Ilustración de Mariana Ramírez (@marianaj.ramirez)
Leer en español
***IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE PART 1 "HELLO FRANTZ" YOU CAN READ IT HERE.
Since the diagnosis I've been feeling very LUCKY. I've liked that most of those who I considered close to me, really have been close; and I've been grateful to all of those who have been asking about my progress, but what has surprised me the most is the amount of "not so close" people who have written to me to offer me their support, tell me an anecdote or just send me their good vibes.
THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH. You have made me feel super special.
After I was diagnosed with Frantz Tumor, a very rare type of pancreatic cancer with low malignant potential, Paco (my uncle and doctor) told me that the treatment to be followed would consist of a huge operation and that the most capable surgeon was Carlos Chan (I'm sorry to disappoint you, but he's not Chinese).
Frantz Tumor (or solid pseudopapillary tumor of the pancreas) is extremely rare, it has a preference for young women (24 years more or less. Ja.) and almost never metastasizes. The symptoms are not well defined but include abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting due to the ball-shaped tumor.
This type of tumor was discovered in 1959 and since then, there have been about 700 cases in the whole world. However, with the characteristics of mine (tumor in a young woman with metastases in the liver) there are many less. There are 23 CASES in the world (if we count myself) and I AM THE FIRST CASE IN MEXICO with this diagnosis (tell me about "bad luck").
This is my Frantz Tumor of 6.8 cm x 6.3 cm next to my spleen.
On Monday, March 20, I met Carlos Chan (a surgeon with magical hands who specialized in pancreas and liver) in Médica Sur. My dad, my mom and Alf (my boyfriend) accompanied me to the doctor's appointment. We were very calmed (and even happy) because "we already knew" what Chan was going to tell us, but it never crossed our minds that the move was not written and that it could change.
Since the first time I saw him, I felt his good vibe and he has always spoken to me with the truth. After we showed him all my studies (ultrasound, CT scan, endoscopy, pathology and PET), Chan showed us on his computer the CT scan's CD and all the "dots" (metastases) that were seen.
They were not two as I thought, they were several (I didn't even count them). It was not going to be a single operation, it would be two. It was not "just" to cut off half of the pancreas and remove the tumor, they would also have to remove the spleen and "hypertrophy" the left side of my liver (make it grow) to be able to remove all the right side in the second operation. And besides, Chan wanted to talk to his oncologist because he wanted to know what he thought about treating me with some kind of chemotherapy.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!
Although I don't remember exactly what went through my head in that moment, I should've been thinking something like this: VARIOUS METASTASES? I knew that the word metastases was important... and now they aren't two, they are... MANY?! You little traitor, Frantz. I don't like you. And my hair... it's not fair, my hair was already safe.
I left the doctor's appointment disappointed. I didn't want to talk because I knew that as soon as I opened my mouth I was going to cry. So I concentrated on tightening my eyes to keep the tears in its place. I wasn't sad, no. I was angry. VERY angry at Frantz.
In the car we called Paco and Lucy and we told them what Chan had just told us. We went to a sushi restaurant for dinner and Paola (my sister) and my cousins Lucy and Fer (Paco and Lucy's daughters) arrived there later.
At the end of the day, Alf concluded the situation very well. It was still the same. I was still in a curable scenario, it was only going to take a little more time but the result would remain the same: TOTAL HEALING.
I was definitely a little sad. Without asking for it, my life was changing very fast. One day I was planning a trip to Europe with my best friend and the other I was canceling everything (literally three days before I had to leave).
There were a lot of changes. I felt that a countdown clock had started in my life and although it seemed I was handling it very well (which in part is true as I have tried to do it the best I can), the reality is that I was also trying to ignore it a little and stay "normal" as much as possible.
And then my uncles had a magnificent idea. They invited us from March 24 to 26 to a "COUSINS WEEKEND" in Rodavento (Valle de Bravo) where we had massages and remembered the good old days.
I came back from the trip recharged of good vibes. My desire to continue living multiplied x1000 and suddenly I felt in a hurry to get rid of Frantz ASAP.
I saw Chan again on March 27. This time I was accompanied by my parents and Dany (my cousin). He had just returned from a pancreatic congress where he had discussed my case with other very good doctors because he had taken my CT scan CD and they had all agreed that the procedure agreed on my first appointment was the appropriate. So, my first surgery was scheduled for April 5th.
On Wednesday, APRIL 5TH, the "Operation: Operation" was launched and I checked in at room 318 of the Hospital ABC de Observatorio.
As I told you in the part 1 of this story, my family is very close and so, from the moment I arrived, my room was completely FULL of family members and some friends.
The room's vibe felt like a good party, because we were all talking and forgetting a little about Frantz. I did not feel nervous, because I knew that before I knew it, it would be over.
At 12:00 pm I was told that I would have to go to the OR TWO HOURS EARLIER of the original plan and in that moment I just thought: "oh, boy". I said goodbye to everyone reunited there and we took the last pictures (despite a nurse scolding us because "there could not be so many people" in the room).
What scared me the most was to "die on the operating table" (before I learned of the existence of Frantz I watched Grey's Anatomy and although I know drama is necessary on television, I had to stop watching the series because everybody died).
As I went down on the elevator to the operating room I thought: "Well, I have to fight alone from here", but the most incredible thing happened when I entered the OR. I felt in a safe place, in a place with positive energy and I was certain that they would take good care of me. While I was laying on the operating table I felt a sense of calm. The anesthesiologist was joking with the nurses when he told me that he had given me the anesthesia and that Chan would be here any minute.
"I trust all of you", was the last thing I said.
63 people waited for me in the waiting room during my operation. 63 people sent me their good vibes from there + all the others who did it from afar. Thanks to them, the surgery that was initially planned to last between four and six hours, was performed in only three and a half.
THE SURGERY 1/2 WAS A SUCCESS AND I HAD NO COMPLICATIONS
I got 66% of the pancreas removed, the spleen (I just needed two injections to replace its functions) and the gallbladder. They did an endoscopy on the left side of my liver (and confirmed it was totally clean, YEY!) and closed the portal vein to start hypertrophying my liver.
I was hospitalized for 8 days with controlled pain (being the third and fifth day of THE WORST DAYS OF MY LIFE) and my recovery evolved as expected. In my room I always had some relaxing music playing on the background, and sometimes I felt in a spa because I also had a diffuser with lavender smell.
I could hardly speak the first days (because it hurt to try and my voice was too low), but I loved receiving the same and new visits. They definitely made my days shorter.
I left the hospital on April 13th with a scar on my belly, walking hunched, with my butt wrinkled as an old man's butt and with my lower back so swollen that it looked like a football ball; but I WAS HAPPY because I had successfully completed the first half of the road to total healing.
All the medical staff behaved wonderful to me and obviously I could not leave without thanking them. I left them a cake as token of my gratitude and also to my doctors and the nurses who had been especially nice to me, a delicious Hershey's.
I like this photo because it is from the day I left the hospital and it represents each one of the 97 people who went to visit me in the hospital (yes, I have your names in a list). Thank you for leaving your fingertips on the tree!
My recovery has not been fast but not slow. At first I thought I was going to have a recovery as fast as the ones of Lalo (my dad's brother), Loli (a sister of my mother), Gaby (the other sister of my mother) and Dany (my friend), who are other great warriors and a daily inspiration for me.
But I'm going at my pace, recovering every day a little more to get stronger to finish annihiliating Frantz, the annoying tenant of my body.
As Roberto (an excellent person and my new psychologist) told me: CANCER DOES NOT DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON. It is a circumstance that we who have it have to overcome and regardless of the final result, is an adventure that will teach us more than we can imagine.
As I love to write down the quotes that totally make sense to me, I want to share with you what Víctor Küppers says about THE IMPORTANCE OF ATTITUDE (if you really have time, I recommend you see the full video here (I'm sorry it is in spanish and has no subtitles)):
"One has to understand that in life things are as they are, not as we would like them to be. We do not have the deck, we catch the cards that fall and we play... Greatness is shown playing. That is was separates the great from the mediocre. Never, never, never, we can do nothing to change our circumstances. We can never return the cards. Who has chosen this crisis? Who has chosen illness? ... Now. We can always, always, always, choose OUR ATTITUDE. It is true that circumstances can influence, but there is always that little space where we choose our attitude and how to face it... Therefore, every moment brings us a little closer to greatness or a little closer to mediocrity. And the only purpose of this life is to ADD FANTASTIC INSTANTS. It is to fight every day to be the best person that you can be, in the areas that you've chosen so that, in the end, when someone sees the journey of your life, it is a masterpiece and they welcome you by saying: olé, olé, ooolé!"
Finally, I have to tell you that next Monday (June 5) I will be having another CT scan and the next day, I will see Chan. If everything is as it should be and the left side of my liver already grew what it had to grow, the surgery 2/2 will be scheduled.
Thank you for the continuos support!
Ps. Feel FREE to SHARE and contact me anytime :)