Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thoughts as I stroll down memory lane

Four years ago today, I was sitting in the local hospital with my hubby, who had undergone surgery for colon cancer the day before. During that time, I wrote e-mails to keep people updated on what was happening. That was MUCH easier than fielding dozens of phone calls every day. I decided a few days ago to go back and read all of those e-mails. I had saved every one, as a way to document what we were doing, how we were feeling, how people helped us, how God was with us each step of the way. And boy, did reading those ever bring back a flood of memories.

I decided to write about this today. Writing is good "therapy" for me -- it clears my mind. But four years ago, our journey with colon cancer began, even though we didn't know it at the time.

A month before then, N was drinking that horrible stuff they have you consume before doing a colonoscopy. Boy, that stuff is FOUL!! I know my day for drinking it will come soon enough, but in the meantime, I'm certainly not glad it's right now!!

On May 10, 2005, he had his colonoscopy. This is part of the e-mail I sent to my pastor and church's prayer chain the day after the colonoscopy:

(May 11)
If you could please pass this on to the prayer chain and/or the men's group e-mail list, we'd appreciate it. N went to the doctor on Tuesday for a "routine" colonoscopy. During the procedure, they found a 4-centimeter bleeding polyp embedded in the wall of the colon. The polyp has been removed and sent to a lab for a biopsy. Please be praying with us that this is non-cancerous and will cause no problems. His family has a very strong history of cancer (sister, mother, two uncles all died of cancer), and so this is very worrisome to him. Thanks for your prayers!!

At that time, we were told to return to the doctor's office on May 31st for the follow-up. However, on May 12th, we received a call from the doctor's office. From my e-mail again:

(May 12)
I wanted to let you all know that N's doctor's officecalled a little while ago. The results of the biopsy are already in, and they want to move his follow-up appointment (scheduled for 5/31) up to this coming Monday -- and they literally told us, "You pick the time". Of course, they won't tell us anything via phone, so we will have to wait 3 1/2 days to find out anything more.

God's big lesson to me in the last few years has been to learn
(REALLLY learn!) that He is in control (I LOVE that song that came
out a few years ago -- "God is in control, we believe that His
children will not be forsaken...."). And if there's anything I've
learned from working with birthing women over the years, it's that
I'm NOT in control -- all the worrying in the world will not change
the outcome!! So until Monday, I'm hanging on to Jer. 29:11 -- "I
know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not
for evil, to give you a future and a hope!!"

I'm still praying for a cancer-free outcome -- but also for the
peace to accept whatever comes our way, and the wisdom to know what
to do. Keep praying.....

Wow -- I think those were four of the longest days in my life. Somehow, I already knew what the diagnosis would be; I just didn't want to believe it.

(May 16)
Background for those of you who don't know: N had a colonscopy last week. The doctor found and removed a 4-cm. polyp and sent it to a lab for biopsy.

Visit with the doctor today for follow-up: The growth IS a malignant cancer. The biopsy was unable to state definitely that all the cancer was removed or that it has not grown through the wall of the colon. They THINK it was caught in time, but will not state that 100% at this time. The plan is:

* Pelvic cat-scan tomorrow
* Meet with surgeon in the next few days
* Have partial colonectomy (partial removal of colon) sometime in the next few weeks -- the sooner, the better from the doctor's perspective
* Hospital stay of approximately 3-7 days, then post-op recuperation at home for several more days ( ? )
* Follow-up after surgery with an oncologist (cancer specialist) to determine whether any cancer treatment will be necessary

Please be praying for us, as we have a lot of decisions to make very quickly. This also comes at an extremely busy time for us right now, as many of you know, with ML having her musical in the next two weeks, graduating on June 6th, and NR getting married on July 16. Please pray for patience, wisdom, peace........ and whatever else I'm not thinking of right now.

Sorry this is so short, but I need to be with the girls right now. They're not handling this so well. Pray for them, too!

The next few days were a whirlwind of appointments. This is my message from May 20:

We went to meet with the surgeon yesterday. We stopped on the way to his office and picked up the CT scans -- but the stupid radiology people didn't have the report typed up and faxed to the surgeon in time for our appointment (sorry, just venting here!!) I feel like everything is just "hurry up and WAIT"..... Anyway, with the information he has thus far, he's talking about removing approximately a 10" segment of rectum and lower intestines, and re-connecting them; removing the blood vessels that supply that area; and removing the surrounding lymph nodes. Surgery will probably last 4 - 5 hours.

Doing the meeting without the report was very frustrating. The CT scans had little arrows all over them pointing at things -- but totally useless, since there was no report to explain what those are about. So right now, the plan is for the surgeon to receive the report, and if everything looks the way we THINK and pray it will, we'll go back in next Wednesday for a final review of everything. If the report comes in and says those little arrows are "bad things"....... well, I'm not sure!!

We discussed our crazy schedule with him, and he's decided that unless those little arrows ARE "bad things", we can wait until after ML's graduation to do the surgery. So the current plan is to "party hard" and enjoy graduation on the 6th; probably do the colon cleansing thing again on the 7th (yuck), and the operation on the 8th. That's assuming there is available space in an operating room that day. The doctor's going to be checking on that and getting back to us on that. Then N would probably stay out of work until NR's wedding, and go back to work in mid-July. That's the plan, anyway........ And you know what they say about the best-laid plans......!

Five days later, on May 25:

Well, there's good news, and so-so news! (Not really "bad" news, I think....)

Good news is -- based on the radiology report and the CT scan, it doesn't look like the cancer has spread beyond the colon. Of course, the final confirmation will be the biopsy of the lymph nodes after removal, but right now, everything looks good.

The so-so news -- during the CT scan, they discovered a rather good-sized bladder stone (it never caused problems before, but it's definitely in there!). The second piece of so-so news is that in order to coordinate a surgery with TWO doctors from different specialties (because the urology guy needs to be there now, too), they can't get a surgery room and the two doctors together at the same time until June 16th. So surgery is now scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on June 16th at Howard County General Hospital.

While we were at the surgeon's office, he spoke directly with the pathologist who did the biopsy on N's polyp. The pathologist said that 80% of what was removed was cancerous. Thank the Lord -- it looks like we probably caught this just in time. During our discussions with the surgeon, all of us were waffling back and forth on which type of surgery would be best to perform, since there are different ways of going about this. The decision has been made to perform the most extensive of the options, since the polyp was so cancerous, and also so we can be truly certain that nothing has spread into lymph nodes. While it will mean a hefty recovery, it will be the most likely to provide a good long-term fix to this problem.

Big item of prayer -- because of the scheduling problems with the surgery, this puts the surgery at only 4 weeks before NR's wedding. Not a lot of room for unexpected situations!! So please pray for, obviously, the surgeons to be able to deal with anything they find, but also that N recovers quickly and with no complications.

I guess what struck me most in all of this is how much our life changed in just a matter of days. On May 10th, we were grumbling about what a nasty procedure a colonoscopy was. Fifteen days later, we were finalizing plans for cancer surgery.

I learned a lot that summer about not being in control, as much as I LIKE to be! And I think that's why the stories of these families with young children suffering from cancer has struck me so deeply -- none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. We need to let our families, friends, everyone that's important to us know that we love them TODAY!! There may not be a tomorrow.

Go give someone a hug today and tell them you love them!!! (And I'm going to stop now and finish this up some other time -- otherwise, it may turn into the world's longest blog posting ever!)


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