Monday, July 15, 2013

RE: Yep, I'm mortal!

Thank-you all for your prayers, thoughts, and emails during this time!

OK, here are a few more details, as well as the latest news.  Some of you asked why I had the colonoscopy in the first place.  Well, approximately two years ago I went in for a routine physical.  At the time, the doctor said “well, you’re 50 – you should get a colon screening”.  She made the referral and I promptly forgot all about it.  Sometime after Christmas I began to experience some abdominal discomfort/pain.  To some degree I was like a frog in water, though.  It started very subtly, and even now isn’t particularly bad.  It’s not a strong pain – more discomfort.  However, my stool also started looking darker and became a bit more irregular.  The really weird thing is that it has gotten so that it’s difficult to tell whether I need to have a bowel movement, need to urinate, or am simply hungry.  Those three feelings are becoming somewhat difficult to differentiate between.  Then one day I got a call from the colon screening centre.  They told me my appointment was coming up.  Apparently the queue for routine screening is nearly two years long!  For me it felt like God was in the timing.

When the time for the colonoscopy arrived, they gave me a choice about whether or not to be sedated.  If I took the sedation, I’d be “legally impaired” for twenty-four hours.  Since I was headed to Toronto that night and would need to drive a car, I chose to go without the sedation.  I’m glad I did, because the pain/discomfort wasn’t that serious (in fact, it wasn’t as bad as the stuff I had to drink beforehand!) and I wouldn’t have heard the doctor talking to me as he proceeded.  When he saw it, he said something to the effect of “yep, there’s the cancer.  Looks like it’s been there a while.”  Also, it was bleeding and there was enough obstruction that he couldn’t continue further down my colon.  Given that we’d already been told that “early detection is key”, and that the doctor said “it’s been there a while”, and the fact that it was bleeding, and the fact that I’d had some abdominal discomfort already, we took away the impression that this was, indeed, very serious.  However, it was all speculative, so I didn’t include it in the previous email – I wanted more details before I began inviting people to my funeral.  J

I met with a surgeon today and he seemed quite calm about the whole thing.  This is not to say it’s not serious, but he certainly gave the impression it wasn’t the death sentence we thought.  In fact, the way he talked he made it sound like it might be nothing more than surgery – an oncologist might not even need to get involved.  The bottom line, really, is that we’ll take it one step at a time.  So, here are the next few steps.

1.       Within the next week or so (don’t have a date/time yet), I’ll be having a CT scan.  It is meant to provide more detail on the extent of the problem, including how much of my colon is affected, and whether or not it has spread to the liver, abdomen, or pelvis.

2.       July 26 I go in for surgery at Peter Lougheed Hospital.  It will be done laparoscopically (i.e. small, minimally invasive incisions), and they will remove a section of my colon, with its blood supply and lymph nodes.  I expect to be in the hospital 3-5 days, and probably off work for about two weeks.  Only about 3% of these surgeries end up with the need to have a colostomy bag for a few months after.

3.       The piece of colon that gets removed will be sent for pathology, where they will try to determine if the cancer has spread.  This typically takes about two weeks.

4.       If it is determined from steps 1 or 3 that the cancer has spread, then an oncologist gets involved.  It is at this point that the possibility of chemotherapy enters the picture.

Some of you have asked about how I’m doing/feeling.  The truth is that, whereas I continue to have some abdominal discomfort, it’s not that serious – after all, I can still play hockey!  J  The worst symptom I’ve experienced so far is a decrease in energy and an increase in the sleep I seem to need.  My appetite has gone down, too, but not precipitously.  So far I haven’t lost any weight (I keep hoping, but… J).  Psychologically I think I’m in a very good place, and I attribute that to God gifting me with a generally positive, optimistic view of life.

OK, I think that’s about it.  I think I’ve provided pretty much as much information as I have, but if you have questions, let me know and I’ll respond as best I can.

Thanks again!

P.S. (for those who share my faith):  God is good!  It has touched me how much prayer support I’ve been receiving during this time.  In fact, I’ve been saying that if it went by quantity, I’d already be healed!  J  It is great to know that the Great Physician is guiding the physicians here, and if all else fails, has a place prepared for me!  That certainly doesn’t mean I’ll give up the fight down here – I certainly want to grow old with Sue and watch my kids grow up, but the thought of meeting my Redeemer and reuniting with my parents isn’t exactly a bad one either.  I simply have to quote Philippians 1:18b-26:

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

I feel very much like Paul did when he wrote that, even if our circumstances are somewhat different.  J

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