The Big C

A journey through Stage Four Cancer

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 CAT Scan

Next week is my CAT scan, and I’m nervous.

I’m not nervous because CAT scans are painful, because they really are not.  CAT scans are mostly a nuisance.

First, you have to drink a quantity of liquid, yucky liquid.  It comes in cute little, chilled bottles with yummy names like “Fudgey Chocolate” or “Orange Creme.”  They even smell yummy.  The taste however, ieeew, that’s a different story.  Having had more CAT scans than I can remember, I have worked out a strategy of how to consume the thick liquid without throwing up.

The most important thing is to have the liquid shaken up very, very well.  I can’t do it, so I have my husband do it, or one of my sons.  This gets the thick stuff on the bottom up, and mixed in smoothly.  That prevents a chunk coming up your straw and making you gag.

The second most important thing to do is start sucking on the liquid, while paying attention to something else – a television, a magazine, even a conversation that is none of your business.  Anything.  Don’t come up for air because you will get the yucky taste and gag.

Follow the directions the hospital staff give you for how much to drink at their set intervals.  Don’t try to slurp it all at once.

Do not drink the remains at the very bottom or you will probably throw up all that you have already drank of it.

Even the IV that they put into my arm to contrast for my scan is no more than a bit of an ouch! as they look for a willing vein.

Following the directions of Breathe! Hold your breath! Breathe! is sort of like playing a CAT scan version of Simon Says.

What has me nervous is wondering if my stalker has returned.  The only way to know is with the CAT scan throwing a light into all the hidden corners.

And that is what has me nervous.

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