I remember the first day I met with my cancer surgeon like it was yesterday. My mother and I drove into New York City from New Jersey in stop-and-go traffic. You know, the type that makes you feel sick even when you aren’t sick. I was sick, however. In fact, hunched over in the passenger seat, I felt the sickest I had ever felt in my life and weighed about 8 pounds less than I usually did.
Mentally, I was blocking out any thoughts besides: I just want to feel better. I just want to feel normal again. What is normal? I don’t even know.
I was 28 years old, engaged (and planning to elope in Switzerland in a few months), and had a 9-month-old waiting for me at home. I was also eager to have another baby very soon.
I had been experiencing symptoms — daily rectal bleeding, weight loss, and loss of appetite for over nine months. I’d forgotten how it felt to not feel sick every day.
A gastroenterologist had ordered a colonoscopy and a pelvic MRI. I knew it was cancer. I just didn’t know how bad it was yet. Today, I would find out.
We finally parked and made our way to the hospital. We stepped into the elevator and headed up to the third floor. My mom and I waited for about 25 minutes. During this time, I remember looking around and feeling so young. Feeling like I shouldn’t be there. “This isn’t for me,” I thought, and then, “No, this is where I need to be.”
“Kelly Spill?” the nurse yelled my name.
I looked at my mom, she looked at me. “Here we go,” she said.
A nice young lady showed us to the room. We met the surgeon, and he left the room to take a look at my scans. We sat and waited for him to come back into the room.
When my doctor came back, he told me that I had stage 3 colorectal cancer and that I might never be able to carry another baby, because my tumor was so close to my ovaries and uterus that the radiation of the proposed treatment would basically “fry” the area.
I wasn’t crying … yet. It didn’t feel totally real … yet.
I was processing and strengthening my mind at the same time, telling myself, “It’s okay, everything’s going to be okay.”
As my surgeon continued, he told me we had enough time to go through the fertility process of egg retrieval, freezing eggs and/or embryos before we started chemo to be able to utilize a surrogate in the future.
We also discussed a procedure called ovarian transposition surgery, which would involve moving my ovaries up so that they’d be less exposed to radiation and I’d be less likely to go into menopause as a result.
“Can I at least get married in Switzerland this summer?” I asked.
“No,” he said quickly.
All my dreams were crashing and burning. I remember thinking, “I’m 28 years old, I’m engaged, I just moved back across the country to be closer to family, and I basically have a newborn at home. What. Is. Happening?”
That is where and when I finally broke. Mentally, I was not okay. I did not want to tell my future husband this news. (We had been together for less than a year at this point.)
Being a woman with dreams of having a big family, I have never felt so disappointed and worthless in my life — and this was just the beginning of my journey.