It was certainly a beautiful morning to have a baby. Carmen’s C-section was scheduled for that fateful morning. We knew it was going to be a girl, our 3rd daughter. Olivia was 6, Ella was almost 4, and our newest member was about to join us. We didn’t have a name for her yet nor would we until the 3rd day. All of her original hospital documents called her “Baby Chang”. There was no rush.
The C-section procedure was going well. Everything seemed routine and normal. However, her doctors noticed 2 large ovarian cysts which they kept to themselves at first. They were pretty hard to miss since one was the size of a peach and the other a grapefruit. They took a sample from the smaller one so they could biopsy it. We had no clue what was going on because I was at the top half of Carmen behind the barrier. I can imagine the surprise they must’ve felt seeing those 2 large masses. But to keep us calm, they didn’t say anything until the end of the procedure. Still the conversation was very low key and casual as if this is routine.
The rest of the day was routine. Baby crying, diapers changed, and naps in between. Objectively speaking and not as her dad, she was a very cute baby as were Olivia and Ella. Our biggest concern up to this point was her name! Our friends were asking (some were demanding) to know her name. What’s in a name? A purpose perhaps? Or a sign of things to come or things we’ll need?
Still no name.
July 29, 2012
Normal morning. Her OBGYN comes to check up on Carmen and to give tidings of news. By the way, we’d chosen Audrey as her name which means “noble strength”. This strength we would need shortly. Not 5 seconds pass by when I get the sense that something’s not quite right. I’m not the best poker player, but this face I could read. I began to get really nervous as she asks Carmen a few routine questions post surgery. I almost blurt out, “what’s on your mind doc?”. At this point we had completed forgotten about the 2 cysts because it was downplayed so much during the C-section. Then she finally gives us the news. Malignant cancer with signet ring cell features most likely metastasized. The reason they’re called Signet ring cells is because uUnder a microscope these cells resemble signet rings, which are rings that kings used to wear to seal documents with. Stunned is the correct word to describe us at that moment. Again, reading her face the news wasn’t just bad, it was horrible. There was no light at the end of the tunnel, no “I’ve seen this type of cancer before and it’s easily treatable”, etc. It was plain and simple, “I’m sorry”, but “I’m sorry” in a very defeated way as if she was telling us through her body and facial language that this is REALLY bad.
The sadness that filled the room when she left was overwhelming. Not many words were exchanged except a few. “It’s going to be alright”. Not much else could be said. It was too early and we didn’t know enough but the reality and the magnitude of this news was tangible.
Due to the nature of our circumstance, the age of Carmen, and the fact that she just had a baby made Kaiser work in overdrive to get her the tests she needed to continue the diagnosis. She was given priority for a CT scan and an upper endoscopy all within 2 days. The signet ring feature is very rare so the OBGYN had to go to her textbooks to research it. This type of cell is mostly common with gastric (stomach) cancers so they hypothesized that it most likely came from the stomach. Indeed the CT scan showed a rather large tumor in her upper stomach just as they had surmised and an endoscopy (with biopsy) confirmed the hypothesis. The conclusion was that it started in her stomach and metastasized to her ovaries. This apparently is a route that was studied by a doctor name Krukenberg many decades ago. Hence she had Krukenberg tumors in her belly along with a 4cm one in her stomach.
Oh by the way, we have a new baby that we’re ignoring right now. What should’ve been a joyous occasion became not so much. It was hard.