Wednesday December 31st, 2014 – New Years Eve. I was in my apartment in Istanbul getting ready to go out and celebrate. I got invited to an event in Bebek. I did not have other plans and I was stuck in Istanbul waiting for my shipment from DC, so I was just happy not to be home alone. I had been feeling sick for quite some time, several months actually, and celebrating the New Year was a must. It was a very low key New Year’s for me: dinner at a restaurant with some local friends, not getting completely wasted, and home by 3 am (only because we were stuck in traffic for 2 hours!). It was a traditional Turkish New Years’, people dancing around the restaurant together to the sound of cabaret music and Turkish songs that they adore and everyone else hates. They remind me of Italians… Certain songs should just be deleted from history honestly. Lol.
But I digress… [I have been dealing with health issues since I was 13, which include:# Endometriosis, #PCOS, and #IC (diagnosed in 2010 and 2014), #IBS, #anxiety, #depression and high stress.] In June 2014 my 8-month contract ended with the World Bank. Prior to that, I had been working for the IMF for 4 years. That summer I was feeling particularly whimsical, happy, and healthy so I wanted to travel; and in the meantime I was interviewing for the IFC job that I would begin that September. I traveled to Haiti, Italy, and Jamaica. I had an amazing summer; almost too good to be true considering the shit year I just had. I was enjoying life. Everything felt perfect. I got the job I wanted in a picturesque city that I had never been before. I also had extensive surgery (a laparoscopy) and developed a cyst immediately after. I was in so much pain I actually passed out. No joke. First time it happened to me and I have a very high threshold for pain. Nevertheless, it looked like everything was going according to plan. Or so I thought…
I began working for the IFC in DC in September 2014. It was around then that I already started feeling unwell. I was very tired all the time, my appetite was non-existent and I was losing weight at warp speed. Initially I thought that it was just the after effects of the surgery and so I ignored it. I packed up my belongings and left DC for Istanbul on October 31, 2014. Almost immediately upon my arrival I began feeling worse. I would be so tired I could not wake up to go to work or get out of bed or let alone feed myself. It’s a type of #exhaustion that overwhelms you, taking over your whole body and mind. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot function. Walking a few feet to the bathroom felt like a 6-hour performance. I was already calling in sick and I had barely been at the job for 3 months! I saw a doctor multiple times. He thought maybe it was a stomach. All the tests came up normal. The lethargy, weight loss, etc. continued and I continued feeling more and more like shit with no answers. When I saw my doctor on December 31st, 2014 to go over my #blood work and stool samples, everything was negative. No parasites, no bacteria, no reason to believe that I was feeling anything else but the #stress and #psychological-distress of moving to a new country; until January 1st, 2015.
Overnight the #tumor developed. It went from nothing to the size of a mandarin. By the time they removed it, it was about the size of a peach, 4-5 cm in diameter. I woke up the afternoon of January 1st, 2015 New Year’s Day to a strange lump on the right side of my groin. It was very visible, clearly a swollen lymph node. At the time I had no idea it was a tumor. We’ve all had the occasional swollen lymph node especially in our neck when we have a sore throat or some infection. So anyhow, I had an appointment with my OBGYN and I showed it to her. Her first reaction was to assume it was an infection. She overloaded me with antibiotics for a week and told me to come back. Needless to say they didn’t work. I spent many hours on the Internet, researching swollen lymph nodes due to infections. Of course I went to Google and WebMD and started fearing the worst. Everywhere I looked, all signs pointed to #cancer. (Now as I have been told by licensed professionals, DO NOT Google symptoms and try to #self-diagnosis. If you have the undeniable urge at least search for your issues on legitimate sites, such as: www.lls.org or www.lymphoma.com or www.livestrong.com.) Trust me you will save yourself a lot of unwanted pain and agony. Most sites as I learned, and as my wise older brother told me, list statistics that are worst-case scenario. They look at case studies that only run for an average of 10 years. So of course if the majority of the patients die in those 10 years, that is what they are going to give as a timeline. Just stay away from the Internet and ask your doctor.
I’m not sure how I felt that day when I went back to see my OBGYN after the failed antibiotic treatment. (My diary entries will give more insight. They will show the readers exactly how I felt at specific moments and what was going through my mind. At times you may think I’m crazy or you may even feel sorry for me, but the point is that it was all happening in real time. It’s all happening in real time. This is life and if you don’t pay attention you will lose minutes even seconds that you will never get back again. I’ve learned that now.)
It was Thursday January 28th, 2015 and everything was a blur. After seeing how big the #tumor became my OBGYN immediately contacted the oncologist at the hospital and I saw him within minutes. Initially he suggested a needle biopsy but changed his mind due to the size of the tumor and the lymph nodes that began developing on the left side of my groin area. It was decided to have it completely removed. The next day I met with the surgeon and by Monday I was on the operating table. That was February 2nd, 2015.