Last week, my life was, at its heart, a shitshow. At times, literally.
This is likely to be a relatively graphic post. If you might be squeamish or uncomfortable, especially about bodily output, feel free to exit now. However, if you decide to come along for the ride, please know that, in rectal cancer, sometimes things get yucky.
Let’s go back to Tuesday of last week, when I went to Dana Farber for chemo.
Lisa drove me there, and I told her that she could just drop me off, but I am so grateful that she stayed. I don’t know how I would have made it through that appointment by myself.
When I met with my doctor, we chatted about my past week: The open bellybutton wound, the various pain sites, the horrible intestinal blockage from the previous Friday, my trials with trying to get advice from them over the phone and, oh, by the way, I’ve several days of constipation.
He looked worried at that last one and told me they would have to do an x-ray before deciding on chemo.
Before deciding on chemo????
Well, he said, the constipation could be due to a tumor blocking the colon. If that were the case, no chemo today and surgery ASAP to remove that part of the intestine and move my colostomy bag to another place.
I’ve been through that surgery twice before, and, while it is not fun, I know that I can do it. Still, I focused on no blockage.
I thought he was done but no. He wanted to show me what was behind Door #2.
Another possibility: Tumor is weighing on my colon, making it difficult for the colon to move and process nutrition. If my colon cannot move, I would need a permanent G-tube and 24/7 IV nutrition. Would I work with the surgeon I love (who is at a different hospital) or should he find one here for me?
Select a surgeon? I was still stuck on “permanent G-tube and 24/7 IV nutrition.” I don’t like to leap ahead at possibilities, but his talk of picking a surgeon left me spinning and stunned and wondering if I would ever be able to eat solid foods again. I tried to focus on the present moment, that maybe instead I could have “what was behind the curtain” or even run off the stage and choose none of the above.
Instead, Lisa and I (in my zombie state) left his office and took an elevator, the bridge, and another elevator to get to X-ray.
Lisa insisted that we pray (thanks!), then I did the X-ray and returned to the doctor while Lisa waited for a copy of the disk (that I could bring home for my husband to scrutinize if needed).
On my way back to the doctor’s office, I stopped behind one bank of elevators, sat on the floor, and cried.
While there, my phone dinged with three texts. The first was from a woman I know, not in person, but through this blog. Her mother read my blog but has since passed away. The daughter and I became friends and stay in touch as we can, though not with regularity. Her words in this unexpected text reached my heart, as though she and her mother were saying it would, somehow, be okay. Another text arrived from a friend simply checking in. And the third text, from a friend who is an energy healer, asked if I might need some help.
So I took a deep breath, soaked in the love, and ventured on to see my doctor.
The good news is that, while I am officially full of crap, nothing obvious is slowing down the works and I was able to get chemo last week. (Don’t you love it when chemo is the best case scenario?)
In the days that followed, I continued my chemo and recovery at home, in bed, really sad. I never before had considered the thought of a feeding tube; I don’t know what I would choose to do.
Then one morning, as I lay in bed looking at all the green, leafy trees outside my bedroom window, I noticed one dead branch hanging in front of them.
Often, when I need perspective and strength, I think of my grandfather (who loved good, fresh food) and hoped he was with me now. It felt like a fantasy, and I don’t like to make deals with the spirits, but I suddenly said to him, “It sure would be nice to see a cardinal on this branch to say that you are with me.”
I kid you not, a cardinal almost immediately landed and stayed for maybe a minute before it flew out of sight.
I know that I dodged a bullet last week, and for that, I am grateful. But as I continue to work through the slow colon issues, I can’t help feeling that Door #2 could be looming. Wish me luck. And thank God and the universe that you can eat and poop!