Last Friday I woke up at 4am to a gnawing pain in my lower abdomen. I’ve underwent a lot of tummy pain recently and just had a colonoscopy for low iron and internal bleeding. A week prior I complained of pain to my sister – who is also a nurse – and she frustratingly asked, “What would it take for you to finally go to the ER?”
I stubbornly responded, “if I could no longer breathe.”
As I laid in bed with my heating pad, I felt like I was undergoing belly contractions but without the breaks found in labor. I could barely walk and experienced shortness of breath. I called my dad and sister, hobbled to each room to kiss my son’s goodbye, and sat outside in the dark crisp morning air, waiting for my father to arrive.
I felt every bump and turn as he rushed me to the hospital. Upon arriving, despite being the busiest ER in northern CA, Kaiser was completely empty. I was disturbingly pale, my blood pressure measured 82/41 and my hemoglobin levels were dropping, which kept discussions of a blood transfusion surfacing for the next couple days.
When asked why I didn’t take pain meds, I responded, “If I took pain meds, how would I know if I was in pain?” Now that I was in a trusted setting, I relieved myself as they progressively administered Tylenol, then two doses of Fentanyl, then Morphine and eventually Oxycodone. I was fighting an infection.
While there, my doctor called to share the pathology results of the mass found in my colon a couple days prior.
They found Cancer.
My youngest sister and father comforted me as I took in the news with shock. I didn’t meet any of the markers for colon cancer. It didn’t run in our family, I was relatively young, healthy, a non-smoker… I meditate and teach breathwork for God’s sake? None of it made sense. This past year I was told blood in my stool came from hemorrhoids (the joy of having babies) and I saw multiple holistic and functional doctors for my gut issues. No one saw this coming.
I’ve always had a nonchalant view of life. Often saying I’m ready to die at any moment, which I am. I love the extraordinary life I’ve lived, I love the beautiful people I’ve loved, I love the exciting things I created and I know I’m leaving it a better place than I found it. But when you are caught in a moment of your own mortality and realize the reality of death looming – a switch happens.
I’m not ready yet, God. I think I still have some work to do. I would be grateful for more time with my sons.
I stayed in the hospital for the next several days, receiving IV antibiotic treatments and getting my work up done so my Oncologist has all the material to create the safest treatment plan. As I write this I’ve already had 3 CT scans, a MRI, multiple bloodwork completed and another MRI and upcoming Pet scan scheduled.
When I woke up this morning, finally in my own bed, everything was eerily the same – but everything was different. It’s incredible how everything changes instantaneously. Despite the prayers and comforting texts affirming my strength and ability to overcome anything, I cry daily. I’m human. I think some people forget that. I think I forget that.
While I eat well, exercise and engage in a lot of mindfulness practices, I have no doubt cancer found me when I was distressed, depressed and in pain. One doesn’t leave a 15yr relationship without anger and sadness. One does not watch their mother die without incredible grief. One does not raise kids, operate businesses, and maintain relationships without intentional, exhaustive effort. I can endure, after all, I am Maria Kang. At least that’s what my parents named me and what people call me and positively view me as being.
But who am I, really? While I am someone who has a high tolerance for discomfort, something penetrated my spirit. Somewhere in my soul, I stored the pain. Perhaps I didn’t speak my deepest sorrows, but I called for IT and it came. It was seeded in my emotional body, formed into a cell and grew into a physical mass and into this existence.
As I begin this journey towards healing, there is a strong knowing in my path. I will survive this. I will become exceptionally stronger because of this challenge. I will see clearer of what matters and what truly doesn’t…who is here, and who is not. Above all, I will experience the power of love.
Thank you to all my friends and family who has helped me and my family. I appreciate all the prayers. And, I still believe in miracles.
And so it is.