I remember our last “normal” day – It was Wednesday, August 3rd 2011. It was a partly cloudy, windy day in the Upper Peninsula – about 65 degrees. Not a bad day for making the eight hour drive home from our vacation in Munising. We had just spent four days up north at my aunt’s cabin, fishing, swimming, reading and being lazy – it was an amazingly perfect vacation. We had a lot of fun and even spent a couple days with my parents before heading home to go back to our real lives. Going home was a bummer, but we didn’t mind. We both had work to get back to and we were waiting for the final word on a house we had put an offer on months before. We were happy.
When we pulled into the parking lot at home, Justin got out of the car and said he couldn’t feel his foot. After an eight hour drive, I figured it was normal and even poked fun at him – calling him an old man. We both figured it would go away, no big deal. The next day I went to work and he went to a big work meeting (even though he was still technically on vacation) – when I got home from work that day he told me he still had no feeling in his foot and it was actually kind of tingly. I thought it was strange, but really didn’t think it was a big deal. Justin had a friend who was in the process of finishing his bachelors in nursing at the time and Justin had him check out his foot before they took off to play disc golf for the rest of the afternoon. His friend made a comment that he really needed to get his foot checked out, just in case, but they were still going to go disc golfing after they visited the doctor. So, I stayed home and emptied out my DVR, while they went to urgent care.
I don’t know the details of events of the next few hours so I will paraphrase: While in urgent care, the doctors had a hard time finding a pulse in Justin’s right foot but thought they might not have the right equipment to do so and they sent Justin to the emergency room to have everything checked out. At about 9 o’clock that night, I got a call from Justin. He told me that he had been checked out by quite a few doctors and they couldn’t find a pulse in his foot and they were preparing to do emergency surgery if necessary. I got in my car.
When I found Justin in the ER, he was laughing and having fun with the staff, but I was panicking. Surgery? Emergency Surgery?!?! How did this happen? WHAT was happening? I was pretty much going crazy. At about midnight, the doctors decided that it wasn’t necessary for Justin to have surgery right then, but they wanted to keep him overnight so the vascular surgeon could see him in the morning. The three of us spent the night in a very nice, private hospital room – I got about 15 minutes of sleep. Justin got very little sleep as they have to check his vitals every hour or so. Overall it was not a fun night.
The next morning after we spoke with the vascular surgeon and numerous tests later, they diagnosed Justin with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. It’s an issue that happened when he was developing before he was born. Readers Digest Version: the artery carrying blood from the thigh to his foot developed inside of his calf muscle instead of around it. His calf muscle was squeezing off the blood supply to his foot. A few more hours without going to the hospital and Justin would have lost his foot. (P.S. I feel totally awful about calling him an old man now). With constant monitoring and preparations to go into surgery if needed, they scheduled the surgery for Monday (at this point it was Friday morning). They put him on blood thinners and kept him under constant watch in the hospital.
I know you’re thinking – “um…what the hell does this have to do with cancer?”…
I’m getting to that 🙂
The results of one of the 10,000 tests that Justin had done over that weekend showed some enlarged lymphnodes in his abdomen. The vascular surgeon said it could just look big on the scan because Justin is so thin, but they wanted to biopsy one of them and bring in a hematologist while they were in surgery on Monday just to be sure. This seemed super scary at the time but honestly, no one really made a big deal of it…it just seemed like something they were double checking. Everyone’s main concern was his leg and the artery bypass surgery on Monday. Looking back, I wish I could have that carefree (lets face it, I was a basket case, my husband was having emergency surgery on his leg, but in terms of what I have gone through since then, this was nothing) feeling again, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Little did I know the worst days of my life were not too far into the future…