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Two months ago I started my battle against cancer. I'm fighting against a solid pseudopapillary tumor of the pancreas that is very rare and has a low malignant potential (Frantz Tumor) and various metastases in the liver.
Frantz (that's how I'll call my cancer) is an almost "harmless" and "coolish" guy who spent several years sending me "signs" to "find him".
Those who know me will know that I suffered from "colitis" and gastritis almost ALL MY LIFE. If I was going to go on a trip, the first thing that I put in my bag were my medicines. If I was going anywhere, the first thing that I put in my purse were my medicines. If one day I ate badly, my stomach ached at night. If one day I ate very well, my stomach ached at night. And so, little by little, I got used to living with the most unpredictable and treacherous "colitis" and gastritis of the world.
Surprising but true, I never had colitis. All the signals were sent by Frantz. It was always F r a n t z.
HOW DID WE FIND FRANTZ?
Any given Wednesday (march 8) I ate a lot... like way too much. At lunch hour I went to Mc Donald's with my boss for a delicious combo, and at night there was a party at Oveja Negra (the advertising agency where I work) and looots of tacos.
Before I arrived home I knew that because of my behaviour (eating like a little pig), I would most likely spend a bad night and sleep on the floor (when I had gastritis crises I slept on the floor to freeze and ignore the fact that I was burning inside).
And the truth is that I never complained. Until that night.
The gastritis crisis started at 2 am on Thursday and I woke up my mom until almost 7 am. I had been burning inside for 5 hours, I had tried everything and nothing, absolutely nothing, had worked.
Around 7:30 am we called Lucy (my aunt and one of the best doctors in the world) and I told her my symptoms. I said some key words like "it is a DIFFERENT kind of pain" and "it hurts ON MY BACK too".
As in the family there are several cases of stones in the gallbladder (I found out that day), she told me I had to take an ultrasound. On march 9 I took the ultrasound in which two things appeared that Paco (another one of the best doctors in the world and Lucy's husband) did not like: a probable "cyst" in the gallbladder (later we would know that what was seen was a part of the tumor) and a "dot" in the liver that could be "some veins" (later we would know that it was one of the metastases).
Paco told me to take a CT scan to discard something bad and I scheduled it for a week later.
In the in-between I went with Alf (my boyfriend) and his family to San Miguel for the weekend. I told him half jokingly (to not sound like an hypochondriac) that I was nervous at the possibility to have "something bad" (something like cancer) and that we had to cross our fingers so that I would not have it. Obviously Alf responded that I was mad (although he did crossed his fingers) and comforted me by telling me that it was probably nothing.
(Yes, I know it is crazy to think that you can have this (before I thought I was immune)).
But anyway, the idea kept floating in my head a couple more days (I even wrote it in my journal).
I took the CT scan on Thursday, March 16th.
The next day I woke up early to go to work. Paola (my sister) came into the bathroom while I was taking a shower and said: "I think you are not going to go to work. Paco just called our dad and told him that we need to go to the hospital so you can take more studies. He thinks you may have a tumor in the pancreas."
WHAT IS THE PANCREAS? It is certainly not a very popular organ but it produces enzymes that help digestion.
Because of Paola's face and because my head started thinking a thousand things at a time, I felt a cold water bucket down my spine... what if it was cancer after all?.
Lucy came to pick us up and accompany us to the hospital. My grandfather and Nena (his wife) also came. I was starting to get uneasy... it was a lot of attention for a simple "checkup".
I arrived to the hospital (ABC de Observatorio) on March 17th calmed but no so happy. We walked to Paco's office and he greeted us with an "I'm trying to hide my concern" face (because he was afraid it was stomach or the most dangerous type of pancreatic cancer). We all entered the consulting room, as the close family that we are, and we sat around Paco's desk. He had the computer on and an image to show us basic anatomy.
Paco told me that I probably had a neuroendocrine tumor (it did not sound alarming), but they had to do an endoscopy with biopsy to confirm it. The endoscopy was scheduled for the same day at 5 pm and that meant I could not eat anything until muuuch later (and I had only had time to eat HALF waffle in the morning).
I was super calm when I entered the room to take the endoscopy because a couple of blood tests had dismissed the possibility of the tumor of being the dangerous one. Any other type I had could be cured (some with a longer process than others) and of course, we were still clinging to the probability of it being benign.
Besides, my whole healing squad was waiting outside for me. Sending me all their love and good vibes.
AND IN A BLINK OF AN EYE I HAD CANCER
I was asleep and calmed (after I tried to tear the tube from my throat and accidentally showed my middle finger to the people gathered in the room because of the effects of the anesthesia) when doctors told my family and Alf that the tumor was not benign and that I had cancer.
I found out until next morning when Paco came to visit and entered with the same "I'm trying to hide my concern" face.
He draw me in a sheet of paper the pancreas, the spleen, the stomach, the liver and the 6.8cm x 6.3cm scoop I had for a tumor... and then he told me I had cancer and I felt another cold water bucket down my spine: "Majo, you have cancer. I do not want you to think this is the same case as Lalo (who was my uncle and an exceptional person). When I came to see him, just as I'm coming to see you, I told him that there was nothing to do. That I did not know what to do... and he made me look bad more than three years and a half. I tell you now that you are going to heal, that you are going to get married and that you will be able to have children. But most important of all, you will live with a good quality of life."
"Is my hair going to fall out?" was the first thing I asked.
At this point we did not know what type of cancer we were dealing with, we would have to wait 5 days for the biopsy to be ready. The bad thing was that it was bank holiday and the results would take one or two more days.
During this days of uncertainty, I started looking for and researching cancer blogs, motivational quotes, where to get a good wig (if there was a chance that my hair might fall out I wanted to be ready)... and then I read that chemo can affect fertility.
In that moment I felt that life was being way too unfair with me. All my life, literally aaall my life I've had had the dream of being a mom. So I wrote to Paco (who has always been willing to answer all my questions) and I asked him if chemo would affect my fertility. He answered me that there was a possibility that it would, but that he already had (in case I needed the chemo) a plan B. My eggs would be frozen for later use.
The pathologist turned out to be and INCREDIBLE person (I will always have a special affection for him and give him a million thanks) because he worked all weekend and the bank holiday so he could give me the results as soon as possible.
He saved us two days of suffering and gave us the news that made our souls return to our bodies (literally).
I was eating Moyo ice cream in Miyana with Alf and Pacho (my cousin) when my dad called to tell me to buy a champagne. He had just hung up with Paco and he had told him more or less what I had and they seemed to be good news and very positive forecasts.
We all met in Paco and Lucy's house. Paco had a completely different face and gave me a piece of paper with the case description of a 24 year old woman with Frantz Tumor. Her case was almost identical to mine with the difference that she had "more metastasis" and therefore, her surgical procedure had been a bit more complicated (or so we believed that day because later it turned out that this woman's case and my own were exactly the same).
Yes, I had cancer. Yes, I would need an enormous operation (it turns out I would be needing two). But I had Frantz. With Frantz Tumor (solid pseudopapillary tumor of the pancreas) I would not need chemo, my hair would not fall, I would not have to freeze my eggs and best of all, it has a good prognosis of survival and is 97% curable by a very aggressive surgical approach.
In the worst scene scenario, I was definitely at the best.
I can only say... Hello and GOODBYE FRANTZ!
IF YOU WANT TO READ PART 2 CLICK HERE.