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Surprise! You Have Cancer

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016.

It was just another day, a normal workday. The only significant difference was that I was going to have to start drinking the nasty stuff in preparation for a colonoscopy the following morning. I started drinking the "pleasant tasting lemon lime flavored" chalk mixture at about 7pm. I had to stop eating or drinking anything else at about the same time.

I was also supplied with a couple of aptly named dulcolax pills that were suppose to aid in the colon cleansing. My wife and I named them duke-a-lot.
Because that's what they do, they make you duke a lot.

I became Sir Duke-A-Lot. Then I was promoted to King Duke-A-Lot and got to sit on my throne the whole night long. Being a King is hard work.

I had been having a small pain in my abdomen the last few months. Nothing serious, just a constant ache that wouldn't go away.
I had been skipping out on the colonoscopies. I was really kind of scared of what the procedure entailed and I didn't really like the butt probe part of it at all. How could I even face the doctor and nurses afterward? But this time I decided to go through with it anyway. Dignity be damned.

Wednesday July 13th 2016:

(unlucky 13th). Butt probing day. I wish I had known how really simple and fast this colonoscopy procedure was. It was really the easy part of the whole ordeal. You get to sleep through it. You wake up and it's all over. In hindsight (heh heh) I wish I had gone through with it years before. I could have probably saved myself a lot of trouble.

I reported to the doctor's office at 7:40am and was promptly called back to the staging room. Got naked. And got on the hospital bed.

A nurse came in and asked me about 362 questions about allergies, heart conditions, allergies, previous operations, kidney problems, strokes, allergies, recent weight loss, dentures and if I was allergic to anything.

After apparently passing the allergy test I got rolled on back to an operating / freezer room. I laid there watching everyone get ready. They all went about their preparations with crisp efficiency. To watch them you wouldn't think they even cared that they were about to probe someone's butt.

Fat, thin, big or small, it don't matter they've seen em all.

After another short round of tricky questions about allergies I was finally given the knockout shot.

I woke up in the operation room just in time to feel someone wiping my butt then passed out again to reawaken in the recovery room.
I was alone when I woke up. I laid there thinking, trying to get my bearings for about a minute or two when my wife came in.

"You've got colon cancer." She just blurted it right out.

I honestly don't know what I said or what happened for the next few minutes. I was in shock.

Shortly the doctor came in and elaborated about the cancer. There were two big tumors and a bunch of smaller ones. The worst one was about six inches from my rectum. That was the good news, I would probably not have to wear a bag. The other big one was at the opposite end of my colon on the top.

The doc even brought color pictures.

Cancer is not what I always thought it was. I really don't know what I thought it was but I didn't think it was big open sores.

The big bad one looked like a black onion that had been chopped and scraped. It had apparently been bleeding a lot for some time.

Thinking back on it I had been feeling tired and lazy for the last few months, but it had been a gradual progression that I had just attributed to age. Turned out the bleeding had made me anemic.

I had been pushing myself to hopefully keep up at work. But as soon as I got home I was pooped. I didn't want to do anything.

I was sort of glad to have a good reason for my recent laziness and lack of interest in my hobbies and doing things around the house.

I had been worried that I was just getting "sorry". That's southern for being low down, good for nothing, lazy.

I was made an hurry up appointment with a cancer surgeon and I would get to see him the next day.

Finally I could go home. To safety. To normalcy. Shelter. Familiarity.

I had to make the calls to family and friends. After a couple of calls I couldn't do it anymore and my wife, my wonderful wife, took over for me.

Got to actually eat something. Got to bed and faced the night and its questions.

It was a long night.

Thursday July 14th, 2016. AM

I had an early morning appointment with the surgeon. I'll call him Dr. White. He was straight forward and unemotional. I guess that's a condition of the job. Dr. White is a work-o-holic. He had already gone over the colonoscopy results and had a full explanation of what was happening and what needed to be done.

He went over the pictures with us and pointed out the tumors, the big onions and the little coin shaped white button tumors. He would either remove 90% of my colon or cut out the 2 big ones and the mass of small ones in 3 separate cuts.

He explained that I needed an MRI to check for spread of the cancer to my lymph nodes and other organs. And he set that up.

There was one small yellow spot that he had not addressed and my wife asked him about it. "What is that little yellow spot? Is it a tumor?" He held the picture up closer for a second or two and said matter-of-factly: "No, it looks like a piece of corn to me".

So at least one of the spots was nothing to worry about.

Of course, naturally,  I tried to remember the last time I'd eaten corn.
It had been a while.

That piece of corn was a survivor. It had been chewed on, digested, and then faced the numerous onslaughts of "duke-a-lot" and "chalky drink" and still managed to get in the picture looking like it had never even been eaten. If ever a piece of corn was proud of itself it was that little bastard.

What an inspiration. Henceforth when things are looking down I can think of that brave piece of corn. Never give up, no matter the odds, just hang in there like corn in a colon.

Thursday July 14th, 2016. PM

MRI time. I had been through this before. I had an MRI on my back before as well as an MRI for my gall bladder. So I knew this procedure pretty well.

Again you have to drink some nasty stuff. Wait a little while and you get on the hard plastic surfboard bed and face the big white donut shaped MRI machine contraption.

Who dreamed this up?

Right before you go through you get a shot of some kind of stuff that makes you feel like you are peeing in your pants. This is a chemical concoction that makes the MRI show up more clearly. It leaves a metallic taste in your mouth but is otherwise pretty harmless.

Anyway, you are laying there while the MRI technician hustles to get behind a radiation proof wall. They talk to you through a speaker.

"Take a deep breath and hold it" The surfboard moves into the donut. It's like some kind of portal to another universe. The donut is spinning and whirling. Sounds like a freight train is coming through a hurricane.
Then when you just about can't hold it anymore the tech tells you to let out your breath. Repeat this several times.

And that's it, it's over. Pull up your pants and go home to wait on the results.

After I got home, in no time, Dr. White called to inform me that there were suspicious spots on my liver. I was scheduled for another MRI to look specifically at my liver.

Colon cancer is very common and quite curable with surgery and chemo / radiation therapy. Liver cancer is a whole new ball game. This is serious. This is life threatening. This is 'don't look it up on the internet' scary.
This is 43% survival rate for the 1st year, 15% for 5 years. This is think about dying serious. What are my wife and family going to do without me?

But at this time I am very hopeful that the spots are just benign spots. My  family has a history of benign spots on the liver. Let's just wait for the results.

Continued - Part 2

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Living the good life in Southeast Alabama, father, grandfather, cancer survivor, part-time writer, and webmaster - Read More

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