I’ve tried recollecting my journey through cancer a few times now over the past six years. I have no problem telling about the pre-cancer tests and anxieties, the surgery and post-surgery gloom. Talking about the ileostomy comes easy. But the next nine months, those months when I endured chemo and it’s dark side effects, that’s another story.
It’s a rocky story, one of faith and doubt, courage and fear, strength and weakness. Truthfully, much of those months is a blur to me. There are moments I remember, images, feelings, but mostly, the events of those months reside in a fog, the kind that rolls in off the ocean and distorts the landscape, blurs the fine edges.
I received chemo every other week. It was on Wednesdays and the infusion took about three hours. The nurse would them hook me up to a portable chemo pump and send me home. I’d then receive a steady infusion of chemo over the next 48 hours. On Friday’s I’d return to the doctor’s office to have the pump removed and I’d be free for another week and a half.
The side effects of chemo included numbness in my fingers and feet, an extreme sensitivity to cold, decreased ability to taste, fatigue like I’d never felt before, and nausea. Lots of nausea. After every chemo session the side effects would be worse for a few days, then would taper to barely noticeable. Each round they got worse and lasted longer, though. By the end, I had the side effects the entire two weeks.
I was working during those days, too. I’d have off on chemo days then just work a half day on Thursday, go home and sleep. Friday I’d be back at it but would have to take time off to have the chemo pump removed.
Thus was my schedule for the nine months I received chemotherapy. It was a steady spiral down both physically and emotionally and psychologically.
Looking back on it, those were dark days. Tears came easily. I did a lot of staring, a lot of thinking. My emotions sat on a knife’s edge. But in spite of the darkness the Light was always there. I felt Him, heard Him. I’m not crazy. I did. And in many ways I’ve never felt closer to Him.
The valley has a funny way of pushing us closer to our Father, doesn’t it?
**Just a reminder . . . To celebrate Colon Cancer Awareness Month and my six-year anniversary being cancer-free I’m giving away a book a week this month. To enter to win, just leave a comment on any of my “Cancer Story” posts.
We spent the night before the big surgery at my parents’ home. They live twenty minutes from the hospital and since we had to be there so early it allowed the kids to go back to bed once we left in the morning. When I said my goodbyes to my darling daughters and my parents I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever see them again. The surgery, which would consist of removing a portion of my colon and giving me an ileostomy, is something the surgeon had done many, many times but it was still major surgery and anything can go wrong.
I was also told they wouldn’t know the true extent of the cancer until after the surgery when they biopsied the lymph nodes around the site. I had no idea what kind of news I’d wake up to.
I still have very vivid memories of the hour leading up to surgery but they’re sporadic. I remember the nurse shaving the surgical site and being careful to maintain my modesty. I remember her getting me a blanket from the warmer. The anesthesiologist came in, explained everything, and asked me if I had any questions. I told him to make sure I stayed asleep; I didn’t want to wake up with my guts all hanging out. He assured me he’d put me way under and keep me there.
But the most vivid memory I have is when they rolled me down the hallway to the operating room. Jen walked beside the gurney and held my hand. I remember them wheeling me into the room and watching Jen in the hallway, staring at her, wanting to take in all I could. She forced a smile but I could see the fear in her eyes. Then the double doors swung shut and she was gone. Less than a minute later I was asleep.
And fortunately I didn’t wake up and see my guts all over the bed.
I woke up less a man than when I went in. Over a foot of my colon had been removed and I think I lost several pounds just in those few hours in the operating room. Jen said I was gray, emaciated, and cold and limp as a dead fish. She stroked my hair and asked me how I felt. I said I felt like s**t. It was one of the only times in my life that I’ve cussed in public and I’m not ashamed of it because that’s exactly how I did feel. I felt like someone dragged me to the edge of death, cut me open, fiddled with my guts, sewed me up, and brought me back to the land of the living.
But little did I know at that moment that my hospital stay would push me to the limits of my faith, that I would cry out to God like I never had before. It would be my moment of truth, where I decided if I trust Him or not, where I run from Him or turn and fall into His arms.
What was your moment of truth? That moment where you had to make a decision: do I trust God or don’t I?
All this month I’m celebrating Colon Cancer Awareness Week by recounting my own battle with cancer and giving away a book a week. All you have to do to enter to win a copy of my book A Thousand Sleepless Nights is leave a comment on one of the posts. It’s that easy!
Sooooo . . . the winner of the second giveaway is Kate.Congratulations, Kate! You’re book will be in the mail soon.
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This is stuff we all need to talk about.