I had a routine colonoscopy in February, 2003 and received a clean report. In February, 2004 [12 months later] I noticed rectal bleeding and a follow-up exam showed a large tumor in the lower rectum. I was ultimately diagnosed with Stage 3, N1 and thus began a two year trip into unknown territory. Clearly, my growth was missed in 2003 as the GI doctor started looking too late and stopped looking too early.
I joined a clinical trial of Topotecan plus radiation in May, 2004, had resection and reversal with a colostomy in August 2004. After surgery, I went through 15 weeks of Xeloda, and the "hand and foot" syndrome really took its toll. I could barely walk and had to use the knuckles on my hands to pick things up. The colostomy takedown was done in January, 2005. This was supposed to be a simple 3-day hospital stay, but unfortunately, I got an infection and had to have emergency decompression of the colon. I left the hospital after 12 days, and then spent many months trying to regain control of my bowels. Over time, things improved to the point of being somewhat normal.
In looking back over this entire ordeal, I must truthfully say that the support I received from prayer groups, friends, medical staff and family allowed me to get to the other side. We turned my experience into a positive one and laughed and joked as much as possible. After all, I was going to survive and get back to living.
I was treated at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, and in August, 2009, I was informed that I need not return for any more blood work or CT scans. At that moment, I realized that I had been transferred to the group known as Survivors. I will never fully relax and am ever conscious of all aspects of my body.
I am not pleased that I had colorectal cancer, but I must admit that I truly like the person I have become because of it. My life has been turned upside down in a way I fully embrace. I am a volunteer at Moffitt and love my time in the Infusion Center. I serve others who are going through the treatment process and so many of them are in far worse condition than I ever was. My heart goes out to them, and I try to lighten their load while we are together. I make a lot of friends and engage in a lot of hugs. I am also active in the CCA Buddy Program and spend several hours per week leading others through their tribulations. Since we live in Tennessee in the summer months, I can continue to volunteer over the telephone. Greater rewards are found only in heaven.
Lastly, I have become a calmer and far more patient person. I now can see that so much of life is trivial, and we tend to make mountains of such things. No longer. Life is dear and precious, and our friends and loved ones are what really matter. One day at a time!