The Big C

A journey through Stage Four Cancer

The End

I always come to the party late it seems.  Actually, that is not the best way to express this.  I always seem to learn about things long after they are well established.  There is a Christmas Carol “Mary Did You Know?”  As soon as I heard it, I loved it, and had to share it with others.  Turns out, it was old news.  The song had come out the year before.

Oh well.

Going through stage four cancer is mostly unchartered territory.  The doctors know what to expect of the organism, that is, my body, but not really what is going through my mind.  They can expect that I will feel sad, and even mad.  They have no idea of the rollercoaster that I sometimes ride; emotions of terror that get soothed by my faith, and then the deep sadness that I feel thinking of my motherless children.  I don’t think anyone without stage four cancer can truly understand how deep the terror and sadness can be.

It was after Derek Miller died that I discovered his blog.  The first entry I read, was his last entry, suitably labeled “The Last Post.”  Derek is an atheist.  As I read “I haven’t gone to a better place, or a worse one. I haven’t gone anyplace, because Derek doesn’t exist anymore.” I felt so sad and I felt so badly for him!  To not have any hope of ever reuniting with my husband and children?  This hope is the only thing that makes stage four cancer bearable for me.

Reading on, Derek wrote “So I was unafraid of death—of the moment itself—and of what came afterwards, which was (and is) nothing. As I did all along, I remained somewhat afraid of the process of dying, of increasing weakness and fatigue, of pain, of becoming less and less of myself as I got there.”

He expressed my feelings and fears!  I had to read more of his blog.  I spent hours reading, and plenty of my sleepless nights contemplating his thoughts.

I hope his wife Airdrie leaves the blog searchable for a long time because as a person with stage four cancer, Derek “gets it.”  His blog is a resource for those of us still in the trenches.  If you would like to read Derek’s blog, here is the link to his last post.  The rest of his blog is searchable, just erase all the link after .com/    http://www.penmachine.com/2011/05/the-last-post

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A Proud Day

I’m writing this a few days late, but it’s still a proud day for me. As you know, I have colon cancer and that has made me a big proponent of colonoscopies.  I encourage people to investigate their family health history.  And I encourage people not to be quiet about the history they discover and their own health history.

My colon cancer was discovered when I was 47 years old, and the cancer was in the last stages of killing me.  Literally.  My body was filling with fluid, as were my lungs.  My pulse was dangerously low and thready.  I was drifting in and out of consciousness.  I didn’t have long.  In fact, if that night I had followed my impulse to just turn over in bed and hug the heating pad closer, instead of going to the emergency room, it’s very possible that my husband would have left a corpse in bed when he went to work the following day.

Scary, isn’t it?

I have talked to my children about their own need for having a colonoscopy, because with one parent having colon cancer, their odds are very high of getting it also.  They need to start getting checked at age 42, 5 years before mine was found.  Since they won’t be 50, most likely they will have to pay for it out of pocket.  Insurance won’t cover it.

Because of my openess about my cancer, it isn’t unusual for me to get an email asking questions about symptoms the emailer has.  I think they are hoping that I will say that, no, those symptoms don’t sound like colon cancer, but usually they do.  Pain, bloating, sudden diarrhea or constipation, stool that looks pressed or rolled, blood in the stool, all of them can be symptoms of colon cancer as well as PMS, menstrual pain, or hemorrhoids.  Only a colonoscopy can tell you if you have something to worry about.

And that is the problem.  First, a colonoscopy calls for an intense laxative the night before – not pleasant.  Read Dave Barry’s account on it to at least find a little humor on it.  The day of the colonoscopy, you need someone to drive you home – that can be hard.  If you aren’t the right age, you might have to pay for the colonoscopy out of pocket – ouch!  And then there is the colonoscopy procedure itself.

And that is why I am so proud of the woman I will call Laura, who took the two most difficult steps, 1. calling and scheduling a colonoscopy and 2. having the colonoscopy.

One more person who won’t die because of embarrassment.

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The last months

have been trying, to say the least.

I have gone bald, needed a wheelchair, been in the hospital more times than I’d like to remember, been in pain.

I also now have hair shorter than I have ever dared before cancer, seen my family rise to the challenges, met nurses that should be award winners, and ….

I AM NOT IN PAIN ANYMORE!!!

My last CAT scan shows that my tumors have not grown, and might actually have shrunk.  I’ll have another CAT scan at the end of October to see if the tumors continue to shrink.  I will be without chemo for three months by then, that’s a quarter of a year!  If the tumors don’t grow, then it’s off to the surgeon to get them removed, and my second fight with cancer will be over!!!

I am not strong, but I am getting stronger.  For short hops, I don’t need a wheel chair.  I can go up and down stairs without someone having to spot me in case I fall.  I have had enough energy that I am able to stand long enough to cook a real dinner for my family.

During this time, I need to rest, and to get stronger.  Statistics say that my third, and hopefully last battle with cancer will follow, but this time I won’t be blind sided.  I will be strong and ready.

With determination, preparation and prayer, I’ll be ready for round three!

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