Colon Cancer

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On May 27, I went kicking and screaming to my very first colonoscopy.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I got roped into my first physical in, er, MANY years. And woof, it was a doozie. The doc knew I’m a fairly bad patient and wouldn’t be back for at least a decade so he threw the book at me. I had every test known to human kind and to my delight, all the reports were coming back stellar.

When he said I could do my colonoscopy immediately or wait. I said I’d wait. Then he said, “No problem. We’ll have to redo your physical again, but that won’t be a problem. I’m up for another round.” Then he added, “We always need a physical before we can do the colonoscopy.”

I felt hoodwinked. So, simply to avoid another useless physical, I consented to the procedure.

Having passed every prior medical test, and exceedingly cranky from the colonoscopy “prep,” the last words I said to the doc before the procedure were, “This is a waste of time. Such bullsh*t.”

When I awoke, I knew something was amiss. First, nobody offered me orange juice. They promised me orange juice (I felt famished and dehydrated). Worse yet, everyone looked at me odd. Finally the doc came out and informed me he found a large malignant mass. I was scheduled for immediate emergency surgery.

Surgery didn’t go well and they wound up slicing a huge gash into my abdomen.

The good news is all the pathology is in and tumor was literally within millimeters of breaching the large intestine and entering my abdomen. For the geeks out there, my tumor was a mild variety, stage two, “T3 N0 M0.” I will not need chemo or radiation. They got it all.

So… I spent the last few weeks hopped up on Vicodin and after three weeks am finally feeling somewhat “normal.” A couple days ago, the surgeon removed all my staples and replaced them with some lovely strips.

My belly looks like a war zone.

My point? (I always have one.)

I remember one evening in the hospital. I laid there listening to my husband snoring as he attempted to sleep on the plastic couch. My hands continually shook for no apparent reason. I pondered how the Hospitalist informed me that I’d likely experience premature menopause due to the tumor removal. Earlier that day, an infection blossomed in my wound causing continual drainage. I recently discovered I gained four pounds in 24 hours eating nothing but a couple saltines and one glass of apple juice. The words “ostomy bag” entered conversations far more often than I liked. I felt gross, imagining all the other inconveniences this new life episode would generate. I felt so depressed, I supposed surgeon removed my ability (or desire) to write when he removed the tumor. Knowing I now had two fewer feet of colon, I felt profoundly sorry for myself.

Then the nurse entered my room to take vitals and said, “Do you realize how lucky you are?” She continued, “You knew you had cancer for less than 24 hours and you’re already considered in remission. They got it all. It didn’t spread.” As she changed my bandages, she continued, “Sure, you have a nasty incision. This infection is bad, too. But you were in pretty good shape before the surgery and are making remarkable progress. You’ll get better fast. Also, can you imagine how bad you’d feel trying to recover while dealing with chemotherapy?”

A tear dripped down my cheek.

“And look at that man on the couch,” she continued, “He hasn’t left your side. You’ve got a mountain of flowers over there. You’ve got your health. You’ve got tremendous family support. You’re young. You’re the luckiest person here.”

While I didn’t really appreciate her sentiments at that particular moment, I could hang on to her words long enough to get through the next day as well as the next.

Which brings me to today.

Everyone writes for various reasons. Some write to make money. Some write for self expression. Some write for the glory (ha). Then there are people like me who write because they’re writers. Personally, I can’t do anything else. I write as easily as I breathe… and one thing I learned after this experience, breathing isn’t always easy.

Docs said my tumor would have been inoperable in two years. I would have been dead in five. I had no idea I had this thing growing in me. No symptoms. No clues. Nothing.

I may sound like a cliché here, but here’s my big point: Write. Do it. Do it now.

None of us know how many days we’re privileged to walk this planet because in one instant, your life can change forever.

Me? I’m recovering. My priorities (my Polaris, for you who have my Advice to Freelancers series) are more clear than they’ve ever been.

I suppose that’s one of the gifts I take from this experience. After all, there is a gift in every event. Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep to find it, though.

Wishing you the very best,

Beth

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  • Kim

    Nice Beth. Nice.

    • Beth

      Thanks, Kim!