Mary Maegan Brundage, January 14, 19 something: A Cancer Story

I’ve been writing these posts in my head for about three weeks now. What happened in surgery, how I’m recovering physically and emotionally, and my treatment plan moving forward has been a lot for me to digest and then put into coherent words. This may not be coherent, but this is my stream of consciousness so far. It’s going to be a long one, so grab your favorite drink or snack and let’s do this. Because of this post will be hefty, I’m going to split this one into a two parter. Join me tomorrow for my prognosis and my treatment plan moving forward.

Surgery: I still have to ask Malcolm to explain what the doctors told him and my mom post surgery. He’s told me about one million times, but the details seem to fade with every day that passes because big picture: the surgery was a great success. With three surgeons operating on different parts of my body, the surgery took about 7 hours. They gave me four units of blood which is weird for me to think about. Someone who took time out of their busy lives to give a bit of their life source to save my life (Shout out to all blood donors!). I wonder what those people were like. How old were they? What prompted them to donate? What effect does their blood have on my spiritual energy? But I digress.

The tumor was benign when they got it to pathology because the chemo killed it. I feel so fortunate that the tumor responded so well to the chemo. So all that nausea, fatigue, pain, and worry was worth it one hundred times over. I had a lot of scar tissue from my last surgeries, so that’s probably part of what was causing me so much pain. My doctor removed the tumor and various sections of other places where it was beginning to spread, the most significant was the spot on my bladder. Again, at this point it was benign, but my doctor resected that portion of my bladder to be safe.

My kidney removal went as planned. You may have heard me mention one of my doctors is a grown up frat boy. He told one of my other doctors that I am such an inspiration to him because of my unwavering positive attitude. Didn’t see that coming! I guess he’s alright after all 🙂

The cardiovascular surgeon had to remove part of my femoral artery and iliac nerve because the tumor wrapped around each of those, cutting off blood to my left leg which caused it to swell and look like a “tree trunk” as one of the PAs described it. She then put mesh grafts to reconnect my artery and my nerve.

Recovery: This has been the hardest physical recovery for me, as you may imagine. My hospital stay was the usual just over a week. The nurses at Sky Ridge hospital are in a word, brilliant. But after saying my “full name and birthday” about 84732929 times, I made a song out of it. Because, I would honestly forget. Now if anyone asks for my birthday, I sing that song in my head. Maybe that will go away with time?

After not receiving great news since April, the success of the surgery confused me a bit. I guess I was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Because my doctor resected a part of my bladder, I had to wear a catheter and a Foley bag (pee collector) for the duration of my week long hospital stay and for 16 days after I left the hospital. It felt like I had a UTI every time I moved. I was ecstatic when they finally took it out! Carrying around those bags made me feel like I was really sick. In some ways it made me realize how difficult this whole process was to comprehend. Did I understand the gravity of how sick I was? How scared I was? Not at the time. I had to keep my head down and take all the shots but keep moving.

Now that I’m not moving anymore I’m starting to process this experience. I was really sick and out of it. The lights were on but no one was home. This same thing happened to my grandfather after he got diagnosed. He hallucinated, he thought he was a young boy again, he flushed socks down toilets, and if I recall correctly, even my grandmother’s bra. The good news? I didn’t throw up once during my recovery this time (unlike last time in the hospital when I ralphed on myself in front of my friend/coworker and her wife. This may or may not have been the real reason I didn’t allow many visitors this time). No more nausea makes me feel like I can do anything! My incisions are healing well. My left leg/groin area is completely numb except when it sends shooting pain throughout my body. But someone told me recently that the healing is in the pain.

I am going to save the rest for my post tomorrow as this is so long I don’t want to go back and read it to edit (sorry 6th grade grammar teacher!), so I’m confident I should end it here.

Join me tomorrow to hear about the exciting conclusion to this tale, also known as my prognosis and treatment plan moving forward. (Did you guys read that in a 90’s movie trailer voice? Or is it just me? 🙂 )