January 23, 2007 was the day Kristi was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; it was the beginning of what would become our 4 and a half journey with many of you. So tomorrow will be the 5 year anniversary of when this all started.
January 23 is the second worst day of the year for me, second only to June 10, the day she died.
There are times when I think that I'm finally turning the corner. In fact, I recently told a friend that I thought I had turned the corner. The problem is, when I see what's around the corner I don't like what I see...so I duck back. But, every day is a new day - and for now I'm just living day for day.
Here's what I posted for January 23, 2007. My memory of that day has faded a bit, but the pain is still as strong as ever.
Tuesday January 23, 2007: Exploratory surgery day
My parents showed up about 10:45AM to watch the kids. We told them “we’ll be home about 5 or 6”. Ha! I remember joking on the way to the hospital 'our lives could be changed forever in a couple hours'!! Wow. We checked into Holland Hospital about 11:30 AM for the 1:30 PM surgery. We hung around for a couple hours just hanging out in the “holding area”. Well, 1:30 rolled around and we were informed that Dr. Fletter was running behind, about 2 hours behind! Kristi still hadn’t eaten since Monday night. She was getting tired and frustrated. We were still not thinking of anything other than “inflamed muscle tissue” or I was even thinking they would come back and say “everything looks normal”. Other than being tired and hungry and wanting to go home (sick of waiting around), we were still pretty “loose” and not thinking anything was “wrong”. About 3:30 I called both sets of parents just to let them know we were running behind. Denny also texted asking what was going on. "Still waiting" I replied. Kristi was finally wheeled back around 3:45PM...final kisses and “good bye”. The nurse told me that when Kristi comes out of surgery, someone will come get me and bring me back to her in the recovery area. Well, about 4:30 the receptionist brought me back, but rather than going through the double doors to go back to the recovery area, she brought me to a consultation room. This was the first time I suspected something might be wrong. “Why am I here?! This isn’t where they said they were going to bring me”. I sat in there for about 5 minutes before Dr. Fletter and Dr. Taylor came in. They both looked very serious. Gulp.
Dr. Fletter started by saying the procedure itself went good…however, “we didn’t like what we saw”. So, when he started out saying the procedure went good, there was a brief moment of relief. But that was quickly replaced with confusion when he said “we didn’t like what we saw”. I was still a little confused at that point, not sure where he was going. He was talking about “spots all over”. That’s when Dr. Taylor chimed in and said “it looks like ovarian cancer”. I think I went into shock. I remember being warm all over and everything seemed in slow motion. It was a weird feeling. The two doctors were talking but I can’t remember what they were saying. I can’t explain it. Then it hit me…Kristi has cancer. I remember just falling apart after a few minutes. Both doctors stopped talking at that point and let me unload for a minute. They just let me cry for a while. When I got my bearings back, they continued to explain what they saw. She had spots on her intestines, ovaries, maybe on her colon, appendix, and all over the abdominal area. He indicated stage 3 or 4 ovarian cancer. I remember asking “what are 'spots'?” Tumors. I asked all the obvious questions…how? why? I was thinking, but afraid to ask…”what is the prognosis?” But I asked. Dr. Taylor went briefly into the statistics…average 30% survival rate past 5 years. This means she has a 30% chance of living longer than 5 years. Ouch. I cried some more. He also went briefly into the typical treatment plan. He talked about the IV port and the IP port (intra-peritoneal). Both doctors had to leave and left me in the room to “freshen up”. They said I could go back whenever I was ready. I sat there in shock for a long time. Dr. Taylor came back after about 15 minutes because he felt bad for leaving me like that. He was changed into jeans, a sweatshirt, and baseball cap. Then we just chatted some more about ovarian cancer. He reassured me that his success rate is closer to 50%.
Before going back, I called Kristi’s parents. Her Dad answered. I was a wreck. I couldn’t talk. I just remember saying “you need to get to the hospital”. I can’t remember much of anything I said. I waited for them to get to the hospital…only about 15 minutes but it seemed like forever. When her parents got there her Mom was already crying so we all hugged and cried some more in the room. Then her Mom tried to pray but we were all too upset. I told her Mom (for some reason) about the “30% cure rate”. Why did I do that?! I think I was still in shock and processing everything. So we all cried some more. Ahhhh.
Unfortunately, because both doctors had to leave right after surgery, no one told Kristi the news...so she was still unaware. I remember telling her parents “I have to go tell your daughter she has cancer now”. Then more tears, then we left for the recovery room.
So we walked into the recovery room just as she was waking up. She was really drowsy. She looked at me, looked at her Mom, looked back at me, then asked “what’s wrong? Am I OK?” I guess we looked kind of bad – Kristi could tell we were upset. I told her she had cancer and as her eyes welled up we hugged and cried. She quickly recovered and started asking questions. She was very positive from the first seconds. One of her first thoughts was “we need to get an e-mail to Norma” (the church e-mail prayer coordinator). Right from the onset, she thought of prayer. I have to admit, I didn’t. I was in shock. I didn’t bother telling her about the cure rate at this point. We just hung out for a while with her parents processing the information…and answering Kristi’s questions…3,4, and 5 times! She has a slow time coming out of the anesthesia drugs!! I stepped out and called Denny, Janna, Sheryl Boes, and Heidi. I was a wreck for all of them. I started with Denny, balling and sobbing. Then I called Janna; I was a little better for Janna, then Sheryl, and lastly I called Heidi. [I remember Brian telling me later that after I called them that he was too upset to eat his dinner. Sorry Brian. But it’s good to know that we have people that love us that much. We love them too.]
After I called our close friends, I called my Mom (who was at our house watching our kids). I did not tell her any news…I didn’t want her to get upset in front of the kids. It was about 5:45PM at this point. My Mom was asking “well, aren’t they telling you anything?!” I was trying my best not to get mad. I just told her that the surgery was done and that we were running behind. But my Mom was persistent…”well, aren’t they telling you anything?!” Then I think she got the hint because I think she knew I was getting upset and she just said “oh, OK”. We hung up…whew. So I went back to the room. Dr. Taylor came back about 6:30 to talk to us some more. He stayed around for about a half hour and answered our questions. We checked out about 7:30PM. I called home and asked my Mom to make sure the kids were in bed. I think she now realized something was wrong because she didn’t ask any questions and just said “OK”.
Kristi’s parents went home and I believe Kristi’s mom contacted church. I believe Norma sent out an e-mail already Tuesday evening.
When we got home Kristi went right to bed. I went back down to talk to my parents. Of course they were upset by the news, but overall they took it as well as could be expected. I was surprised I didn’t cry. I was just in shock I think. After they left, I called Dave Ozios who called while I was putting Kristi to bed. Of course he was also shocked. He prayed for us on the phone. That was awesome! Denny came over about 10:00 PM and spent some time with me. Of course I cried all over his shoulder. Then cried some more. Then some more. I needed that. We talked for a long time and then he prayed for us. Wow, what a friend! He left about midnight...sorry Denny! I went to bed shortly after midnight and surprisingly I slept.