How It All Began
- What made me go to the doctor
- The procedure
- The diagnosis
- The Days after leading up to Stage 4
What Made Me Go To The Doctor
First of all, I am a very private person and don’t really like to talk about myself, so this is a little out of my comfort zone. My cancer was diagnosed at Stage III and would not have been caught if I would not have gone to the doctor when I did. I felt completely fine and had no other symptoms except some blood in my stool. (Embarrassing to say those words.) The first time I saw it, I was like “Oh, I bet that is from something I ate with red dye”. Then it was there the next day and the next… Even though my husband is my best friend, I was embarrassed to tell him and didn’t for about a month. Once I did, he convinced me to make an appointment the next day. I scheduled with a new doctor that had just moved to town. She was a colon/rectal surgeon and decided to go straight to her since my insurance did not require me seeing my PCP first. The day I was in her office waiting for her to come in, I tried to read a magazine, but was completely distracted with fear and my heart was pounding. When she came in and I told her why I was there, she began the history and physical. Do you have family history of Colon Cancer? No. Do you feel tired or fatigued? No. Then she did her physical exam and to much relief did not do an exam of the back side! She said she wanted to go ahead and do a colonoscopy even though I as only 41 to look for internal hemorrhoids and just “check it off my list until I was 50”; which is the normal screening age recommended. She said, “you are a picture of health, young, a runner and this is almost surely an internal hemorrhoid.” I left there feeling much better with just a little bit of doubt and fear that I tucked away and kept to myself. Now it was just two weeks to wait for my procedure.
First of all, my procedure was on Friday, July 13th, 2007. Yes, you heard it, I had a colonoscopy on Friday the 13th. I am not superstitious, but can honestly say, no more medical procedures on Friday, the 13th for me! I chose this day because the next day we were leaving to drive up to the Ozarks where we had a cabin rented for a week on Greers Ferry Lake in Arkansas. The doctor had advised me that even if she had to remove a hemorrhoid, I would feel fine and would not keep me from traveling and enjoying our trip. That morning we left before it was light to get to the hospital by 6:30 AM. I did not sleep much the night before and got up at 5, showered, dressed and read my daily devotional and bible before waking Keith. He had told me the night before, he was going to “just throw a hat on”, so no need to wake up until almost time to leave. We drove in silence, holding hands and listening to the radio. I was praying over and over to please not let anything be wrong with me. We arrived at the hospital. Now we were in bright lights, sterile room, hospital gown, IV, surgery cap, TV on the wall, fuzzy socks, and fear. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself and told me he was going to give me something to make me feel better…and he did…and I did…next thing I knew I was in the procedure room without a care in the world, counting backwards from 10..9..8..7..that is as far as I made it. Next thing I remember waking up hearing the nurses talking about me.
My eyes were closed, still groggy, I started hearing voices talking. I heard one say, “She is only 41.” Then I heard one say she called Radiology and they will come get me for a CT later this morning. I purposely started squirming so they could see I was waking up. My nurse offered me something to drink and sat my bed up. I did not ask any questions, just waited to see what came next. Keith walked in and I could tell he had been crying. He told me that the doctor found a tumor in my colon. He did not use the “C” word, just called it a tumor. Soon after, the doctor walked in. She confirmed what he said and went on to give me more details. She described to tumor as “gnarly” in appearance and that she had sent it off to pathology. She told me that no matter if it was cancer or not, it had to come out and put me on the schedule for Monday to remove part of my colon. How could this be happening? I felt like I was literally paralyzed. The rest of the morning was spent in the outpatient area waiting for my CT and was kept company by Keith and my oldest daughter Rachel who had stopped by the hospital before work. Her boyfriend, now my son-in-law came to be with her. My younger daughter, Molly was at home and I could not wait to see her face. The word traveled fast in our network of family, friends, co-workers. By the time we got home from the hospital the phone calls came flooding in and my parents, sister, neighbors came by to offer us their support. We said over and over to everyone that came to visit that, “this may not even be cancer”. We all prayed it wasn’t. All of the sudden nothing seemed important except family. I felt the peace of God holding me up and keeping me calm. We spent the weekend laughing, crying, going for walks and soaking up each moment. Monday came and surgery went well, but the pathology came back while I was under and revealed that the tumor was cancerous. I woke up once again to Keith there to give me the bad news.
The Days after leading up to Stage 4
The day of surgery I became a survivor and spent the next six months doing 12 rounds of chemo. The tests all showed that my cancer was gone and after my treatment, I immediately started training for a half marathon; my first half marathon and was stronger than ever. During this experience my husband was my hero, my friends were beyond dedicated, and my family was who pulled me through. Life was back to normal and two years passed…then my gynecologist found a spot on my ovary. It was the same “song and dance”. She told me that I am healthy and probably nothing, but wanted to do procedure to take a look further. I signed a consent that if they found cancer, I would have a hysterectomy. So now, third time, I woke up to Keith there to tell me that he had bad news. He was quite the pro at this by now. This was 3 days before Christmas when I was discharged from the surgery. When we got home, I enjoyed the Christmas decorations in our home and luckily had finished shopping and everything was wrapped under the tree. Christmas Eve came and it started to snow; which is not common in Texas to have a White Christmas. It was beautiful and we ran outside that and played in the snow in our PJ’s. Christmas was just a little bit sweeter. It felt magical even though I was now I was a Stage 4 survivor, I just felt at peace.
The chemo was much harder than the first go around and did not think I was going to make it through all of the treatments, but I did. I am so thankful to God for healing me and allowing me to be Cancer free. Now I want to take care of my body the best that I can and never take anything for granted.
We all need to listen to our bodies and not ignore symptoms. If I would have waited much longer, I may not be here to write this.