The Diagnosis

All of the sudden, I was really tired all the time. I would wake up every morning and go to the gym (like usual) but every time I’d walk back home, I found it more and ore challenging to climb the stairs up to my apartment. I would shower and then sit on my toilet to catch my breath. My coworkers began to comment on how tired I looked, even when I was wearing make-up. My neighbor Francesca used to invite me on walks in the evenings but when I couldn’t keep up, she stopped inviting me.

My 1500 calories a day became harder and harder to consume, as I was never hungry, food most of the time made my stomach turn, to even think about it. I started noticing I was consuming at least a third of my daily calories in just beer.

There was occasionally blood in my pee but it was so infrequent that I assumed it was my eyes deceiving me and some menstrual spotting or something.

It wasn’t until extreme right side lower back pain forced me to get a standing desk at work and my boss insisted I see the doctor that an MRI was done to rule out kidney cancer. This imaging confirmed what google had told me the morning of my appointment – I had kidney cancer. They didn’t know it was stage 4 until they opened me up to take it out and saw that it was all fucking over inside me – specifically my liver.

The doctor told me really gently, I expected it to be a cold, clinical delivery. I knew it was coming and I repeated it over and over and over in my head all fucking day so that when the doctor said it aloud in a closed room, I would react by simply nodding my head once and saying, “Ok doctor, what do we do next?” I never wanted to be in a situation where my own reaction surprised me.

The doctor looked at me, handed me a tissue (so dramatic) and said, “Carol, you have cancer, it’s the latest stage of cancer, it’s probably been in your for many years, and there’s very little courses of treatment available at this point. You have some options that will severely impact your quality of life and will allow you about 4 years rather than, best guess, 2.” And then she just looked at me, unblinking. I was also not blinking. We were having a staring contest while she waited for my emotional collapse that never came.

I texted my mom from the car in the parking lot: Please call me. And then I sat there for twenty minutes staring at my unringing phone.