I’ve Got The Labor Day Blues

Posted by Danny

There are vivid images that are so very difficult.  There was the January day in the hospital right after we learned that the cancer had spread to Lisa’s back.  Her heart started racing that night and the physicians struggled to get it under control.  She glanced up at me and said, “What if we don’t have much time?”  I relive that moment over and over and over again.

I think this past month has probably been the worst since February – or maybe April.  Not all are that bad. 

I’m not 100% sure what’s going on – maybe it’s Capon.  Lots of memories surrounding the discovery of Lisa’s illness there – actually just a lot of memories there.  Her mother and I have a vivid image of Lisa pushing the baby stroller up the golf course with our new nephew napping inside.  She started with stomach issues that week and reported that she made a doctor’s appointment for the minute she returned to Raleigh.  Colon cancer grows for years before the symptoms; we were too late.

Two weeks later we were facing stage 4 colon cancer in the face – the Friday of Labor Day weekend.  I sit here and look  at the chair she was sitting in when I got home that Friday afternoon.  I can see the tears in her beautiful eyes.  I see the position of her body in that chair.  I know exactly what her hair looked like that afternoon.  I think she had a kleenex in her right hand.

At times I can see the entire last six months of her life in fast forward.  The images dance around in my head like a YouTube video.  Her girlfriends coming to give her a pedicure in her hospital bed in the cancer ward.  Family taking turns sleeping on the most uncomfortable recliner in America.  Her last words to me.

I think I’ve run away this summer.  Being out of town for 12 out of 13 weekends allowed me to escape.  I think that’s how I’ve fought this – staying on the run is my medicine.  Go from 7 a.m until 1 a.m. Monday – Friday, get the heck out of town on Friday evening and don’t return until Sunday.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for tackling my fears, we will need to be in town this fall – lacrosse for Michelle, cheerleading for Stephanie and we all need to get back to church. 

I’m finding that you can’t out run grief.  It’ll catch you.  It’s faster, more powerful, more cunning than you’ll ever be. 

I’ll sit this weekend on the porch where Lisa and I read the Saturday paper.  I’ll glance through my year-long journal and maybe look at some happy pictures.  I’ll ache a bit.  Maybe it will bring me closer to healing.  And maybe September will be better.

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Nothing Better than a Good Scoping of your Butt

 

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Posted by Danny

Until we begin to be comfortable talking about our intestines, bowel movements and colonoscopies, it’s going to be tough to really begin attacking colon cancer.  I am currently aware of three acquaintances under the age of 45 who have died from this horrible disease in the past 12 months.  That is unacceptable.

As Jesse shared with you earlier this month, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  I think it’s time I weigh in.

Lisa’s symptoms began about a year and a half before she was diagnosed.  She would have cramps at times.  She wouldhave a strong sensation that she needed to  go to the bathroom and then nothing would happen when she got there.  At times she would have many small bowel movements in a row.  But these symptoms would come and go, a strong indicator that this was probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   She would go months without any problems, followed by a few weeks of discomfort.  When asked what her symptoms were, she would tell people, “Things just weren’t right.”  Follow you gut – or in this case, your colon.

After Lisa was diagnosed, I went to my annual physical.  I shared with my doctor what our family was dealing with and that I had some blood on my toilet paper.  He suggested, for my peace of mind, that I go ahead and get a colonoscopy.  Although I didn’t want to go through the process, I decided I’d sleep better once we had a clear DVD of my intestines.

This is my journal entry several hours after my colonoscopy:

Journal Entry, September 30, 2009

I have pooped nonstop for 24 hours.  Had my colonoscopy today and all was clear.  Butt you drink this thick salt water and then poop like you’re getting paid for it.  I pooped from 7 pm until 1 am, at 5:45 am and from 8 am to 3 pm.  And you couldn’t eat for about 48 hours prior to the procedure.  My poop was as clear as spring water by this afternoon – lost 8 pounds.

To be honest, the liquid they give you to drink to get you moving is awful.  It’s the consistency of thin lotion and it tastes putrid. 

I thought I’d doctor the brew by adding some Crystal Light – a friend suggested that might make the elixir go down easier.  She is no longer my friend. 

I’d hold my nose and stand over the sink – trying to down it like a frat boy with a beer bong.  I’d get half way through and gag – taking a few minutes to clear my watery eyes.  My mouth drawn in and my eyes clinched shut, sweat dripping down my forehead.  A deep breath and I’d chug some more. 

You “get to” drink about 25 glasses of the serum.  But in between each, you get a 15 minute break.  I’d go from standing up and  imbibing to flat on my back in the bed to a  mad dash to the toilet (suggestion:  wear elastic waist pants the day before your procedure – or better yet, lock your bedroom door and go with the Full Monty).  And every time I’d go back to the jug to pour my next glass, it would appear as if someone had refilled it to the brim.

It’s much more fun to be the spouse of someone prepping for a colonoscopy than to actually be the preppee.  Having a wife who was very private about her bathroom habits, I spent the night she had her cleansing in stitches.  If I recall, she had her revenge as I ran, with clinched cheeks, to the pot.

Although the only thing we found when I was scoped was that I’m apparently an aggressive wiper, it was worth it.  That’s one less thing to be concerned about.  It truly was much “doo doo” about nothing!

It’s March: Time To Cover Your A$$

POSTED BY JESSE

I was checking out the Mothers With Cancer blog when I came across a post alerting me that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. I figured that would probably be a good thing to pass on to our blog readers since, you know, it’s kind of relevant to our situation here.

I am sure that March was designated as the month for colorectal cancer awareness before Lisa was diagnosed with hers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she planned her trip to heaven as a lead-in to Awareness Month; she was a meticulous planner. And this may be too blunt for some people, but it’s a fact: in March 2009 no one had a clue that Lisa’s gastrointestinal tract was a ticking time bomb; by March 2010 she was gone. If that’s not reason enough to get your colonoscopy, I’m sorry–that’s the best I got.

How clueless were we? Extremely. Ignorant enough that I didn’t even know what one was or why you got one before Lisa had hers. And based on our family email chain the week Lisa went to get checked out, you can tell that none of us had a clue what we were in for (the topic was the family Christmas exchange, but as you can see we took a turn into Lisa’s impending screening):

Sallie: I’ll take Lisa! I have lots of potty/poop-related items in mind. Sam will put together a collection of his favorite poopy diapers for her too. (Danny told me to say it!)

Danny: I DID NOT.  Her poop is off limits for me.  I have pledged not to make any jokes about her colon…and except for putting together a care package for her the other night (had each kid go find something potty related to put by her bed – magazine, plunger, t. paper, crossword puzzle), I have done well.

Me: what’s up with Lisa’s colon? And if she gets it -oscopied is there anything we can get bronzed? Or how about poo-wtered? [note: this was in reference to my mother giving us all our bronzed baby shoes one Christmas]

Sallie: Poo-tered – I laughed so hard I nearly peed in my pants. For once it is not me as the “butt” of the joke!

Danny: She’s been having a lot of stomach issues.  They are ruling things out.  Probably much doo doo about nothing.

Lisa: I’m not coming to Christmas [note: it is assumed she was rolling her eyes at this point]

Me: so no one has honestly answered my question about Lisa–has she been diagnosed? the closest explanation I got was Bruce saying it’s much doo-doo about nothing.

At which point my mom informed me what was happening and why, though even then she said she suspected it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We would have really liked an IBS diagnosis–the fatality rate is much lower and, as you can see, we could have made potty jokes for days.

So what’s it going to take to get you to get checked out? I’ve tried fear and humor. I could sprinkle in some guilt and say you owe it to those around you if you won’t do it for yourself. And if you have had any recurring/consistent stomach issues, then by all means get your ass (pun very much intended) to the doctor now.

I don’t want to get into pitting one type of cancer against another (we’ve been through colon and breast in my immediate family; I think a grandparent may have even battled leukemia at one point), but colon cancer is not currently getting the love that breast cancer awareness enjoys, with its turning everything pink. Colon cancer is less of a sexy cause, so it’s even more important we push it on the grassroots level. (I feel compelled to point out again: I am not calling for LESS breast cancer awareness, I’m calling for raised levels of colorectal cancer awareness!)

Later this month Danny and I might share some of our own experiences with getting a colonoscopy. Go ahead and make your appointment now and we’ll walk you through this thing step by step.

Here’s some more colorectal cancer screening info from the CDC:

-“Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum—is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.”

-“It is estimated that as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely.”

-“You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; or
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.”
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