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By La Vonda R. Staples

Sunday, April 21, 2013.

I thought by now I'd be deep into PR for my book of essays.  Never thought that I would be busy filling out papers and applications to save my life.  Not meaning the expression but factually to save my life.  I have cancer in my gall bladder and liver.  The jury is still out on my thyroid.  Can't put a name on that until the next biopsy.  For now we'll say that there are nine new little friends who have hitched a ride inside that gland.  Their presence was not requested nor was it appreciated.

Cancer does not run in my family until very late in life.  Really late for us.  We live so long we consider seventy to be young.  We have only had two cousins to die before the age of fifty.  I will do all I can to not become number three.

In July 2012 I went out and got myself a physical.  Healthy as an ox as usual.  I didn't have no kind of nothing that I wasn't supposed to have.  January 2013 I started to get sick and could not get well.  Coughs.  A cold.  The flu.  Congestion in my chest.  I quit my cosmetics job in February and all symptoms went away except one.  A nagging pain in my side.

I took a trip to the local emergency room and received a false diagnosis of UTI and a lecture from a nurse practitioner who didn't have time to put her hands on me and examine me before passing sentence.  She told me that I had to wipe from front to back.  I told her that I wipe sideways.  She didn't appreciate my humor.  She gave me antibiotics even though I protested loudly.  Me and antibiotics really don't get along.  True to form I got sicker during the single week I took this caustic stuff.

For some reason which shall always be unknown to me I didn't go to the free clinic for a follow up.  I borrowed money to go and see a doctor who would take cash payments.  He put his pleasantly warm hands on my belly.  My liver was so swollen he could feel it.  In an instant the first test was ordered.  The ultrasound showed tumors on my liver, thyroid, and an abnormal gall bladder.  The next test was a week later.  Paid for it cash money, too!  It was a CT scan.  This one gave the diagnosis.  Cancer of the gall bladder and liver.  I was told that there was no point in discussing my thyroid because my other two errant organs needed attention as soon as possible.  I wish the state health insurance folks would listen to my doctor.

I'm in a golden window of time where all my systems are still functioning.  This is giving me time to run around like a maniac to all kinds of government office of which I previously was without knowledge.  I'm glad I live in a country where we have these systems but I wish these systems were easier to negotiate.

I plan to seek treatment at a single location.  I'm optimistic but I'm also realistic.  I don't know how long my ability to handle my own affairs will last.  No one can tell me why the bile ducts in my liver are still functioning normally.  No one can tell me why my thyroid is not releasing in thyroid mishaps into my blood.  No one can tell me if I'll wake up tomorrow and have jaundiced eyes in addition to the pain which keeps me from beginning my day until two or three hours after I've ceased to sleep.

I have to assume that each day that I'm able to take care of myself at home is a gift.  I treat it as such.  I complete what I can and plan what is left to be completed.  That's the best I can do.

My life will never be the same after cancer.  Today it's my firm belief that I will have a life after cancer.  I believe I will go on and I will be stronger, more appreciative, and better after this.  I believe that it was time for my lesson in the valley.  I've always been a good student.  I just wish this wasn't such a hard lesson to learn.

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