My last blog post was getting kind of long. But my description of my bad day was not close to being done. If you haven’t read the last post, that helps with perspective. So here is what happened next…
Having just learned from my doctor that I had “lesions” in my bladder, I was driving to meet a good friend of mine for a drink. I am so grateful for my network of friends who are very supportive of me. This particular friend is someone I’ve known for many years and we joke about getting along so well because we “like to process life on 15 levels.” I was anxious to tell her the news about my ultrasound results.
The traffic that day was busy as I was driving through the main shopping area in town. At 5:30 pm, the time I was supposed to be at the restaurant, I was stuck at a stop light behind many cars at probably the busiest intersection in town…right by the big mall. While sitting there, I texted my friend to say “On my way.”
Not more than 30 seconds later, I looked in my rear view mirror and had about one second to register that a car was coming toward me…fast. Not braking. Not slowing down. Barreling right toward the back of my car. I did not have a chance to even think about what to do. The moment my brain processed that I was about to be hit, hard, it happened.
I was wearing my seatbelt, of course. I was thrown forward, and then slammed back into my seat and head rest as expected in a collision from the rear. The car that hit me was going so fast, it slammed my car into the car in front of me, and that car into the next one.
My neck instantly hurt. As I said, I deal with chronic lower back pain and have for many years (ever since I was in an accident at the age of 27 that was equally not my fault). More recently I’ve had pain and stiffness in my neck that was diagnosed as arthritis, but it had been getting much better as I have been vigorously exercising with my personal trainer. As soon as my head slammed back into the headrest of my car, though, I felt instant pain in my neck. Of course.
The best way to describe the scene at this accident after it happened, is chaos. We were at the busiest intersection in town, right by the big mall where everyone goes to shop, during the holiday shopping season, at rush hour. There were cars everywhere.
My car was brand new. My husband and I tend to drive cars for ten years or so, and then sell them to my family members who are happy to have reliable used cars that have been well maintained. Last spring, I was starting to think about replacing my ten-year-old hatchback at the same time one of my family members learned he had a repair that was going to be more expensive than the value of his car. I was happy to use this as an excuse to buy a new car, so I could sell mine to him.
People who know me know that I am a minimalist, and I don’t tend to spend money on “stuff.” I also don’t tend to spend much on myself. But, uncharacteristically, I splurged and spent more than I would have in the past on a new car that I completely loved. I called it “my version of a mid-life crisis sports car” even though it is also a hatchback (I am practical to the core). With my chronic back problems, the seat is the most important feature in a car for me. I found that spending more for a higher end car got me a seat that is fully adjustable, heated, and comfortable enough that I can drive for many hours without the horrible discomfort that happens in other cars within a couple of hours. My new car has been a complete pleasure for me to drive, and I have loved it.
So, I have to say there are very few times in my life when I have publicly lost my temper. I mean really lost my temper. One hour earlier I had learned I have some unknown growth in my bladder. Now, my beloved new car was in ruins because someone was carelessly driving, without braking, into a mass of traffic, and ran right into me.
I was mad! I don’t usually cuss, except when I am with people with whom I am comfortable and who know me. I am a psychologist, who is usually good at presenting myself as a professional. But, at that moment, I lost my mind.
I did not talk to the driver of the car which hit me. There was a man and a woman, and I didn’t learn until later it was the woman who was driving. The man asked me if I was okay and I simply said, “my neck hurts.” We did not speak beyond that. But, the drivers of the two cars in front of me, who were equally not at fault, became the recipients of my loud rantings about the damage to my brand new car, interspersed with many colorful swear words, and that the driver that hit us was not even braking!
The police arrived and I started to yell, “I saw them coming in my rear view mirror. I was stopped. They weren’t even slowing down. I could tell.” I managed to keep myself from swearing at the cop.
The police officer let me rant for a minute and then calmly said, “Ma’am, it is completely clear what has happened here. Can I have your license, proof of insurance, and registration please?”
The ambulance arrived and the paramedics also received my angry rantings. “I don’t need you to take me to the hospital,” I said irately. “But whoever is documenting all of this needs to know I have back and neck problems anyway, and my neck hurts. When I need fifty more sessions of physical therapy, I don’t want to have to be the one paying for it. This is not my fault!” The paramedics were calm and understanding, and assured me I could go the hospital later if I felt like I needed to.
After things were all sorted out, the first car was able to drive away. The car I hit had its bumper intertwined with my grill, so I had to put my brakes on so he could rip his bumper off my car and then drive away. The car that hit me had its whole front end smashed. Their air bags deployed, and the car was not remotely drivable.
I was astonished by how sturdy my new car actually was. I was plowed into by someone who was going at least 40-45 miles an hour, and as I learned when I got the police report, was not only not braking but was accelerating when she hit my car (she said she was trying to change into the right turn lane, was accelerating to do so, and simply didn’t see my bright white car in front of her. Hmmm.) Her car was completely smashed. But, my car was still drivable. Badly damaged on both ends, but drivable.
I had called my husband, who met me at the scene, and when we were looking over the damage to my car my adrenaline must have been calming down. It was at that point when my head started to hurt in addition to my neck.
To make a long story short, my day began with a great workout at the gym, and a fun lunch with my friend Dawn. It ended with a whole evening in the Emergency Room at the same hospital where I had the ultrasound done at 2:15 pm.
As I was walking into the ER, I got a text from Dawn asking me how my ultrasound had gone. I realized how much had happened since lunch when we were laughing about me having to drink lots of water and then go to the hospital. The triage nurse found out why I was there, put me in cervical collar and a wheelchair and sent me back to the waiting room where I sat for two hours before being taken back to an exam room. I was able to call Dawn and update her, and then let my husband make the rest of the phone calls to family and friends to let them know what happened.
After being brought back to an exam room and waiting some more, I finally got to talk to a doctor. He examined me, asked questions, and was putting information into the electronic medical record while we talked. All of a sudden he got a puzzled look on his face, looked at the computer for a minute and said, “This is kind of a weird question, but were you here earlier today?”
I laughed and just said, “Yeah. I had a kidney ultrasound. I’m kind of having a really bad day.” I told him about getting the call from my doctor just before the car accident. He was kind, and sympathetic, and order a CT scan of my head and neck to make sure there was no head injury or broken bones. Thankfully, the CT results were normal and I was released at about 11:00 pm to go home and process the events of the day.
It is exactly four weeks later. It feels like a year. So much has happened. I saw a urologist on Monday, December 7, exactly five years to the day after my hysterectomy. He scheduled a cystoscopy for December 17 where he looked into my bladder and saw there was definitely a growth of some kind. Just one. He said it was either a benign tumor or superficial bladder cancer, and scheduled me for surgery which took place yesterday.
I’ve spent hours on the internet, and I think I now know as much about bladder cancer as anyone other than a urologist. The big issue was whether the tumor was invading the muscle of the bladder. If that were the case, it is just bad. Options at that point include chemo and radiation, or removal of the bladder. The doctor had been very reassuring that he did not believe it was that. But he couldn’t say for sure until removing it.
The news following yesterday’s surgery, is so far very good. The tumor was not invading the muscle. Thank God. Because I am young, was symptom free and have no risk factors (I have never smoked), the doctor still thinks there is a chance the tumor was benign even though these are usually very rare. The worst case scenario is that I have superficial bladder cancer and will have to have repeat cystoscopies over the next few years to catch any recurrences. I will have biopsy results in a week or so.
I am still feeling the ramifications of the car accident in the form of a whiplash injury. I am convinced it was the fact that my car was very well-built and absorbed a good share of the impact, that protected me from much worse injury. It also probably didn’t hurt that I am in good shape as a result of all that working out. But, my neck is still sore and my lower back is more sore than usual. I am going to a chiropractor several times a week to get it back to my baseline level of chronic pain.
The insurance company of the other driver has already tried to settle the case for a ridiculously low amount of money…not even enough to pay for the ER bill. Not a chance. I’ve been through this before. I’m sure I will be getting an attorney before all is said and done.
As for my beloved car, it sits at the body shop awaiting a second visit from the insurance adjuster to determine whether it is worth repairing all the damage or whether it will be totaled. Obviously, at this point my car is the least of my worries. It will either be repaired, or I will get a new one. It is just metal.
I am starting 2016 with optimism that it will be a good year. I will have a car back, one way or another. If I have superficial bladder cancer, I can deal with that. My neck is recovering and I will continue to work out with my trainer to get into better and better shape. My health is top priority. I’m going to run that 5k race in June, if I have anything to say about it! I am grateful.