After the colonoscopy- Part II

After the CT scan, the doctor came in and told me he had the results.  I told him I wanted to wait until Janie was with me as she was getting things from the house for our stay in the hospital.  In my profession as a therapist, I read a person’s facial expression to gain insight into their thoughts.  Many times, the eyes and face say more than words.  In the moment when I read his expression, I was optimistic that the cancer had not spread.  Soon Janie returned and the doctor came in to give the results.  He pulled up a chair and sat down beside my bed.   You don’t pull up a chair for good news, you stand, you smile and you give a strong handshake.  He pulled up a chair and told me it had spread to my lungs.  I have four nodules in my right lung and one in my left lung.  I have stage IV cancer.  I will never try to interpret a doctor’s mannerisms again.

The first morning of my hospital stay, a surgeon came in to talk to me about colon cancer.  Upon entering, he saw me holding rosary beads, prayer books, and relics and told me a story about a former patient of his.

The patient had complete blockage in his colon and an inoperable tumor on a vital organ.  The patient was terminal.  Eventually, at a routine medical appointment, a test result showed the blockage was gone and the tumor had shrunk.  The doctor inquired about what happened and the patient told him that he drank a shot of holy water with his pills every morning.

The doctor is Jewish and joked that he considered converting after witnessing this event.  I now drink a shot of holy water every morning with my pill too.

Meeting the surgeon was uplifting.  He told me about the importance of positive thinking and the power of faith.  He explained the possibility of surgery to remove the cancerous tumors in my lungs and the mass in my colon.  After his visit I was positive, smiling, and sure I was going to beat this thing.

Now bring on the oncologist.  I was very eager to meet with him.  He was looking over my chart as he entered the room.  I gave him a big warm smile and asked, “Can I beat this?”

“It’s possible, but not probable,” he replied.

Instantly all my positivity vanished.  I was crushed.  Did I just hear that?  I immediately thought of my children and was devastated.  This was my lowest moment.  I wanted the doctor to tell me  “stay positive” and “you’re going to beat this”.  I now understand why the oncologist didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear.  Based on the numbers, that is the outcome.  But I’m not a number on a piece of paper, I have a soul and I know I’m going to be here for my children.

The oncologist explained his recommendation for treatment.  I learned the chemotherapy options for me are the same as an 80-year-old person with colon cancer.  The chemo is given based on height and weight and doesn’t incorporate age.  My understanding is this, even though I’m young, giving me more chemo doesn’t kill more cancer, it just makes me sick.  Aggressive treatment, in my situation, means I can withstand a surgery on multiple organs.  Being young and having cancer isn’t as advantageous as I initially believed.  After the oncologist left, Janie looked at me and said, “You’re going to beat this.”  And we prayed.  I know with God, love and the support of family and friends…anything is possible.

*Note on the mentioned oncologist: I currently see the same oncologist.  He is a kind, warm man and has helped me greatly. 

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After the colonoscopy

After the colonoscopy, I needed a CT scan immediately and was given the run-around from my insurer.  They said approval for the scan would take five business days because they needed the results from the biopsy determining it was cancer.  This was frustrating because the GI doctor was 99% sure that it was cancerous.  I made an appointment and waited.  The waiting was difficult as my mind was racing with every possible scenario.  A couple of days later, while grocery shopping with my wife and dad, I began to experience chest pains.  I tried to blow it off thinking it was nothing, but decided to address it and went to the emergency room.  At the hospital, I was given an ECG, a chest x-ray, an ultrasound, and they did blood work.  Ironically, everything came back normal.  I went ahead and explained the results of my colonoscopy and that I needed a scan to determine the extent of the cancer.  Within minutes, they set up a CT scan for me.  I went into the CT scan holding rosary beads, relics, and prayer books in my hands.  As the scanner had me “take deep breaths” and “hold it” and “breathe”…I prayed that the cancer had not spread.

Discovery of Cancer

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

While lying in the outpatient hospital bed waiting for my colonoscopy, I was wondering with Janie about which informational brochure they’d give me after the procedure.  Which diagnosed group would I join?  Would it be Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, dairy intolerance?  I joked with the anesthesiologist that I hoped it would be quick and painless.  While being prepped for the procedure, I remember the doctor wanted to listen to music and settled on Paul Simon.  I remember thinking, a little easy listening and a smooth colonoscopy.  Those were my last thoughts before being diagnosed with cancer.  I didn’t know my life was about to change and that there would be no brochure for me.

After the procedure, I was groggy and realized immediately from the doctor’s facial expression that something was wrong.  I remembered him saying, “You have a cancerous mass.  I removed numerous polyps…so many that I stopped counting.”  Still groggy and instantly overwhelmed, my brain tried to think but couldn’t.  I looked at my wife but couldn’t talk.  I was frozen.  A nurse stayed with us and repeated everything the doctor said to try and help us with the burden of bad news.  The doctor returned after taking care of another patient to talk with us again.  This time I was alert and could process more of what he said.  He showed me pictures taken of the mass during the colonoscopy and told me that in the future, my colon would probably need to be removed, but first I needed a CT scan to determine if the cancer had spread.

I went home and spent the rest of the day on Google searching everything about colon cancer and all the stages. I compared my mass to other images and tried to guess the stage of cancer.  I went to chat rooms with colon cancer survivors looking for any helpful information.  At the end of the day I was anxious and frustrated from what I had read.  That experience has led to the creation of this blog where hope, inspiration and positivity are the things I want to share with others.

Blog Beginnings

I am beginning this blog to keep everyone updated of my progress, as well as to educate others about cancer.  The blog will also share how I am staying positive through my spirituality and with the love and support of my family and friends.

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