I have recently been discharged from the hospital after cancer surgery. The following few blogs detail the two weeks of our saga based on my daily journal entries. It is my hope that anyone else diagnosed with cancer and reading this will be encouraged or at least comforted. It also my hope that anyone reading this will make sure they and their loved ones are screened on a regular basis. I am lucky, so far. Others are not!
16 January 2014
“Please sir, could you come back to the hospital lab as soon as possible?” the voice on the phone said.
“I am standing at Starbucks awaiting my coffee and cinnamon roll, could I come after I finish my b-fast?” I answer.
“Yes, but please do come back, OK? We need to draw some more blood and confirm a result.” The voice said with a mix of demand and pleading.
And so our dark adventure began. One hour later, after having more blood drawn, the results confirmed, I am sitting in the ER. It seems I had a very low hemoglobin count in other words severe anemia.
“It may be long time before I am going to get another cinnamon roll “, I thought; still not twigging on to the importance of my situation. Other than a nagging cough, a bit of tiredness, and a problem tolerating exercise (which is the reason for my blood tests ordered by the doctor), I feel OK, not great but OK.
“We need to admit you to the hospital and determine the cause of your low blood count… which is most likely internal bleeding… in the colon.”, says the doctor.
” S**T, no cinnamon rolls” I am thinking as I say “But I am feeling OK.”
The fact that I am sick… really sick, begins to dawn on me a few hours later as the second of two units of blood (to raise and stabilize my Hgb count) is transfused in preparation for a colonoscopy. My mind clears and the symptoms of fatigue, mental fogginess and exercise discomfort I have experience the last few months begin to make sense. My Grandmother died of colorectal cancer when I was 8 years old. Now, I AM paying attention. Cinnamon rolls drop of my radar screen.
5 AM the next morning the “clean-out” process for my colonoscopy begins. Anyone familiar with the process knows how “not-so” pleasant this is. Essentially you drink a mix of awful tasting salts and chemistry that causes the entire digestive tract to empty. And you keep drinking this gunk until … well IF you been through it YOU KNOW… IF NOT then YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW!
While the process might be unpleasant the real challenge is to make it to the toilet before (you can guess what) … the warning signs are brief and not to be ignored for a even a second! Even connected to an IV pole I somehow manage to make the scramble successfully every time.
After hours of waiting ; finally taken to the procedure room, I am sedated, scoped and examined… while I was not fully asleep (experienced a bit of pain and discomfort) I was not really awake either. I awoke to a slightly red-eyed Tilly (who has deserved mention long before this… as she has, had been and is so supportive… even to the point of taking the day off work to attend the procedure ) – the exam found a mass …. tumor… doughnut shaped growth… with a lesion (the source of my bleeding).
”A 99.9% probability that it is cancer.” said the Dr in response to Tilly’s first question.
Well there it was… probably the most scary scenario I had ever imagined, just realized. I had often wondered how I would react… and feared considering the possibility of dying in the most horrible way possible… wasting away… in pain and no way to exit this world gracefully.
Surprising myself, I found that my first reaction was relief and determination. Relief because I now had a definite cause for my distress and discomfort the last two or three months. Determination, because knowing the source of my distress would allow me to focus all my energies to taking corrective measures. My second reaction was to ask myself as I looked into the tear reddened eyes of my wife, how I was going to emotionally support my family members (children and parents) from half the world away. That was going to be the hard part.
So, most likely I had the “BIG C” as these things usually turn out to be… Plus the family history is there… but we would have t0 wait for the “official” diagnosis until after surgery.
And yet, I was highly confident. Being severely anemic had brought me to the hospital and the very reason we had identified the problem. Anemia is a symptom of something more serious. Our diet has for the past few years has been so well balanced that food intake could not have been a cause. However, other causes of anemia are much more serious… bone marrow cancer (leukemia), kidney and/or liver disease.
So I count myself fortunate, so far. My tumor was in the best possible spot for surgery. A CT scan done later that evening revealed no involvement with my liver (the closest major organ). My doctor is very positive and so am I.
Surgery will be on Saturday the 18th of January. With a good result and recovery I won’t have to figure out if I am more like Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman (a bad reference to the movie Bucket List)…
NEXT – Pre Surgery, Post Surgery