Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Jelly Belly Strikes

Who Am I?

Hi, my name is Apis Teicher.
I am a  writer and artist, and the 37 year old mother of a precocious 7-year-old boy.
I have also just been told  that I have Pseudomyxoma Peritonei ( Appendix cancer) which went through metastasis and has spread to other organs. Soon I will be having a rather extensive surgery ( fondly refered to by many as MOAS - the Mother Of All Surgeries) and chemo  in order to beat it. 
As PMP is rather rare even among cancers ( 1 in a million, I'm told) there wasn't that much information out there for it.
I am hoping to chronicle here my own story with it - hopefully provide some insight, information... or even just spread the word so that more people are aware of it. I'm also hoping this will be an easier way of keeping family and friends informed.

What is PMP?

If you have just heard your diagnosis you probably find it a mouthful. I know I do. At first I was told that it was mucinous adenocarcinoma, and then they elaborated to let me know the actual cancer was  pseudomyxoma peritonei.

PMPs  wiki

Because its so rare there hasn't been as much research and funding for it as there are for other more... ah.. popular cancers.  That being said there ARE current treatments being used;  the cytoreductive surgery, HIPEC, chemo. I'm still not 100% of how mine will work, though I'm told the MOAS is a given.  Currently I'm feeling already like a carved out Jack'O Lantern, so I can't really fathom what that one will be like.  We'll have to see! More info when I have it.

The Jelly Belly Strikes

I'd like to tell you that I knew RIGHT away that something was wrong, that hideous pain alerted me, that I caught this straight away.  I didn't.  In fact, from what I've been able to gather this ooze has been growing in me for a long, long time, quietly spreading itself without my being none-the wiser.

My birthday is on  Christmas Eve, December 24th. Last birthday I spent in bed, having caught a really nasty case of bronchitis. After I recovered from that I was really tired, but I didn't think much of it. After all I'd mostly slept through the bronchitis, so the bone-deep exhaustion didn't surprise it.  Let's be honest - I do art, I write, I run an online business. Generally I am NOT the most physically active person. Still, this tiredness was new, and perhaps I should have paid it more attention.

Not long after I started noticing that my pants were getting tighter, and my belly was getting bigger. As my husband and I had been trying for the past four years to give our son a sibling   I was hopeful this was a sign of pregnancy; however my period came and went, and  I dismissed the notion quickly.   School started again, work stresses took over... I paid no more attention to the growing belly until mid January.  By then I couldn't sleep on my stomach anymore. I remember telling my husband it was weird, it felt like I had a bowling ball in there.  Again, I just though that I was getting fat -- although the rest of my body and proportions felt the same.  The next week  we went to Science World on a family outing, and my parents and sisters came along. My mother remarked that  I had a big belly -- was I  pregnant? I remember laughing uncomfortably ( and privately seething that she was poking fun at my weight, since she knew we'd been trying for a 2nd child for years now). I dismissed the nagging feeling again, but brought it up with my husband once we got home.

We both felt my belly - and it was hard and distended as though there WAS a bowling ball in there.

I bought new pants. I tried to put it out of my mind. Another week passed, and then suddenly my belly button was poking out!  That same week I had a cough and I had to go pee about every ten minutes. It felt like my bladder had suddenly shrunk. Both of those things had only ever happened when I was heavily pregnant with my son, so I knew something was up. I made an appointment with my GP, and waited anxiously for it to arrive. Just in case I took a pregnancy test ( over the counter) to discount that possibility. Again, it was negative. If it had been a child, I joked with Chris, I would've named it Connor, since I love the name.  But since  it wasn't, we settled on calling it Dubie,(  the name of one of my son's fish) since it was of 'dubious' nature.

The Initial Doctor's Appointment

I went in to see Dr. T. in mid February -- the 11th  I  believe?
She was sweet, and very reassuring. She was also convinced that I was pregnant.
She felt my belly and gave me a urine test --- and nope, I wasn't.  I pressed a bit and she agreed that it was better to go and get more tests done, so she gave me forms for blood tests and an ultrasound.

Both labs were in the same building; the bloodwork  I did right away, and then went downstairs to book my ultrasound... only to be told the earliest was for  late April ( this was early February or so)! That made me rather panicky, and I asked the receptionist whether the was a waiting list I could get on, just in case there were cancellations. She said there would be about 300+ people ahead of me -- but let me know that there was a clinic in another part of the city where she'd heard they were able to book people in as early as the next week. She gave me the phone number and off I went; I phoned as soon as I got home, and managed to get  booked for the next Wednesday.

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