I remember the way that the doctor walked into the room, He knocked on the door, stepped inside, and closed the door while he was facing it. He took a deep breath and turned around to face me. He said “I have the results of the biopsy” and I just kew from his demeanor that he was going to say “You have cancer” and I was right.
I don’t quite remember what happened next. I want to say that we had a discussion about next steps and treatments, but he was a GI Specialist and not an oncologist,. He said that he put out a call for an oncologist to come and visit me to talk about treatment options etc.
That day, seems like it was ages ago, but it was July 12, 2020. Since this was during peak COVID-19, I was by myself in the hospital room when I got the news.
On July 10, 2020, a Friday, my primary care doctor sent me to the ER. I was in his office with pain that I thought was appendicitis. My PCP said that I was presenting with symptoms of appendicitis but given that it was Friday, none of the scan places would be able to see me until sometime during the week, so I should go to the ER since they can scan me right away and treat me for the “appendicitis.”
While in the ER, they sent me for my very first CT scan.
About an hour later, the ER doctor came in and said that it did not look like I had appendicitis, but rather it looked like there was something obstructing my bowels. He told me that I was going to be admitted and that a GI Specialist would come by to talk to me about what to do next.
The GI doctor, came in and told me that the pressure/pain I was feeling was because my bowel was obstructed by a growth of some kind. They wouldn’t be able to tell me that type of growth until they ran more tests, including a colonoscopy to get a biopsy sample.
What followed was a day where I had to take something called “bowel prep” which is something meant to clear out your bowels for the colonoscopy. Of course, since my guts were clogged, it was just torture drinking that crap.
A Quick Flashback
A few weeks before I had the current “appendicitis” scare, I’d scheduled to get a colonoscopy. I am of the age where it is recommended that you get one, and so I dutifully signed up to get my screening. When I was setting up the screening, I explained that I was having issues with constipation and that I felt like there may be something wrong, but I didn’t know what it could be.
This GI doctor, told me that it was probably something with my diet, I was vegan at the time, but that he’d take a look at my GI tract to try and determine what could be causing the problems.
The colonoscopy was scheduled to happen on July 17, 2020.
Fast Forward Back To The Current Timeline
Like I mentioned, I was in the hospital, getting ready to have an emergency colonoscopy, and who walks in to perform the procedure? The same doctor that I had scheduled for the 17th. The guy actually said “I guess you couldn’t wait for your appointment to get this done huh?” I mean, it was kinda funny but not really. I replied “I guess so.”
Anyway, after the colonoscopy, a nurse told me that I wasn’t “cleaned out all the way” to which I groggily replied “my colon is obstructed, how much shit do you think I can push out?”
The Second Worst Part Of The Ordeal
The colonoscopy wasn’t bad. I was under general anesthesia so I didn’t really know or tell what was happening.
On the CT scans, it looked like my cancer had metastasized to my liver, to be sure, they needed to do a liver biopsy. I was awake and aware for this procedure. I think they may have used a local anesthetic, but I don’t remember.
They busted out this huge ass needle and they poked me several times in my liver area to get their sample. It was traumatic, but not nearly as bad as getting my port put in.
I have a port that they can use to give me the IV chemotherapy, among other things. It sits just under my skin on my upper right side and it has a tube that goes over my clavicle and into a vein in my neck.
In order for them to put the port in, I had to lay on my side and they put a helmet/head cover over my head. I have never felt more claustrophobic in my life. I told the tech that I was not feeling good about the setup and he told the anesthesiologist to go ahead and start juicing me up because I was starting to feel anxious.
Next thing I know, I have a port installed and my arm is sore.
At the end of the day, I left the hospital with my new cancer diagnosis, a stent in my colon, a port in my chest and who knows what else. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind this past year.
My oncologist told me that the median life span for people with my diagnosis and cancer spread is 30 months. To me, that’s just a number, but I am painfully aware that 12 months have gone by since my diagnosis. My cancer, is currently not responding to treatments anymore, so I’m hoping to find a clinical trial or something that may buy me more time.
For now, I’m living each day to the fullest, and we’ll just have to wait and see how many days (good or bad) I have left.
I remember an interview that I saw with a Navy fighter pilot on TV many years ago. The dude was cocky as hell. The interviewer asked him if he was ever afraid of dying when trying to land his plane on a carrier deck, at night, in a storm. The pilot said that he believed that you have a certain number of heartbeats assigned to you when you’re born. When you reach that last heartbeat, that’s when you go. You can be sitting in your recliner watching TV, or you could be trying to land a plane on an aircraft carrier, since you don’t know how many beats you get, why worry about it?
So, why worry about it?