It Didn’t Go Away (Part 2)
After a kidney doctor told her to simply “lose weight” to resolve an ongoing, undiagnosed medical issue, comedian and writer Jen Curran decided it was time to get a second opinion. A kidney biopsy, a bone marrow biopsy, and countless phone calls later, Jen finally had her answer. “My brain immediately started going to the videos I’m going to have to make for [my daughter] to watch when she’s 16 and 30 and graduates high school. I’m going to have to sit down and write so many letters for her to open on different birthdays. I’m just imagining that I’m not going to live much longer.” Jen talks about what it was like in her first year after diagnosis, raising a newborn baby and going through treatment at the same time.
You can follow Jen Curran on Twitter @jencurran and Instagram @msjencurran.
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Interested in learning more about Jen? Check out the links below:
- Check out Jen’s viral Twitter thread about her mystery diagnosis: https://twitter.com/jencurran/status/1160961368142405632
- Read Jen’s Glamour article on weight stigma in medicine: https://www.glamour.com/story/my-doctor-prescribed-me-weight-loss-i-actually-had-cancer
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Jen Curran 00:04
Hi, I’m Jen Curran and you’re listening to GOOD KIDS. I’m a comedian and a writer and a mom. Last week, I told you about a medical mystery I was experiencing right around the time my daughter was born. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, go back and give it a listen. I had just told you about a conversation I had with a kidney doctor, who told me that I needed to, quote, lose weight, in order to make this crazy protein that was showing up in my pee disappear.
It was probably two to three weeks after I’d had the conversation with her. And I couldn’t get any kind of diet going because I couldn’t figure out what the hell to do. I really couldn’t figure out how to begin. And my husband was really insistent second opinion, second opinion. And I’m not a second opinion person. I’m a simple girl from the Midwest. You tell me, you can tell me I broke my leg. I don’t need a second opinion. I’m already embarrassed to have a conversation about the first opinion. But what I did was I emailed that high-risk OB and said, I need a referral to a great kidney doctor. So she gave me one. And she is the one who heard me and said, “Wow, I see why you’re concerned, I completely understand.” And I told her of the experience with the other doctor.
And she said, “I don’t know why this protein is here. But I promise you this is nothing diet or exercise could, we can’t touch this, this protein with diet and exercise.” And that was like such a relief to hear from a doctor, you know, when you’re a fat person sitting in front of a doctor, for them to say, don’t worry about it in terms of your diet and exercises like it’s raining diamonds. And she said there are a few things we can do this that the other. We could wait, but why wait. So let’s do a kidney biopsy. So we do a kidney biopsy. That’s overnight in the hospital. It’s a whole elaborate thing. And it takes them some time. I would say probably two weeks, three weeks to initially tell me everything looks great. Preliminary kidney results are fine, you’re healthy. We’ll get more information soon. But have a great night.
Jen Curran 02:32
I don’t remember how long it was a few days or weeks or months later. No, it was several days, probably lots of back-and-forth phone calls. Lots of this, “we came up with something doesn’t look great. Gotta run this again.” And she finally called me and said, “I think you have a bone marrow disorder or bone marrow cancer.” And she was hopeful about it. She said there’s lots of stuff they can do. It could be just a pill every day. It could be chemotherapy. But of course I’m googling as she’s saying this. And these two words keep popping up multiple myeloma, which is bone marrow cancer. And I’ve never really even heard these words before. I don’t exactly know; does it sound good? The word cancer just shocked. Just absolutely shocking.
But you know, we’re gonna wait, we’re gonna hold out hope till the very last test result. Well, eventually, cancer doctors go, you know, I have to go meet this guy. And he does this thing and all that good stuff. I’d have a bone marrow biopsy, which is horrifying. They just dig a tool right into your bone, right there in the office, pull out some bone marrow. And he, you know, calls me, they want you to come in. I’m trying to get trying, oh, well, what if could you email, I think I might be busy. It’s a far drive. I just didn’t want to do it in person. Just let me read the email and lay in the shower. But they insisted on me coming in. And I knew in my gut, I’m about to get a cancer diagnosis.
Jen Curran 04:25
And I went in and sat down with this man and kind of unbelievably two of my dear comedy friends from college, who I’m still very close to, had come to help us out with the baby. And the baby’s hysterical in the lobby. So for some reason that I’ll never understand. We all piled into this exam room. And this little old man has to tell me and my husband and screaming baby and then a couple of my comedy bugs that I have multiple myeloma and it was shocking, it was such an unbelievable moment. I remember he said, “60% of your bone marrow is diseased.” And I said “16?” And he said, “No, 60.” And so you leave kind of in a whirlwind and with a plan to have chemo, starting on Tuesday.
When I got the diagnosis, my baby was probably she was only four months old. And I remember vividly sitting on the bed with her and my husband. And we were just stunned, kind of sitting there, trying to figure out, what do you do this afternoon? What do I put on the TV now? What do we go make for lunch? How do you process this conversation? Anyone who’s had a cancer diagnosis knows this experience, you’re left for a couple weeks with the information that you have a serious problem, but you don’t know yet how bad it is, and if you’re going to live or die. So I’m sitting there in the first few hours of it, looking at my brand-new baby playing with my husband and just imagining them alone.
Jen Curran 06:22
Imagine they’re gonna have to do this by themselves forever. And it was absolutely heartbreaking. I couldn’t imagine, in between. My brain was not thinking about a world where everything’s fine, I occasionally get treatment, and I raised this beautiful baby without a problem, my brain immediately and I think this is a natural instinct for any mom, any parent, my brain immediately started going to the videos I’m going to have to make for her to watch when she’s 16 and 30. And graduates high school and you know, the let I’m gonna have to sit down and write so many letters for her to open on different birthdays, I’m just imagining that I’m not going to live much longer. And it was a time when I did a lot of driving around, and then pulling over so that I could cry about it.
Because it was just impossible to process. The first year of raising Rose was completely different than I had imagined. Obviously, because of this, I had spent those three months in on bed rest before she was born. And so I made lists about what I wanted to do when she was here. And it was all such sweet, innocent, fun loving stuff. You know, go to the park, go swimming, go here, go there. And, you know, I would find that list a few months later and be sort of shocked at how sweetly naive I was to think that was just going to be a classic mom. And that wasn’t our situation at all. So I started treatment, I think it was on a Tuesday in August. And it was agonizing for me as a mom, the anxiety, the nervousness, the worry about leaving the house, you know, and I would leave to go to these chemo treatments.
Jen Curran 08:27
And sometimes I would bring her with and have the babysitter meet us at chemo. And sometimes I would leave her here and here at the house and have someone come here. But woof. I mean sit in a chemotherapy clinic and have poison pumped into your veins while you can hear your poor little babies screaming in the lobby is not great. It’s not ideal for motherhood. And then I would come home from chemo and I vividly remember saying thank you and goodbye to who had ever taken care of her and then getting in the bath with her. Because that was the time of day it was for her and just feeling like my body was just not my own. And that it was such a privilege to get to like bathe sweet little baby.
After going through such a terrible afternoon, you know that I could come back to her and to this home that we have and that I could put her to sleep and spend the evening with her. So you know I think if they can figure it out to give people a baby after chemo just for the night, just for the night. Just one little sweet baby to take care of. It will help. It will help. Parenting this kid has absolutely altered how I have approached this as a person, I don’t know what I would have done or how I would have been thinking or where my brain would have gone, I don’t know, if I would have moved home to my parents, if I would have decided to pack it all in and jump off a cliff, I have no idea how I would have felt had I not had this baby.
Jen Curran 10:18
But having a baby changes you in such a way, where you realize that you’re the mom now, the buck stops with you. You are the one mom, and you better live for this kid. And if you can’t live for this kid, you better figure out a way that she is perfectly set up to live without you. And that is such a responsibility. But it’s innate in you, you know, the desire to fight to make it so that you can parent your child. It’s just innate in us. And I think had I not gone through this. I think had I not given birth to this incredible person and gone through everything that she and I went through before she was born. I don’t think that I would have even had the strength or courage to get a second opinion about it.
I think I probably would have spent the summer trying to lose weight for that kidney doctor and gone back to her seven pounds lighter. You know, with a twisted ankle from whatever weird running thing I’d started doing. And I don’t think that I would have if I had not had that baby, I would not have felt the urgency to fight for exactly what was going on and to fight to get better. My numbers are down now and I’m not better, I’m not cured, but they have it under control in a way that they feel really good about. My doctor tells me all the time you’re gonna live to see great grandchildren. And then I remind him that we are in an unending pandemic.
Jen Curran 12:28
You can follow me on @JenCurran at Twitter. Thank you for listening to GOOD KIDS.
GOOD KIDS is a Lemonada Media Original. Supervising producer is Kryssy Pease. Associate producer is Alex McOwen and Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. The music is by Dan Molad with additional music courtesy of APM music. Check us out on social at @LemonadaMedia, recommend us to a friend and rate and review us wherever you listen to podcast. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, stay good.