Meet Bob. Bob is a giant cell tumor.
(For a week I thought Bob was going to kill me. My week sucked. Things are slightly better now)
After two weeks of physical therapy, on Wednesday, Oct. 19 I was referred to an orthopedic specialist. The orthopedic specialist said, at first (before the Xray) “This could be tendonitis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Let’s get an XRay to determine.” The doctor walked into the exam room about twenty minutes later and said “Come with me.” After showing me the XRay, he said Bob was either an infection or a tumor. Regardless, this was bad news. He said it was probably a tumor, but couldn’t tell me if it was benign or malignant or give me a prognosis.
On Friday, I had an MRI. Today I was told I have what is called a giant cell tumor. One person in one million people per year (approximately) is diagnosed with this. The tumor is aggressive and destructive, so it’s not “benign,” in terms of the regular definition, but there is good-ish news: The tumor is almost definitely primary, so It is not a metastatic event from another area of cancer, which means it’s not like I have breast cancer and it moved into my wrist to throw a party.
One in a million. For real. I have no family of history of cancer/tumors and no symptoms of cancer, besides the tumor. I have never been more thrilled to be overweight; if I had been losing weight, I’d be worried. This tumor is more than likely slow-growing, which means it’s been around for maybe a year. It has destroyed my bone. The brief patch of bone that is left is compromised as well, and is not large enough to salvage. It is unlikely that this tumor will metasticize to another part of my body. In about 5% of these cases, the tumor metasticizes to the lungs; in 75% of those cases, the lung tumors are removed and everything is fine.
There are, according to my doctor, two orthopedic oncologists in Virginia. I’m going to see one on Monday. From what we can determine, the ultimate result will be removal of the tumor and the compromised bone, and a cadaver’s bone will be installed in my arm.
**Take a moment to process the fact that I’m going to have a dead guy’s bone in my arm. ZOMBIE AMBER!!! For real though, zombies are my jam and win me Halloween costume contests.**
What’s odd is this is not an “emergency,” so to speak. Because they can’t get in there to “save” the bone (since it’s already beyond repair), there isn’t really any immediacy to the problem. It’s slow-growing and is just chomping away at the bone, the hungry bastard. My nerves are not compromised and my fingers are working. I’m in pain, but yay for Vicodin, right?
So, to answer a few questions: Yep, my wrist hurts. I’m on painkillers. A lot of them, actually. We don’t have a time frame for what’s going to happen. A lot of this will depend on finding a cadaver’s bone that is a match. I’ve not been told to do anything different. I’m obviously going to try to take better care of myself, in preparation for major surgery in the future. It’s about an 8 hour thing, and recovery (I imagine) is going to be a bitch. But I can work, travel for work, dance around like a dummy, etc. No big deal.
No one has mentioned the idea of losing my arm/hand, so I’m not going to consider that an option.
Nothing causes this. This is not associated with any cancer, trauma or lifestyle choice. This is literally me winning the worst lottery in the world. Well, maybe not the worst: I’m not going to die from this. It’s going to suck and it’s going to be painful, but I’ll get through it, and I’ll have a super-awesome zombie arm, too.
I’m mad, of course. I’m angry about little things, like I can’t dry my hair and I can’t do dishes/housework, unless it’s one-handed. I’m in constant pain; it’s kinda like I have a migraine in my wrist that never goes away. I’m mad that copays are going to drain my bank account and that I’m going to need more sweatpants and fewer zip-up hoodies. I’m especially mad that my mom has cried, that my friends are worried, that I’ve been short-tempered and distracted.
I hate that I, for the past week, have wondered how long I am going to be here.
So, silver linings: Not going to die from this.
Zombie arm, which is just plain cool.
I get to play the tumor card. Oh you had a bad day? I’ve got a tumor, bitch. Beat that.
No dish duty for a while. My right hand/arm is getting super strong and dexterous; I can shampoo and condition my hair with one hand, no problem.
I don’t have a boyfriend, husband or kids. THANK THE LORD. I can’t imagine putting a significant other through this, and I would be even more upset if I had kids to worry about. (Yes, it sucks that Mal, my BFF and roommate, has to deal with this. She’s awesome and you should buy her a drink next time you see her).
Gallows humor, ya’ll. My coworker said to me yesterday “Hey do you need a hand with that?” and I laughed so hard I almost cried. To my mom, I say “God, my wrist is killing me” nonchalantly, and a minute later say “Whoops, that was awkward.”
I’m LITERALLY one in a million. Great pickup line, right? I’m going to get all the men.
After all this is over and i have a huge scar, I plan on getting a full sleeve tattoo. I’ve always wanted one, and it’s better than an ugly scar. That’s a lot of space, so i’ll probably include: Peacocks, penguins, typewriters, a Facebook logo, my grandparents’ initials, a newspaper, cats, an ee cummings quote, the Deathly Hallows, a stake, and some Stephen King imagery. Awesome, right? I’m taking suggestions, so drop me a line if you think I’m forgetting something important.
My friends and family are amazing. Not only do I appreciate them (you, since you’re reading this), I’ve realized how lucky I am to have people that really care about me. I’m sorry if you’re worried and I hope I don’t ruin any plans we’ve made, but I’m glad I’m going to be around, with you, for a while.
To close: Fuck Bob. Fuck Bob and fuck tumors. Fuck the odds and fuck the bad luck. I’m going to be fine and maybe something good will come of this (besides the zombie arm). If anything, this has already shown me how much I want to be here.
The past week made me consider life in general, and if I could “die happy,” for lack of a better phrase. I may not have done all I wanted, but I’m satisfied in my choices. I feel like I’ve been kind and good and smart, and now, I’ll be even better.
Thanks for all your queries, kind words and support. In a year this will be behind me, and I’ll probably be sporting an awesome tattoo and even stronger friendships than I have now. It’ll be OK, I promise.
*Update: My surgery happened sooner rather than later (Nov. 10), went well and they got the whole bastard. They also decided to take bone from my leg. Apparently you don’t need your fibula. I wrote a blog post every day in November. I’m healing well and happy to have gotten past most of this. I’m starting physical therapy on Dec. 23. My scars aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be.