Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"You Have Cancer" - Chapter 1 of My Cancer Story

Ten years ago, on December 26, 2001, my gastroenterologist called me at work to deliver this bombshell. “You have colon cancer,” he said, and my world came to a grinding halt at the age of 46.
Blood was rushing in my ears, so I almost didn’t hear the doctor when we asked me, “Do you have a surgeon?”
“No.” Who the hell has a surgeon?
“I’ll have your gynecologist call you”, he said before he hung up.

This was the beginning of my journey with cancer. Many of my friends have heard bits and pieces of this story. Others may be curious. On the 10th Anniversary of my diagnosis, it’s a good time to tell all. I’m thankful for what I went through and learned, for the love and support I received during the difficult times, and for the gracious God that allowed me to survive. Maybe hearing about my experience will push you to face any nagging health issues you have, sooner rather than later. I hope you will be inspired to extend kindness to someone fighting their own life-threatening battle. When people are ill and afraid, little gestures are really meaningful gifts, and are remembered fondly.

People ask me whether I had symptoms of my cancer before I was diagnosed. In retrospect, I did; but I did not recognize their significance. I was often tired, which I attributed to being overweight and getting older. On occasion, I had blood in my feces, which I blamed on hemorrhoids. Constipation was a sign, but who doesn’t get constipated now and again? I explained away every symptom, because I couldn’t admit to myself that there might be something seriously wrong. There was some history of colon cancer in my family – but only at advanced ages.

Pelvic exams related to another medical issue (in preparation for a hysterectomy scheduled for January 7th) shed light on my other symptoms. My gynecologist tested a stool sample then recommended a colonoscopy to “rule out” any other issues before my surgery. Dr Gilbert Thayer’s diligence saved my life.

In shock and teary after the abrupt call with my diagnosis, I was in my office with the door closed with my husband Ron. All I could think is, "I have cancer, and I am going to die". Minutes later we got the follow-up call from Dr Thayer. He was calm, sympathetic, and reassuring, and asked me if I could see the surgeon he recommended, ASAP. We left the office for the hospital immediately to meet with Dr W Scott King.

COMING SOON – Chapter 2: Meeting Dr King, learning more about the seriousness of my cancer, and undergoing a double surgery (hysterectomy and colectomy).

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