take over my life but I HATE that it is trying to destroy the happiness of the people I love the most.

I saw a poster recently with 2 powerful words - "Cancer Sucks".  That about sums it up.  This disease is evil and can strike anyone without notice, but it doesn't stop with the one whose body it invades.  It takes over the lives of everyone around its target and for that I hate cancer!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I'm a Lucky Girl!

The past week of my life has been a roller coaster ( I don't like roller coasters by the way).  One minute I'm scared, the next I'm brave.  One day I'm hopeful, the next I'm angry.  I can't seem to contain my emotions and they can swing in any direction at any given moment without notice.  People say its normal to go through a range of emotions when you are diagnosed with a horrible disease, but that doesn't make it better when you're in the middle of the storm.

Lately, the fear that I may miss out on some of the life I've planned has been constantly on my mind.  It makes me bitter to think that I may not be able to live to see all the good things I had planned or I thought may happen in my future.

Today I have decided  to temporarily let that fear go.  Instead of worrying about the things I may not enjoy in the future, I'm going to list some of the great things and experiences I have already been blessed with in my life.  I have been sad when thinking about what cancer may take from me and its easy to forget all of the wonderful things I've already experienced when my heart is full of fear.

But in my 40+ years, I have had lots of great experiences and I know if for some reason I don't pull through I have had a blessed life.  I'm a lucky girl!

Things that have made my life full of happiness, fun and adventure.

I am a mom!  - I have the most wonderful daughter any mom could as for.  We have such a special bond because its been just the two of us for her whole life.  This is absolutely the best experience of my life!

Pilot Lessons - I took flying lessons and learned to fly a plane.  I never got my license but if we were in a plane and there was an emergency I could probably remember how to get us back to the ground, hopefully alive with only some minor injuries. :)

Lived in Atlanta Georgia - After high school graduation I moved to Atlanta Georgia for awhile.  This was such a wonderful experience for someone who had never been more than 100 miles from home.  I learned so much about being independent.

Washed Elton John's dishes - He used to fly into Pinehurst when I worked at the airport.  I washed his dishes from his private jet when he stayed overnight.  I only broke 1 plate!  (which I'm sure cost more than my entire dinnerware set).

I was a parrothead - In my 20's I loved going to Jimmy Buffett concerts and became a parrotthead. I listened to Buffett the whole time I was pregnant and Abbi now loves his music and knows all the songs.  She can't wait until I take her to see him in concert.  That will be fun!!

Bermuda - One of the most beautiful places I've ever visited is Bermuda.  I've been 4 times and would go back in a minute if I had the chance!

I still attend the same church I grew up in.  The comfort I feel when I walk through those doors is a great feeling.

My best friend form childhood is still in my life.  We have many different friends and interests now that we are adults but I know she is always there and when we see each other after any amount of time it seems just like yesterday we were chasing frogs and swimming in the pond on a Sunday afternoon. 

Travel and Culture - I had the opportunity to travel to many places in my 20's.  It was such a great experience and taught me not only about geography but also culture.  Every place I visited I made sure to meet someone who lived there. Talking to local residents made my travel experiences so memorable.

Barbados and Maxi Priest - I visited Barbados and ended up in a tiny local bar as one of only 3 tourists.  Maxi Priest was visiting friends and just happened to be hanging out there.  He ended up singing.  It was right before his songs started being played on mainstream radio.  I've loved Maxi Priest since then.

Cruise Refugees - On a cruise to Mexico/Key West during the early 90's our ship picked up several cuban refugees on makeshift rafts trying to get to the US coast.  While the ship saved many, there were more rafts, tubes and other floating devices left empty from people who didn't make it.  That was an experience I'll never forget.

I met George Bush (the first one) at the White House -  I was chaperoning a school group and we were outside the fence at the White House lawn.  Suddenly, the President, Mrs. Bush and another couple just walked down to the fence and talked with us.  The kids were so excited and surprised.  It was great!

New Year's Eve in Cancun - I literally flew to Cancun on New Year's Eve for a party at a hotel and flew back the next day!

Spring Break with the girls - Last year, I, Abbi's friends and a couple of the moms had a girls getaway to the beach during spring break!!  We had a blast and laughed until our belly's ached.  I will never forget that special experience and I hope we get another chance to do it again!

Disney World - Our whole family went to Disney over Thanksgiving.  Many of the ones who went are no longer with us. It was 17 years ago and my dad still won't let us forget he didn't get to see the polar bears at Sea World because he had to hold Abbi who was only 6 months old.

Experienced a Broken Heart - This may seem like a strange thing to have on a great experiences list.  My heart has been broken more than once, and I wouldn't wish multiple borken heart on anyone.  However, I think that when your heart is broken once, it prepares you to never take love for granted.  You appreciate love more the next time because it helps your heart heal.  So for this, a broken heart was a good experience because when I fall in love next time, I will value it more.

I learned to take up for me and be strong when I wanted to give up.  (That skill should come in handy now).

Stood up for Abbi when she needed me to.

I still have both my parents with me.

I met Bob Ritchie (Kid Rock) - twice!

I met John Daly - Not sure if he was drunk or sober but he was so funny.  I have a soft spot in my heart for him and I'm still pulling for his next comeback!

Visited New York - Everyone should see NYC at least once in their life.

Saving Sam - Our dog Sam taught me so many lessons.  He showed up wounded and almost dead.  I never cared much for pets, but couldn't stand to see this sweet puppy suffering.  We saved his life and he became a member of our family.  Sam taught me to love animals more than I ever imagined.  He also gave me the gift of having compassion.  I miss him dearly, especially now when I wish he was snuggled up with me comforting me like he used to do.

Senior Computers - I was given the opportunity to teach a computer class for senior citizens recently.  I wasn't sure how it would go, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life!

Getting healthier - In the past 2 years, I have lived a healthier lifestyle than ever before in my adult life.  I've lost weight, worked out and gotten stronger.  I know now it was God preparing me for the battle I am now facing!

I will be adding to this list in the future, but I realize now that no matter what the next weeks bring....I have lived a full and wonderful life with so many unique experiences and I am lucky!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Losing Normal

Today has been a tough day.  When I started living healthier, one of the things I remember reading was to approach Monday in a new way.  I've tried to do this since I read those words.  Instead of seeing Monday as an end to something, I try to see it as a new chance for a fresh start.  I am not always successful at this positive outlook when the alarm goes off on Monday morning, but I think its a good philosophy to try and live by.

I went back to work today for the first time since being diagnosed.  I thought a return to something normal would be positive.  But as I drove to Laurinburg this morning it became increasingly evident that doing normal things would not bring normal back into my life.  At least not the normal I once knew.

For the past 24 hours I have had increasing physical pain for the first time since being told I have cancer.  At first, I could pretend it wasn't actually a part of my life.  I felt healthy and had no evident symptoms even though I knew from pathology, PET scans and doctors there is a tumor in my esophagus.  As long as I felt good physically, I could pretend everything is "normal".

Today as I worked at my desk, it became clear to me "normal" as I knew it is gone.  A constant ache in my chest and back reminds me that I am not as healthy as I thought I was months ago, when I was working hard to lose weight and get stronger.  My anemia is getting worse and that makes me weak and tired.   By the middle of the day, I could barely hold my head up and was exhausted just walking to the bathroom.  This is difficult for me as I was proudly doing 8 miles of cardio at the gym just a few months ago. 

I worked so hard to get healthier, stronger, happier than I've ever been in my life and it has all been taken away from me.  Its like I was given a taste of everything I've wanted for years, I felt how happy and confident it would make me and then I was punished by having it ripped out from under me in an instant.  Like some cruel joke it was replaced with this thing called esophageal cancer.  That makes me angry and I want so badly to understand what I did so to deserve this!

When I finally got home from work today, I was mentally drained and physically weak. I sat down and cried in front of Abbi for the first time since this happened.  I've tried to be so strong for her because this has changed her life as much as it has mine. She should not have to lose her "normal" because I have cancer.  No matter what happens, my instinct is to take care of her first and then take care of me, but as she stood over me rubbing my head and telling me it would be alright I realized how cruel and unfair life can be.

I know that I have to stay strong and positive if I am going to beat this and I pray tomorrow will bring back my fighter instinct, but tonight I hurt both physically and emotionally.  I've lost my normal and that pisses me off.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lessons I've Learned From Cancer In One Week

 It has taken a few days for the diagnosis to sink in.  At first I thought they possibly had my pathology results mixed up with someone else.  Every doctor I spoke with in the first days of this journey would tell me how surprised they were with the pathology.  I heard over and over how this type of cancer is generally found in older men, drinkers and smokers.  I am not a man, don’t smoke and only drink occasionally.  I refuse to call myself old so surely the pathologist confused my results with someone else. Maybe there was some poor old 70 year old man out there with cancer who didn’t know it because he had received my pathology results.  That could happen right?

During my first visit to UNC Hospital, I knew I was there because I have cancer but the radiology nurse was the first one to actually use the words “You are here because you have esophageal cancer.”  I think she was afraid I might hit her when she said it.  It was like she had just slapped me in the face without warning.  I had spent the past week reading everything I could find on the subject and I was ready for what they would tell me, or so I thought.  I handled myself well in the consultation.  I didn’t cry or scream or even throw things.  I listened to the doctor’s advice, the plan for treatment, the procedure of the surgery, recovery, after treatment and how it would change my life afterward.  I was composed as we talked about what to expect.  I was calm when I explained it to others during the next days.  It was almost like I was explaining the situation of someone I knew, not my own diagnosis.

Then the reality hit me yesterday.  I’m not discussing the condition of a friend.  This is me, my life, my diagnosis, my cancer, my fight. Cancer is inside of my body and it is trying to take me down.  I hear about someone battling cancer almost everyday.  It affects everyone I know in some way.  When you hear a friend or relative has been diagnosed you hurt for them, you want to help, you say you are sorry and you think you understand……but yesterday I realized I never really understood until it was me.

I am just beginning this battle.  The doctor’s have been honest in saying this is going to be a difficult battle.  Esophageal cancer is a tough one because you pretty much need your esophagus to live and they are removing mine.  I have a long way to go, but in the past week I’ve learned my first lessons from cancer.

 25 Things I Never Knew Before Cancer

  1. Cancer is just a word for something going on in your body.  It doesn’t define who you are.
  2. It is ok to be scared.  Cancer is a scary word.
  3. It is ok to be angry.  Cancer can be a bitch and you have to learn to be a bigger bitch.
  4. People want to help, but you often don’t know how to let them. You have to learn to accept help.
  5. When you are diagnosed with cancer, your whole family is diagnosed.
  6. You will find friends and support in people and places you never imagined.
  7. Some people will disappear and that’s ok.
  8. The things you worried about the day before you had cancer don’t really matter so much now.
  9. The people who didn’t like you for whatever past reason don’t really matter now.
  10. Life doesn’t stop because you have cancer.
  11. Doctors don’t always agree with each other so you need to use your instincts about your body and ask questions.
  12. Prayer works, even when others have to pray for you because you are angry with God at the moment.
  13. Sometimes people ask strange or stupid questions, but they are just curious.
  14. Sometimes people say strange or stupid things, but they are just confused.
  15. Anybody can get cancer. Cancer is not picky.
  16. Everyone makes mistakes, nobody is perfect.
  17. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so you’d better get everything out of life you can.
  18. Life is too short to not take chances.
  19. You can be replaced at work when you aren’t there, no matter how invaluable you think you are.
  20. You never know how much you love someone until you realize your time with them may be limited.
  21. Pathology and ultrasounds usually don’t lie.
  22. Doctors sometimes struggle with telling you that you have the “C Word”, no matter how professional or smart they are.
  23. You never know how strong you are until you have to gather all the strength you have to get through a storm.
  24. You are loved no matter how many times you have felt unloved.
  25. You can fight harder than you ever thought when you have no other choice.  You can beat cancer.

I’m sure there are more lessons to come and that’s ok.  I’m learning I can handle much more than I ever imagined because I have the best family, friends and support in the world.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Bucket List

When the movie The Bucket List came out I decided to write my own bucket list.  I had just come out of a pretty bad time in my life and felt a renewed sense of wanting to live and be happy.  I sat down one Sunday afternoon with a yellow legal pad and began writing.  Afterward, I put the list in my wallet but never actually started checking things off.  I was busy with everyday life and I had plenty of time to revisit my list.  After all, those men in the movie were old!

Over the years, I've come across the list when I change purses or have to look for some long lost card in my wallet.  I'll pull it out sometimes and read it then tuck it back in its spot with the promise that "one day I'll start checking those things off my list".  When I recently went to the doctor for my procedure that would ultimately find cancer I saw the tattered and worn piece of yellow paper when I was looking for my insurance card and thought I should look at that list again when I have time, it has been awhile.

My Bucket List
Over the past 3 weeks I have looked at this list almost everyday.  Before, it was just a silly list of things I'd like to do before I die.  Now, suddenly it seems so much more important.  Instantly with the diagnosis of cancer that silly "to do" list has become the list of things I may never have a chance to do.  It is a list of things that are important to me and things that I have often taken for granted.  The list includes life changing things as well as silly insignificant things but suddenly everything on that list seems to have an urgency.  I've wasted years with the list in my wallet just sitting there waiting for me to decide something on it is important.  I've taken the list for granted thinking I have plenty of time to begin checking things off.  Now there is a chance that many of the things on my list may end up without a check beside of them.  I pray that I am able to stick around long enough to put checks beside most of the important things on my bucket list, and suddenly every little thing on that is has become important.

My Bucket List

  • Fall in love with someone who is in love with me and doesn't want to live without me.
  • Sit on the front row at my daughter's wedding
  • Watch Abbi graduate from college
  • Figure out a way to pay for Abbi's college
  • Have money in my pocket and in the bank on payday
  • Have a savings account for emergencies
  • Write something that is publised for others to read and enjoy
  • Become an author
  • Find my passion and figure out a way to make a living at it
  • Finish my college degree
  • Get married
  • Spend a week in an oceanfront house at the outerbanks with nothing to do but listen to the ocean
  • Play with my grandchildren
  • Make ammends to someone I have hurt
  • Forgive someone who has hurt me
  • Get a tatoo
  • Live at the beach
  • Own a real designer purse that I buy in a store
  • See my mom reconnect with 2 people she hasn't seen in many years but have never left her heart
  • Reconnect with those 2 myself and tell them that I never stopped loving them
  • Believe in something spiritual
  • Visit a palm reader
  • Learn to stand up for myself
  • See a manatee up close
  • Learn to ballroom dance
  • Outlive my parents and take care of them when they need me to
  • Have a closer relationship with my brother
  • Have a closer relationship with my sister-in-law
  • Accomplish something I'm proud of
  • Ride really fast in a race car
  • Own a BMW
  • Have a car without having a car payment every month
  • Go to New York with Abbi - we both love it, we've both been, we need to go together
  • Find my soulmate
  • Reconnect with childhood friends
  • Witness a miracle
  • Finish my college degree
  • Only have to work 1 job to be able to pay the bills
  • Be with someone who will take care of me when I need them to
  • See Abbi meet her father
  • Go on a cruise with my entire family
  • Be skinny but healthy
  • Boob lift :)
  • Botox when needed and never apologize for it
  • Have a reunion weekend with my childhood friends like we've always talked about but never actually been able to accomplish
  • Hug someone who needs it
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Have perfectly straight, white teeth
  • Go to the top of the Empire State Building
  • Sleep on the beach
  • Not worry about having enough money to pay my bills
  • Retire from my job and start a "career"
  • Have someone to come home to everyday
  • Know in my heart I've tried my best at something, even if I fell short of the goal
  • Be content and happy with my life and know I've gotten every ounce of living out of it

I've carried this list with me for years. Cancer decided to add itself to my list without my permission.  I'd better get busy so that it is not the only thing on my list with a check beside it!

Friday, March 2, 2012

An Instant Changes Everything

One week, one day, one minute, one second.  Everything can change in an instant – without warning, without control. 

Writing for me has always been comforting and therapeutic.  When I first started writing this blog it was going to be about my journey to live a healthier lifestyle, lose the excess weight, gain my confidence and live a better life. It would be a way to keep me accountable to myself for my progress. I never imagined how much things would change in just a few short months.  Now I’m writing about fighting a battle I never imagined I would- - - - fighting for my life. 

In June of 2011 I suffered from extreme anemia.  I was tired and weak all the time, not to mention freezing to death in the middle of a hot summer.  The doctors thought it may be female related problems and I spent the next 3 months visiting the gynecologist for more testing than I could imagine.  In the meantime, I came to grips with the truth that any physical problems I may have could probably be attributed to my extra weight and unhealthy lifestyle so I decided that at 43 it was time to change things.  In August, I joined the fitness center with Abbi and began exercising.  After I realized how my energy levels were beginning to rise and how much stronger I became I began eating healthier.  All of these steps came as a surprise to me because I’ve tried a thousand times before to live healthier but never seemed to stick with it for any amount of time.  This time seemed different; It was easy, I was motivated like never before and I had no idea why but I kept going.  I became an inspiration to many of my friends and acquaintances and was amazed at the positive messages I received.  It kept me focused and as the weight came off I felt  and looked better than I ever have.  
However, I still had this nagging anemia problem that would not seem to go away.  Dr. John Byron finally decided the problem was some sort of internal bleeding and it was more than likely a bleeding ulcer.  I have suffered with chronic acid reflux for years and the symptoms of an ulcer could be confused with the reflux.  He referred me to Pinehurst Medical Center and I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and endoscopy.  For the next weeks, every time I thought about the steps to prepare for that colonoscopy I almost canceled.  Dr. Varanasi said the procedure was just a precaution and he didn’t expect to find anything.  I was assured that we would probably be treating an ulcer when all was said and done.

On Monday, February 13th I had the procedure.  I woke up that morning feeling uneasy and remember calling my cousin to talk about my sense of something being “wrong”.  I just felt uncomfortable about the whole thing.  She reassured me that I was in just a nervous wreck (as usual) and things would be fine so I headed to Pinehurst.  I met with the doctor, fell asleep and woke up an hour later feeling relaxed and rested thanks to anesthesia.  I don't remember anyting about the procedure except there was GREAT music playing in the room while it began.  When the doctor walked in I was expecting to hear, “All is well, we wasted our time and see you when you are 50.”  Those weren’t the words he had.  He said he found polyps in my colon that were pretty large and concerning for my age.  He removed them and would be sending the biopsies for testing.  He also began to explain some problems he found during the endoscopy.  There were some concerning places in my esophagus that he biopsied.  He explained a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus which develops over time in people with chronic acid reflux.  This condition is normally found in much older men and he assured me it was probably nothing to worry about.  As I left I was told the pathology report would take about 7 days and I’d receive a phone call or a letter with the results.  I know enough about pathology to know that you always want the letter instead of the phone call.  I went about my life as normal and didn’t think much about the impending report.  When a week passed I figured I was in the clear and I should be receiving my letter soon.  The letter never came.

On Wednesday, February 22nd I received a phone call on the way home from work from Dr. Varanasi.  I knew it wasn’t good because the call didn’t come from a lab tech or even a nurse.  It was the doctor on the phone and his voice sounded different than I remember.  He told me he had a few difficult things to talk to me about.  He explained that the polyps were precancerous and it is very unusual for someone my age to have this type of condition.  He said he was confident he removed them all and I would need a repeat colonoscopy every 3 years. Ok, so that wasn’t great news but I could live with that as the bad news.  Then he paused and asked if I could pull over on the side of the road.  That was the moment I realized my world was about to change forever.  I don’t remember much about the conversation after that.  I heard phrases and words but had a hard time comprehending them – the bits I remember included positive for Barrett’s Esophagus, rare for my age and gender, not a good prognosis, survival rate is low, more testing would be done, biopsies, high grade dysplasia in every biopsy and suspicious cells, but I couldn’t put all of those words together to make sense.  Then he said the dreaded words “this is difficult to tell you and I’m shocked with these biopsy results but I suspect a possibility of esophageal cancer and we can’t treat it in Pinehurst.  We will refer you to UNC Hospital.”  The fear that set in at that instant is indescribable.  I couldn’t speak, couldn't breathe and couldn’t get the thought of death out of my mind.  I don’t even remember driving to my parents’ house, I barely remember walking in the door but I do remember standing there with my arms around my mom for what seemed to be forever.  I couldn’t even say the words - esophageal cancer.  It took me so long to just get it out of my mouth. 

The next day I had an endoscopic ultrasound performed by Dr. Eric Frizzell.  When he came into the recovery room, I knew by the look on his face it wasn’t going to be news I wanted to hear.  He confirmed the pathology and found some problems in my lymph nodes.  I would be referred to UNC and more than likely my esophagus would have to be removed.

I began my battle with this vicious disease yesterday, March 1st with my first visit to UNC Hospital. In an instant, I'm no longer working to get healthier, skinnier or be able to fit into a certain size jeans.  Now, I’m fighting to survive.  My life changed without warning and I had no control over that.  Everything I had worried about before, everything I was used to doing, everything I took for granted was gone in the blink of an eye.  None of it matters anymore and the only thing that matters is staying focused on battling this monster and living for as long as I possibly can.  For the first time in my life I am thankful for today because I finally understand the feeling of knowing there may not be a tomorrow.

In the past few days cancer has already taught me some valuable lessons.  It has taught me that I’m not alone in this battle.  Almost everyone I know has been affected by this disease in some way.  It has taught me that the things I worried about before are insignificant.  It has taught me that I have so many friends and supporters even though I’ve often felt alone in my life.  It has taught me that my family is amazing support and I’m so lucky to have them.  It has taught me that I have people I can lean on and I don’t have to do everything alone, which I’ve always tried to do.  It has taught me that I’m stronger than I ever imagined but I need to get stronger because I’m fighting a monster.  It has taught me that people I never imagined cared if I was around actually do care.  It has taught me that prayer works and the power of many prayers is amazing.  It has taught me that I love my life more than I thought and I’m not ready to give up on it.  It has taught me that I have too much to lose to sit around and let some tumor take everything from me.  It has taught me to be appreciative of the things I have.  It has taught me that being selfish is sometimes necessary.  It has taught me that life is precious and we are never guaranteed tomorrow.  I’m sure cancer will teach me many more lessons in the upcoming months and that’s ok because I am going to teach cancer a lesson too.  I’m going to teach cancer that I am a fighter and I have too much to live for to just give up and let it win this battle.  I intend to give everything I have to win this war and live a wonderful, beautiful, healthy, LONG life.