Happy Birthday, Xronia Polla, You Have Cancer

December 12th was my 51st birthday. It was a day that I was receiving wonderful wishes of “χρόνια πολλά” (many years) με υγεία (with good health) from family and friends from throughout the world.

It was also the day that I found out I had cancer. Χρόνια Πολλά, I said ironically to myself. Many years. With good health.

The range of emotions: Rage. Anger. Fear. Self pity. Bitterness. More fear— a lot of it, actually. Despair.

I guess I should rewind. It helps to have the full story.

For several months, I had been experiencing stomach issues. Pain, bloating after meals, bouts of vomiting. It seemed I always had an upset stomach no matter what I ate.

I stopped eating because it became painful, forcing myself every few days so I wouldn’t pass out from malnourishment.

I eventually went to my doctor, who ordered the full run of tests— including an abdominal CT scan.

I arrived for my scan on random, uneventful day that was full of appointments and meetings. I was also busy preparing for a week-long trip to Greece that coming weekend. It was early December.

After the scan, the radiologist came out of his office and told me that I should go straight to Mt. Sinai Hospital. He saw a large mass in my abdomen that he said needed immediate attention.

“Can I stop at my home and walk my dog first,” I asked.

“You should go straight to the hospital,” he said. “They’re expecting you. I’ve already notified your doctor.”

I was prepped for surgery and within days had an 8-inch gash in my stomach and a few dozen metal staples. Surgery lasted 6 hours. My doctor called it “complicated” because there were two separate tumors that were growing in and around several feet pf my small intestines. In addition to the tumors, a foot and a half of my small intestine was also removed.

I emerged from the hospital a week later shaken, scared and very confused. It all happened so fast.

Then on December 12th, my 51st birthday, my surgeon called with the biopsy results. He called it an “aggressive adenocarcinoma,” which is a malignant cancer that will need chemotherapy.

And thus, “part two” of my life officially begins, as a cancer fighter. Here we go. “Χρόνια Πολλά” (many years) Με Υγεία. Let’s do this.

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