Monday, September 24, 2007

my sarcoma made it into harvard

"Wierd" is the word Dr. T. used to describe the sarcoma he removed from my abdomen. After being studied by several pathologists here, in fact, he has sent it off to Harvard's medical school for further study. Apparently, pathologists study such tumors and determine how malignant they are and, possibly, how they originated. My sort of sarcoma, for example, can originate from cells from any number of tissues: fat, ligaments, etc. From what they can tell, mine seems to have originated from multiple sources — they even found a bit of bone in it. Gross. Was it malignant? Yes, but at varying levels depending on where they tested it. Some parts of the sarcoma tested high-malignancy, and other parts tested relatively low. Anyway, they don't quite know what to make of it, which is why it has headed east. Perhaps someday my sarcoma will be featured in a medical journal!

All this has left me feeling a little wierd myself. If my sarcoma spontaneously erupted from more than one tissue, then I feel pretty vulnerable to a repeat attack. What in God's name caused this, anyway? All I hear is vague references to environmental factors, like chemical or radiation exposure, which to me could be anything: Leaky microwave? Mississippi crop-dusters? I have not done one iota of research into sarcomas so far, which is very unlike me. I'm usually really into "Internet research" on stuff like this. Of course, my efforts usually end up scaring the wits out of me, so maybe that's why I haven't touched this. I'm already scared enough with where my imagination leads me when I dwell on the cancer part of this journey: Will it come back? (There's a 50 to 60 percent chance that it won't.) How soon? (Probably in the next two years if it does.) Can they get it in time if it does? (As long as it doesn't spread.) Will I die of this? (That is a huge, huge unknown, and it hangs over my head every day now.)

I won't know anything certain for a while. I won't get another CT scan until after the baby is born (due date end of March). Then, it will be every four months, so hopefully if there's anything to catch, they'll catch it early. All I can do is try to live this life I have and focus on my healing and having this baby and try to enjoy the ride as best I can. I do feel much better than I did last week: I have much more energy, and I feel stronger. Yesterday, we walked all the way to the College of St. Catherine for Mass, and I did OK. That chapel is restfully beautiful, and Daniel got to play at the duck pond afterward. Plus, we ran into Steve's brother and his wife and their little girl, so we got to chat with them for a little while. By the time we started back home, I was pretty exhausted. The walk home was rough, but it was worth the effort.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Deaths hangs over all of our heads every day, no matter what we think. There are statistical degrees of risk, yes, and yours is greater to an unknown degree now. But we ultimately risk death every moment of every day. You know this, but just a reminder. Or maybe I'm just reminding myself. (Saying "every day is a gift" doesn't get anyone anywhere, though. Some days are still a pain in the ass, even if it's great to be alive.)
Ray

Mr. Brad Pitt said...

I still think it was a hairball... aaackk

Anonymous said...

The human body is capable of so much weirdness it boggles the mind. I am so proud of that tiny human for her strength and resilience, and I'm so proud of you for focusing on everything that is good and positive and not going to the scary places. Good choice.
Leigh

Kristine said...

Wow. You are going to be famous Emilie! Well, maybe. Good for you for not taking your mind to all of the what ifs. You could spend so much time dewlling on them, instead, you can focus on recovering, taking care of dear old Daniel and growing that little baby. I also think it's a she..but who knows!

Monkeymama said...

Will you get author credit on the paper? :P

The student who helped prepare my ceramic powders got credit on one of mine (for taking part in the experimental work) and "creating the tumor" seems like a bigger deal than "putting ceramics into oven, grinding them up, and making sure they look right."

:) Hey, you might want to go into academia and you'll need some peer-reviewed journal articles for your CV!

Emilie said...

But I DO go to the scary places, sometimes. Don't think I don't.

Roxy said...

Geez, I always knew you were a little weird...now you had weird stuff growning in you.

you are incredible!

LutherLiz said...

I'm sure that you have to face those scary places Emilie, but despite knowing they are there and dipping into them, you seem to choose to look at the blessings you've got. That is what is inspiring! Maybe Harvard can figure it out, but even if it is a mystery at least it is out!

Anonymous said...

Em, cancer survivors take many different approaches to gaining knowledge about their particulars. On Planet Cancer, I come across people who know the exact details about their diagonsis, and when they describe it, they almost sound like a doctor, what with all the terminology they use. Then I get others who are like you right now; just going through the process and choosing to hold off the research. And "hold off" is an important word here; down the road, you could research and educate yourself, Em. But you're perfectly within your rights to just chill for now, regardless of the fact that you're the type of person who normally scopes things out.

Anonymous said...

BTW the above is from Susanne.

Anonymous said...

I reread the headline to this post and thought "that was one smart tumor!" Hope you don't mind.
I tend to think it is better to know, to be on guard from here on out, than to not know. Any one of us, right now, could have something. Though you may feel physically weak at times (you have an excuse!), you are truly much, much stronger. You know what you are facing, if it ever dares resurface.

Theresa

Ellen said...

It's only fitting that the tumor of such an artsy, intellectual woman like you should go to Harvard, Em! I think if your tumor makes it into a med journal, you should celebrate the "debut" with a party with cake and drinks and invite your friends, as morbid as that sounds.
That's gross about the bone. Did Sue tell you about the lady she knows who had a brain tumor removed that had a tooth growing in it? Your body must have thought there was an urgent need to grow another you.

Ellen said...

WHO IS MR. BRAD PITT?

Anonymous said...

Dear Emilie,

Your article hit me right to the core. Are you the Catholic Spirit writer who interviewed me for an article about health in early 2006?

My thoughts and prayers are with you. Hallelujah Acres, www.hacres.com, may have some insight for you.

God's peace.
Karin

Jamie said...

Emilie, I knew your cancer was "smart"! Harvard it is! As far as going to the dark places, this whole process is full of both light and dark, and spend as much time in either as you need. Research now, research later, don't research at all, it's really up to you. One thing that always helps me - remember you are a survior! You have already lived though so much, you can do anything now! I gave myself a super hero name during my cancer treatments - you could too! Just call me Radioactive Woman, and I have a good friend who volunteered to be my trusty side-kick, Fallout Girl :)

Emilie said...

Ha ha, Jamie. Maybe I should call myself Super Slash, after the 12-inch scar that runs across my stomach. :)

Jamie said...

Em, I love it! Superslash it is!

I'm not sure why, but making it light seems to help.