“Have a heart attack or bleed heavily”…those were the words that played in my head as I looked at the orangy pill in my hand.
It felt wrong to take it. For 2 weeks, I had the medication and just couldn’t get myself to take it. That day, as my nurse friend stated those words to me…I sat at the table staring at the pill, and I made the choice to bleed heavily…I swallowed it. On January 28th, I started Plavix to avoid a heart attack due to blocked coronary arteries. Fast forward to June 25th, I woke up feeling extremely dizzy. However, this was not your normal dizzy spell. This was a you-can’t-stand-up dizzy spell. Around noon I literally crawled to the bathroom, cat style, on the floor and just crawled…I asked my partner to help me up so I could sit on the toilet as she begged me to let her call an ambulance. “No, I’m just really dizzy. It will pass”…I sat, and it started. My memory of it is bits and pieces as I was going in and out of consciousness, but I remember the blood. I was just projectile vomiting red…911 was called. I was admitted to the hospital on June 26th. An endoscopy and biopsy were done. The doctor said it looked suspicious but might just be inflammation.
On June 28th, the results were back: adenocarcinoma of the fundus of the stomach. The pill I was petrified of taking had caused a major GI bleed which ended up being a life-saving incident. If not for the bleeding, my cancer would not have been found until it caused symptoms, which I am told would probably have been at a late stage and much harder to cure. My heart, which had been the health issue to deal with, was now secondary. However, due to the heart issue, I was not a surgical candidate due to the high risk of cardiac arrest during surgery and anesthesia. I got the port done in late July, and it was followed by FLOT chemotherapy in early August. Four rounds were completed. CT scans were done, which showed no metastasis and a clean outer stomach wall. An endoscopy followed to look at the tumor from the inside of the stomach. Heart catheterization was completed, and my heart disease is stable. The plan of care is for endoscopies to monitor, and depending on its results, if the cancer has shrunk and there is no risk of bleeding, a second catheterization to stent coronary arteries. Then one round of chemo. Three to six months of double anti-coagulation therapy (aspirin + plavix), total gastrectomy, and finish with 3 more rounds of chemo. Plan B, if surgery is not possible, is radiation. Everything is uncertain at this moment, but I choose to believe I am healing. Nothing is the same. I am different. Everything is different, but I know healing is possible. My journey through this disease is ongoing, but the end of the disease will come. I believe, and I know, that all will be well.
Irene was born in Portugal and came to the United States at age 15. She never finished her college education due to familial responsibilities. Still, she worked for a wall street company for over a decade before starting her own consulting business. She has enjoyed traveling throughout Europe and Hong Kong for business. In 2016 she transitioned to working from home, which gave her the opportunity to take care of my great-nephew. In 2019 she began taking care of her great-niece as well. She hopes she can get back to spending more time with them soon.