In late 2004 and into 2005, I was suffering from what I thought were hemorrhoids. I was reluctant to do anything about them, thinking it was just a part of getting older. I saw my primary care doctor, and he sent me to a gastroenterologist. During the exam, the gastroenterologist felt a mass, and brought my husband into the room. He told us that I would need to get a colonoscopy the very next day. We could tell by the look on his face that he was concerned, but cancer was the last thing on my mind.
The next day, I went in for my colonoscopy. I was told that they were not able to complete the scope because the tumor had completely blocked my rectum, and I was admitted directly to the hospital.
I had surgery the following day to remove the tumor and rebuild my rectum. I did not initially have an ileostomy, and started a long busy time of doctors and tests. A few days later, I was running a fever, then I began to feel nauseous. After some tests, it was discovered that I had an abscess. A drain was inserted into the abscess, with twice weekly visits to the radiologist to check the progress.
I had a portocath "installed" for chemo. It didn't seem to be healing very well, and then we noticed that what I thought was dried "junk" from the incision, was actually the port bursting through my skin! I had another couple of surgeries to remove the first, and then tried another one on the other side.
I was finally ready to start radiation and chemo. The radiation, over time, made me very sick. I lost quite a bit of weight because I could not eat anything without vomiting. The radiation lasted six weeks. Chemo, 5FU and Leucovorin, lasted about nine months. My oncologist decided not to administer the Folfox regimen because, at 89 pounds, he thought it would be too risky.
When my chemo was finally over, we had a big party to celebrate. I have to admit, I was so glad to be finished with the nausea, fatigue and trips to the oncologist, but a part of me believed that as long as I was getting the chemo, something was fighting the cancer in my body. After chemo was over, I think I felt a little scared.
My oncologist scheduled follow-up CT scans every six months. I chose not to have my ostomy reversed yet. I just felt that I had had enough of hospitals and surgeries (at this point I had had six or seven). In November of 2007, I finally decided to have the reversal. During the pre-surgical CT scan, my surgeon saw a couple of spots on my right lung. More tests and doctor visits later, and I was back in the hospital for surgery on my right lung in April of 2008. The cancer was very early stage (less than one cm each), and if I had not waited to have my reversal, it probably would not have been caught until it was much more advanced. The pathology confirmed that the metastasis was colon cancer.
This time, my oncologist and I chose a more aggressive chemo. I had Folfox chemotherapy along with a host of other chemo drugs, pills and pumps. I tolerated most rather well and was able to go back to work after a couple of months. I was very tired, and it was very difficult at times. The fatigue and nausea was worse than the first time. I had a very hard time adjusting to the neuropathy, but I made it. After chemo was complete, I had test every three months, but after the first CT scan, another spot was found - this time on my left lung.
Back in the hospital for surgery on my left lung in February of 2009. This was followed by even more aggressive chemo. At one point, I had some sort of reaction to the chemo drugs. I was at the oncologist's office getting my infusion, and I got very nauseous. I hurried to the bathroom, and after a particularly difficult session of vomiting, I felt as if I could not breathe. When the nurses came in, and finally got me settled down, they told me it was a rare reaction to the Oxyalplatin. I finally finished chemo in July of 2009. I have had three "cancer free" CT scans and/or PET CT scans.
When I was first diagnosed, I was lucky enough to be put in touch with several local groups. Also, my health insurance company had oncology nurses who called to answer my questions, or to let me know what to expect, but I wish I knew of the Colon Cancer Alliance sooner. The Buddy Program is an excellent resource, and I love being a Buddy. I am happy to help others going through this experience in any way that I can. I know that I went through several different "phases." When I was first diagnosed, I didn't want to even think about it for a while. My wonderful husband, Bob, would listen to the doctors and read the literature. It took quite a while before I was able to start researching and reading about cancer. I am absolutely certain that I would not have survived had it not been for my family's support and comfort. My husband, children and grandchildren gave me life. I know I can't take away the terror and sadness anyone feels when dealing with cancer, but I hope that I can show that survival is possible, even with late stage diagnosis. Sometimes that's all you need to know.