In April 2018 I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I was a few weeks shy of my forty-third birthday. For a while I thought I could continue to live my life and post here as if nothing unusual was happening.
I made it through the initial doctor visits. I went through all the scans–the CT scan, the MRI, the PET scan–all those lovely machines they put you in so they can tell you how bad the situation is.
I somehow convinced myself that I was going to be one of those cancer patients you hear about who just sort of breeze through treatment and never take a day off and everything is fine, just fine, thanks.
But, that’s not what happened. Three weeks into radiation and oral chemo, and I was in tears from the pain every night. By the end of radiation and chemo, I thought I had experienced the worst. Then I had surgery.
The great news was that the tumor was gone. There was no evidence of cancer in the parts they removed or the lymph nodes they tested. Thank you, God!
But, I ended up spending nearly six weeks in hospital after my surgery because my system did not want to get started again. “You have an ileus,” the doctors unhelpfully explained. I couldn’t eat. I lost weight.
After being discharged and then back to the ER and discharged again and back to the ER over and over, they put me on TPN which meant I was getting liquid nutrition through a tube going into my arm. I had to carry a backpack with a giant bag of liquid in it around with me everywhere. It was both a literal and emotional weight on my shoulders. Our refrigerator was full of these bags. They were delivered once a week by a home health service. I had a nurse who visited the house, too.
I also had a temporary ostomy that was giving me a lot of trouble. The ostomy was placed to allow my body to heal from both surgery and the radiation. But, I was getting constant blockages and having a difficult time staying hydrated. Most of my ER visits were for blockages or dehydration and low potassium.
I got off of TPN in time to start chemotherapy. The real chemo. The hard chemo. I had the port placed. I threw up during the very first session.
My oncologist wanted me to do the full chemo treatment because of my original diagnosis. Even though the tumor was gone by surgery, chemo was the insurance policy to ensure the best long-term outcome. We didn’t want it coming back.
But if I thought radiation and then surgery were the hardest things I had ever done, they were nothing compared to chemo. I lost my appetite. I experienced nausea. I was bone weary all of the time. I couldn’t concentrate. I had a tingling numbness in my hands and feet. My hair thinned. I lost more weight.
The side effects took months to wear off. I finished treatment in May 2019, and it was around Thanksgiving that I noticed that the pins and needles feeling in my feet was finally gone.
In January 2020 I finally had the surgery to reverse my temporary ostomy.
Post-reversal surgery has come with its own set of challenges as my body adjusts to its “new normal.” I no longer have all the parts I did before. I am finding new ways to adapt.
But, I am eating again. I am at a healthy weight again. I have energy again. I am feeling more like myself again.
I am so grateful for my family and friends and co-workers and everyone who sent a card or cooked a meal or visited me in the hospital or called to say hello or took me to an appointment over the past two years. And, there were so, so many who did. Too many to name.
So, here I am. I’ve made it through to the other side of my cancer story, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. My life will never be the same. There’s no going back to the “old me.” But, I am a survivor now.
And, hey, I’ve started stitching again, too! If you’ve made it this far, expect some stitching posts again…
Happy to be back! :)