Renewed Life after a Life-Threatening Diagnosis. Love and Laughter are the best medicines!
July 24, 2015, is a day I will always remember. I received the diagnosis of Stage 2a Rectal Cancer at the age of 47. I went to my general practitioner in March 2015 because I had been experiencing bloating, constipation, mental fog, dizziness, and bloody stools since January. Upon hearing my symptoms, my doctor had me take the Fecal Occult Test, which came back negative. She assumed the bleeding was coming from hemorrhoids but told me if it got worse, I would be referred for a colonoscopy.
Fast forward a couple of months, the blood in my stools increased and my appetite decreased drastically. I called my GP and she sent a referral for a colonoscopy. Before going to my colonoscopy, I knew they would ask how much blood loss I was experiencing, so I took a picture of the water in the toilet. The amount of blood looked a woman’s menses and by this time, I was barely passing any stools. The stools I did pass were long and thin.
I showed the nurse the picture of blood in the toilet and was scheduled for a colonoscopy the following week. My husband took me to my appointment, we were optimistic and joking around while I was waiting to be taken back. they put me out and upon waking up, the doctor came in. With a grave face, he informed us that they found a fist-sized tumor in my sigmoid colon and it was malignant. The smile dropped from my face and I asked the doctor if he was saying that I had cancer. He said yes, and the tears began to stream down my face, and I looked at my husband who was also crying. The doctor quickly left the room to schedule referrals for an oncologist.
On the ride home, I declared that I would slay this beast called cancer. We even made a stop for champagne and made a toast to cancer being a part of my past. Little did I know that the cancer battle was a mental battle and the body is indeed fragile and prone to failure. After going through six weeks of oral chemo combined with 33 radiation treatments, I was resting up for my tumor removal surgery. My bowel obstructed and perforated sending me into emergency surgery. November 11, 2015, was the day I almost died, which I now celebrate as my reborn day.
During my lifesaving surgery, I was given a two-year temporary colostomy, whom I lovingly refer to as Fred. I was so happy to be alive that Fred was the least of my worries. In addition to having six more months of port chemotherapy, my Mom died right before my next round of chemo began. Regardless of the physical, emotional and financial challenges I was going through, my attitude remained optimistic. I also found myself with a strong support system consisting primarily with my husband of 19 years and my children, but also my sorority sisters, college friends, and Facebook Family. They all did special things to help me stay uplifted even from afar. I will always cherish the love they showed me on so many levels during and after treatment.
Lastly, my biggest lesson as a patient is to believe in a higher power, get a strong support system, give thanks for every day we are granted, set goals post-treatment, and laugh, a lot! Love and laughter are the best medicines! #LiveWell
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