That is a question I’ve been asked on multiple occasions. Not always in the way you might be thinking, but asked nonetheless. You see, almost 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. I was going to share all the gory details, but that would take to long. So, you get the short version; which is gory enough, believe me. If you’re squeamish when it comes to bodily functions and that sort of thing, you might want to stop now. Because things are about to get shitty (pun intended).
As regular readers of this blog might know, 2007 wasn’t a good year for me. That’s when I found I had Type II diabetes, hurt my knee clearing storm damage at my mom and dad’s, my daughters were involved in a bad car crash and I received the colon cancer diagnosis I mentioned earlier. To paraphrase a line from the cartoon Adventure Time, my life was a fart. The diabetes and the wreck happened first, then the knee injury, which required surgery and put me on restricted duty at work for almost 6 months. I was about to go back to full duty when I became constipated. Yeah, I know that seems like TMI, but it’s necessary for the story. Anyway, after 7 days of waiting for it to clear up on its own and trying various laxatives, all to no avail (they just made me more miserable), I finally went to the ER in hopes that I’d get some relief. That relief wasn’t quick in coming, however. I arrived just after 8 AM and was poked, prodded, examined and subjected to all manner of indignity. The last was a colonoscopy; if you’re unfamiliar with this procedure, it goes a little something like this: you drink a lot of a rather foul liquid (or get an enema which is just as bad) to clean out your colon. And, yes, it does exactly what you think it does. Then, they sedate you (thank God for that) and run a camera up your butt and look at the inside of your colon. When I woke up, I found out I had colon cancer. That was a shock to say the least. I was only 46 at the time and, in my mind, colon cancer was something old people got. They don’t even start testing for it until age 50, for God’s sake! Regardless of that fact, I had it and that meant surgery and chemotherapy. The surgery part is easy, as Lewis Grizzard once said “you’re asleep. They could cut off your toes and you wouldn’t care”. By the time it was all said and done, I had thrown more times in six months than the rest of my life combined, my legs didn’t work like they were supposed to and I had lost about 60 lbs. Granted, I needed to lose weight, but that’s not a weight-loss regimen I’d recommend. Over the past four and half years, I’ve had quarterly CT scans and exams, all of which have come back clear…, until last Wednesday. As the doctor looked at the report from the scan, he said “Uh oh”. Believe me, “uh oh” is not on the list of things you want to hear a doctor say while he’s examining you. He then proceeded to tell me there was a mass in my mesentery. Yeah, I had to look it up, too. The next step was a PET scan. As far as medical procedures go, it’s not as bad as some I’ve done. I described to one friend as “okay, in suckish sort of way”. Last Wednesday, I went back for the report on that little slice of hell, only to find out the mass was doing things it shouldn’t. Things that cancer cells do. And, now I’m waiting to find out if the next step is a biopsy to determine what it is or surgery to remove it and then find out what it is. If it’s benign, I get to go about my merry way. If it’s not, that means more chemo and I’m so not looking forward to that. But, it is what is. I survived once, I’ll survive again.
I know this is getting long and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the religious subject matter I usually write about. I really wondered how I was going to tell you all this, what direction I’d take. I could use this as a vehicle to talk about the precarious situation of health care in this country, I could talk about suffering, or I could…, erm, well, that’s all I’ve got right now. But, I decided to do this: I’ll do both of those and anything else I can work in. I’m going to make this a sort of diary about the whole experience, which only makes sense because it started out as a spiritual diary. Don’t worry, I’ll still get on my soapbox and rant now and then; but, there will also be stories about what I’m dealing with. In the next installment, I hope to be telling you whether it’s a needle or knife. Until then, pray. Pray really hard, because I need all the help I can get.