Archive | June, 2011

365 days and counting

16 Jun

I woke up this morning knowing that although today should seem like any other ordinary day, it wasn’t. Exactly one year ago today I was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Tuesday and I was anxiously awaiting biopsy results from the mass the gastroenterologist had found during the colonoscopy I had the previous Friday.  It had already been four days and I had no more patience – Jesus managed to rise from the dead quicker than these results were coming in. Around 10:30 in the morning, I couldn’t wait any longer and finally called the doctor’s office to speed up the process.  Now, it is not customary to receive these type of results over the phone.  However I was not about to go through the process of setting up an appointment, paying an unnecessary co-pay and going in for an office visit just to obtain this tiny, yet oh so important piece of information.   When the nurse informed him I was on the phone, he obliged and took my call (in hindsight, probably the first indicator of the news that was to come – doctors are never available to take patients’ calls).  I was ready with a pen and paper in hand to take down notes throughout this highly anticipated conversation, however when all was said and done, I had only managed to write down one word: malignant.

After having been pacing around my office, I found myself frozen in my tracks.  I numbly dialed Nick’s cell phone and tried to relay the conversation but it was at that point that the information caught up with me and I was swallowed up by tears. Nick, on the other hand, was able to remain calm and reassuring (at least on the outside), and was at my work just a few minutes later with the most comforting embrace imaginable.  It was at that very point that the fight began.

Throughout these past 365 days, I’ve learned why the word ‘battle’ is often used when describing one’s dealings with cancer.  You don’t typically hear people say “She is working on cancer” or “He’s making his way through cancer”. It truly is a battle in every sense of the word, and I have no doubt that I have become stronger person as I’ve fought my way through this.  I am constantly reminded, though, that not everyone’s battle takes the course that mine has. Just yesterday, I stumbled across the blog of a young woman whose fight against cancer had too many striking similarities to mine it was scary. She grew up in Minnesota and was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in her 20s, just weeks before her wedding. She underwent the same course of chemotherapy (same drugs and all), and radiation treatment, followed by surgery and then had an ostomy bag. Like me, her cancer spread to her liver and her lungs, but her organs eventually failed and her battle ended less than two years after it started. I had chills as I finished reading her CaringBridge website.  (The foundation her family launched in her honor can be found here.) While I do my best to maintain a lighthearted approach and positive outlook throughout this process, I am also keenly aware that there is also a very real and nasty side to this beast, and I thank God everyday that I have been as fortunate as I have.

June 15th is a date I will never forget, yet I hope it will soon return to being just another day, and be replaced by other memorable dates, such as the date I am told I am free of cancer – the date I kicked ass cancer’s ass.

No laughing matter

8 Jun

I’ve been home from the hospital for nine days now and am happy to report that recovery is going well. In addition to sleeping at least ten hours each night, I nap anywhere from 2-4 hours everyday.  Probably the hardest part of recovery is the inability to utilize my abdominal muscles.  It’s not that I’m purposely trying to craft some chizzled abs for summer, however one doesn’t realize just how often you rely on your stomach muscles to get through the day.  Sitting down and standing up has become a tedious effort.  Sneezing is the most painful thing in the world. And laughing is anything but fun; in fact, it’s rather excruciating.

To help the wound in my stomach heal as quickly and efficiently as possible I have a home health care nurse that comes to the house everyday to pack and redress the opening in my stomach.  Basically, an open wound heals quicker when it is ‘touching’ something, so 7-9 inches of shoestring gauze, pre-soaked in iodine solution, is inserted into the 2 cm deep hole.  This is referred to as ‘wet to dry’ packing because the gauze is wet when inserted, then dries while inside the wound and is removed the next day. To be honest, I haven’t noticed a huge transformation in how the surgical point looks now compared to the day of surgery, but the nurses assure me it is healing nicely with no sign of infection.

Speaking of transformations, my husband has turned into a new person over the past few weeks, becoming a gourmet chef and household caretaker right before my eyes.  True story: a month ago Nick called me because he had gotten lost on the way to the grocery store that is all of 3 miles from our house that we’ve now lived in for 4.5 years.  I’ll be honest, I pretty gave up any remaining hopes of him becoming a skilled homemaker at that point.  However he has since turned over a new leaf and become a handicap patient’s dream, preparing freshly cooked meals and cleaning the house from top to bottom!  Now only if he would stop trying to prove how funny he is by making me laugh…