Sidelined, but Fighting

Traci Prater has cancer.
Cancer does not have Traci Prater.

Friday night, March 12, I’m leaving work, and I put my trench coat on. It feels heavy, and I feel a slight pain in the center of my torso, just below my sternum. I think to myself, “Well, that has never happened before.” But the weekend is upon us, and I just want to get home, make dinner, and spend some time with my husband and son, so I ignore it.

words + photographs TRACI PRATER

Saturday morning, many people were waking up to start their Spring Break vacations, but I woke up with the same pain I had had the night before, but times 100. I rolled off the side of the bed and could not stand up straight. My husband, Tim, was very worried I had not straightened up by the time I made it downstairs, so we discussed what we should do next.

It was not a gallbladder attack

I called a friend who had recently had gallbladder surgery and asked her if what I was feeling was similar to what she had felt. Unfortunately, her response was: “No, it was nothing like that.”

We called the doctor, and he said I’d need a CT scan since the pain was so severe.

I had just seen him five months earlier, in October, for a well person check-up, and everything was fine. He urged me to schedule a colonoscopy since I was 50 years old, but COVID-19 was still a concern, so I used that as my excuse as to why I shouldn’t worry about that just yet.

On March 13, He informed me he could not help me since only the emergency room or Urgent Care have scanners. Faced with the prospect of spending a beautiful Saturday in the emergency room, I opted to tough it out. I do not have a strong pain tolerance, but I do believe God made our bodies to take care of some things, so I don’t reach for the ibuprofen or Tylenol until I’ve been in pain for a couple of hours.

My husband knows this about me, so he suggested our chair-size massaging, heating pad. I sat down very carefully, stayed very still, watched TV and played games on my phone. The pain was still there, but not quite as severe. The thought crept into my mind that maybe this was a gallbladder attack after all, so I googled some info and started drinking apple cider vinegar. A couple of people had told me they drink a glass every morning to maintain good health, so I tried it. No effect. Took some Tylenol and prayed the pain would go away.

About 9 p.m., the doctor came in

Monday came and I went to work. I love my job. I help real estate agents at Murney Associates do their jobs well and comply with the current state statutes. It can be fairly consuming, so once you are there, it is difficult to leave, even for lunch!

I decided to work all day and go to Urgent Care after work. At 5 p.m., I went to the Turner Center Urgent Care and told them I had abdominal pain that felt like an “8” on the 1 to 10 pain scale. I was examined and a CT scan was ordered.

Except for the doctor bringing me a warm blanket at the shift change, I was alone in a small room for three hours. My phone barely had a charge, so I left it in my purse. An orderly came in after 8 p.m. and took me down to have the scan. Then she brought me back, and I was alone again.

About 9 p.m., the doctor came in and said, “I rarely have to do this, but I need to tell you that you have cancer. There are five lesions on your liver.” I asked what that meant. My ears heard the words, but my mind did not process them. “You have metastatic cancer because your cancer traveled to your liver from another location inside your body. I cannot tell you where the primary cancer is.”

God, Am I off the team?

My dad died of brain cancer when he was 31. My maternal grandmother died from breast cancer at 52. There’s no screening you can do for brain cancer, but I get a mammogram every year because I had a scare when I was 20 and another breast cancer scare in 2018. Then my mind turned to the fact the cancer was in my liver. I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in 25 years; how is my liver in trouble? And where is the primary cancer? In my stomach? That’s where the pain was.

I looked at the calendar: March 15, 2021.

I now believe God gave me the sharp pain while putting on my coat to scare me so that I would take action.

I asked God through tears, “God, am I off the team?” Is this really the end for me? I’m only 50 years old. I walk four miles a night with my husband and drink lots of water. I am a healthy 125 pounds. I have a 16-year-old son. I teach preschool Sunday school and VBS. How can I have cancer in TWO places in my body and not be aware of it?

Tests, indicators, God

After a PET scan and a liver biopsy, it was determined the primary cancer began in the colon. At my colonoscopy, the first one I have ever had, the scope could not pass beyond the cancer, it was too large. So the diagnosis was Stage IV colon cancer that has spread to the liver.

Everyone asks, “Did you have any indicators that something was wrong before March 15?” I’d have to say no. The indigestion I had had the past few months did not seem that strange, and my annual physical the last week of October was good.

I now believe God gave me the sharp pain while putting on my coat to scare me so that I would take action. Cancer is so deceptive and cruel. It is a silent killer. It does not hurt you until you try to get rid of it.

Get the colonoscopy

Please, if you are 45 or older, please look into getting a colonoscopy. The cancer does not want to be found, so you have to go after it. I have a new normal now, and I would not wish it on an enemy. TP

Continue to PAGE 2 as Traci Prater continues her story and shares how kindness is overflowing through her cancer diagnosis.

, ,