Dr. Jellyfingers.

Posted on July 16, 2014


Santorini SunsetIt may as well have been 10 years ago when Cassie, her parents, and I spent two weeks island hopping around Greece. We got back less than two months ago.

The Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos, though well placed in the bowels of a well-trodden tourist trail, were peaceful reprieves during the area’s shoulder season. Crete exudes blue-collar, surrounding pockets of delicate, Venetian labyrinths. And Athens, a bustling urban empire sprawling among echoes of Socrates and Zeus, their footprints never far from imagination. This land, its waters, now rest among the greatest I’ve been fortunate to experience.

Unfortunately, I haven’t even gotten through all my pictures yet (soon, though, I promise).

When we got back and I noticed a small streak of blood in my stool, I excused it as post-trip adjustment… or a digestive resistance to the recent airline food… or simply dismissed it in favor of a post-travel resurgence of self-purpose. A couple days later, it became concerning. Bleeding anywhere on your body is never good, but bleeding inside of you is something that can’t be overlooked.

Since the decision to get this checked out, I faced, and overcame, one of my most daunting fears of my first 33 years ( the rectal examination) and have had a multitude of different Dr. Jellyfingers “go in there and see this thing.” Ugh… I want to take a shower just thinking about it. It’s funny how cringe-worthy can become almost second nature so quickly. I’ve come to the agreement that my body really isn’t my own right now, it’s in the hands of capable experts who will, no doubt, do their very best and hand it back over when they’re done. It’s not unlike flying in an airplane, if you think about it.

The exam and discovery of a ‘mass’ led to an optical exam (for lack of a better term) and colonoscopy (surprisingly, the most enjoyable procedure to date), which led to a CT scan, an MRI and consult with a specialist in Spokane (“please expel the contrast fluid in the bathroom to the right”), a consult with a surgeon in Iowa City, and finally back to Butte and the realization of it all. Looking back, the anticipation of each appointment is where the difficult times existed. Getting diagnosed for a serious disease, it turns out, is an epic battle of patience.

loveHere’s the lowdown: I have Stage 2 rectal cancer. T3N0M0 and what I believe that code truly means is that things could be much, much worse. The tumor has grown through my muscle wall, but there is no evidence of nodes, nor metastasizing-the spreading of cancer anywhere else. My blood work looks solid all around. I’ve heard that there’s an 80%+ chance to get the cancer completely out of me, and I’d take those odds in Vegas any day. So, there are many reasons to be thankful about that prognosis. However, its location is the problem.

The tumor is only 3 cm (1.5 inches) from my, ahem, ‘exit.’ This area is dense with muscles that control all those gross functions us living beings must do. Where my cancer is, those muscles are at risk of damage and/or not working properly when this is all said and done. In other words, there is a strong possibility of needing a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. Before this adventure, I hadn’t even known what this is. That’s tough to hear, to see, to get comfortable with. Certainly nothing I envisioned for myself, but pooping in a bag sure beats the alternative. Priority 1: get all cancer out of me. Priority 2: put my parts back together. Ironically enough, as I’m getting this news, a picture went viral of a beautiful bikini’d woman laying on the beach with… you guessed it, her colostomy bag.

Under the sterile fluorescent lights of each exam room, its hard not to ask, “How the hell did we get here?”

I truly, truly can’t thank everyone enough; for the messages and emails, cards, words, calls, and time. I have such amazing people around me, not just in close proximity, but all over the country and world. My one wish was that it all came at a different cost. I’ve never before felt the unyielding power of prayer, or vibes, or light-whatever you call it, it’s all the same to me, energy that helps one heal.

We’re doing as well as can be expected. Sometimes it becomes too much, other times not. We’ve been reading incessantly, about diet, treatment, side effects, finances, all the while still trying to understand something we likely never will. We cry a lot…

but we laugh, too…



Posted in: Cancer