Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Diagnosis: heartburn or cancer?

I now realize why they wouldn't tell me the possible side effects of chemo...not just because everyone is different, but because anything is possible. I don't think you can prepare yourself if the doctor were to say, "On day 4, you will wake up feeling like someone ran over your skull with a Mac truck and shattered it to pieces." I can't blame that one on the chemo, though...that's just a side effect of the Neulasta, an injection given the day after chemo. It prevents infection and boosts white blood cells...and makes you feel like complete and total crap.

I'll never forget the day I said, "I eat healthy and workout...how could I have heartburn? I'm gonna be so pissed if that's what this is." It was the week of February 10, 2009, a mere 7 weeks ago. I thought I was gonna have to give up my Starbucks which wasn't an option. I tried Rolaids and even Prilosec, thinking that would maybe help the pain in my chest. The following week, I went to see the closest doctor to my house. If I chose to see the Physician's Asst, I would get in faster. No brainer. She said it's probably gastro-related, but gave me an EKG and orders to get blood work and a chest xray. I made the earliest appointment on Friday for the chest xray. My chest was feeling a little better that morning and I thought to myself, "this is such a waste of time...I should just go straight to work."

Xray led to a CT scan which showed a 4.6 x 7 x 9 centimeter tumor next to my left lung. I would later name her something I can't write here, cuz my mom will get mad :) The report from the CT scan said the tumor was most likely a teratoma or a thymoma. If you've ever watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know what a teratoma is...it's the "twin" she had in her neck... I would've never lived that one down!

March 3rd was the surgical biopsy. They put 2 incisions, collapsed my left lung, and got a sample of the tumor. The whole thing lasted about 3 hours. I spent 2 days in ICU and one more in a private room. My roommate violently puked all day and night. I just laid there thankful I wasn't her. Being weak and helpless was a brand new experience and after peeing in the bedpan twice the day of my surgery, I decided that was enough. With the help of my 24 year old nurse, I made it to the toilet and then stood there while she sponged me down and changed my sheets and gown. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. After being out of bed for about 15 minutes, I felt like I had run a marathon and couldn't get back into bed fast enough. This was my first experience in a hospital and although I hope it is my last, it was a positive one. Five stars for George Washington University Hospital.

March 9th changed everything. My surgeon called and said I have cancer. I was shocked. I was convinced that the tumor would be benign and I would have a second surgery to remove it, have a big scar, long recovery, and that would be that. Not so.

It's now March 31st. My life has turned upside down. I haven't worked in 29 days and I haven't worked out in 44 days. For those who really know me, you know that those are two pretty major things in my life...two things I thrive on. Everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that. I'm excited to find out the reason I got cancer. I bet it will be good.

I'm a Lion Chaser. I like challenges. Heartburn would've been too easy.

Too many of us pray as if God's primary objective is to keep us from having fear and getting scared. But the goal of life is not the elimination of fear. The goal is to muster the moral courage to CHASE LIONS!


  1. you get those lions and smack em really really hard

  2. "We created a religion using the name of Jesus Christ and conviced ourselves that God's optimal desire for our lives was to insulate us in a spiritual bubble where we risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing, worry about nothing. Yet Jesus' death was not to free us from dying, but to free us from the fear of death. Jesus came to liberate us so that we could die up front and then live. Jesus Christ wants to take us to places where only dead men and women can go." - The Barbarian Way by Mcmanus

    Forever in my prayers Rachel!

  3. Looking forward to the next blog. I will share this with all of my friends...maybe that is the purpose behind all that you are having to go through. Stay strong Rachel!

  4. Rachel I am so encouraged by you and I wish there was something I could do. God is really doing amazing things in your life and you are a testimony to others. I am definitly praying for you. May God keep you in his perfect peace as you put your trust in him! Hey tell me about this Lion Chaser. Is that a book or something else?

  5. Rachel, what can i say...you're truly an inspiration and i respect you to the fullest! you're awesome!

  6. rachel youre seriously so strong, its so inspiring, i wish we had more encounters than one night of drunken stupidity in college :). I pray for you daily.. i cant even imagine how rough chemos is, i had to watch my dad go through it 3 times-- but it did show me that the lord can heal!!
    Keep us updated, Ill be praying!

  7. i want to know what "her" name is.

  8. Stay strong as ever...keep up the good fight...don't ever give up...stay close to those who love you...because in the end, you'll have a big fat smile on your face and you'll be able to say "GOTCHA LION!"

    love you,


    I wanna know what her name is too.

  9. Rachael, You have such a strong spirit and strong faith and I am so impressed with your ability to reflect and embrace this situation. I, too, do not always know what to say and I cannot even begin to grasp all that you are having to go through, but I think about you and pray for you daily. You are definitely walking through life with God by your side and his light is shining brightly on you.

    I believe I have an idea on what 'her' name might be and can conjure up some names of my own.

    Hang in there.

  10. Can you please never "reveal" the tumor's name?! Don't want that to get out:)

    PS You're my hero!

  11. This blog needs some bald Rachel pics stat. And it needs some kill cancer tattoo pics. I'll try and send some tomorrow.

  12. your favorite dadMay 1, 2009 at 9:04 PM

    I am so very grateful to God for you Rachel, and for Joey.
    So grateful.
    You still have more hair than the first time I saw you.