Chapter #3 “Bloody Blobs” ~ From My Book “Rectal Cancer My Ass”

My liver surgery was a couple days later and I was sent home two days after that; only to return to the ER in less than a week. The original plan was to wait two weeks before starting radiation therapy so my body could heal. The tumor had other plans…

I was sitting on the toilet thinking I was having a bowel movement but when I looked, there were several bloody “blobs” the size of soft boiled eggs floating in the water. I knew this was bad and the tumor in my rectum was probably hemorrhaging! Luckily Hubby was home with me. We called my son, Jim who had just left to come back home quickly. I needed to get to the ER.

Hubby lined the front seat of the car with a large disposable pad and it was a good thing he did because it didn’t take long before the blood seeped through my clothes on to the pad. Jim was driving and Hubby was in the backseat. Jim looked over at me when we stopped at the stoplight and saw the blood soaked pad.

He shrieked, “Mom! I have to run this light. You’re bleeding too fast!”

The last thing we needed was to be in a car wreck, so I calmly told him, “Take a breath. Slow down. We’re only a few blocks away and if we get in accident, it will only take longer to get there.” But inside I was getting nervous about the amount of blood coming out of me too.

Luckily, he listened to me and didn’t run the red light, but when it turned green; he drove the rest of the way like a “mad man.” I don’t know if I was more nervous from the bleeding or his crazy driving! When we made it to the ambulance entrance, Jim ran inside and quickly came back with a nurse who showed up with a wheelchair. I was taken inside to a trauma room where a nurse came to take my vitals. As I lay on an exam table I watched the nurse move around the room, talking to me calmly. I immediately relaxed and thought, “If she isn’t worried about the amount of blood coming out of me, then neither will I. She sees this kind of thing all the time.”

The nurse inserted a catheter into my urethra because, according to her, I was being admitted for another hospital stay. (Crap! Not again.) I was also not allowed to get off the table, so in case I eventually had to pee, I could do so using the catheter. Next she placed a large plastic pan under my butt to catch the clots of blood that were now popping out at a steady rate.

Hubby was standing by my side when I felt the “presence” of my dad and my friend, Emily, both of whom had died years earlier. I never actually saw either of them, but I just “knew” they were there. I looked at Hubby and said, “Emily and my dad are here. So don’t worry. Everything is going to be alright.” Right after I said that, they were gone. Or maybe they were never there. My mind could have been playing tricks on me. Either way, I felt better about what was going on.

Hubby stared at me for a minute and then spoke to Jim who was standing a few feet away, talking on his cell phone. “Hey, I think your mom’s having some kind of spiritual experience or something. She says Emily and your grandpa are here.”

Jim looked scared. He probably thought my “vision” was some sort of sign I was dying, but I knew I wasn’t. I reassured both of them that I was okay.

My sense of calm changed quickly when an intern showed up to start an IV on me. For some reason, she wanted the needle to go on the inside of my wrist. After poking me four times, claiming my vein kept “moving around,” she announced she would make an incision. That’s when I said, “Over my dead body! Find someone who knows what they’re doing and don’t use that spot. It hurts too much!” My yelling must have worked because a new nurse showed up and the IV was inserted in a less painful spot.

A few hours later I was back in a hospital room, getting a couple more pints of blood, waiting to hear what “adventures” awaited me this time.

My colorectal surgeon, Dr. C. showed up a few hours later, and decided the best way to stop the bleeding was to cauterize the inside of my anus. He said it would be a simple procedure. When he was done, my ass felt like he had taken a blow torch, shoved it up my ass and fried that sucker until it stopped bleeding. Simple procedure, my ass! For him, maybe. For me, it hurt like holy hell for days. Even a fart felt like a hot poker.

Be well,

“The “C” Word” ~ Chapter #2 From My Book “Rectal Cancer My Ass”

Over the next week I was given four pints of blood and went through a battery of tests. I was staying at a teaching hospital which means, every day a group of resident doctors showed up in my hospital room taking notes, and asking to look at my caboose. Whatever modesty I had before my hospital stay was gone by the time I left.

A colonoscopy revealed I had rectal cancer. After the test was done, a nurse presented me with a Polaroid picture of my colon. (Who the hell wants a pictures of that? I should have kept it though and made copies and sent them out as next years Christmas cards). The cancer looked to me like dryer lint, grey and fuzzy. A few hours later an MRI showed the cancer had spread to my liver. I didn’t just have rectal cancer; I had STAGE FOUR rectal cancer!

Shit! I was pissed!

My son and my hubby were devastated by the news, but I refused to get upset. I was determined to survive, so I spent my time marching around the halls of the hospital, wearing my Ugg boots and a hospital gown, waiting to hear what kind of plan my medical team came up with. I told my family and doctors to never say the word “cancer” around me, but they could call it the “c” word. Maybe I had cancer, but I wouldn’t let it define me. The blood transfusions gave me energy and I didn’t feel sick anymore, except for that persistent diarrhea. I joked with the nurses and tried to watch television to pass the time; waiting for my doctors to come up with a plan to kill the cancer growing inside me.

One night a nurse came in to see me. She wanted to know if I was alright.

“Sure I’m fine.” I said.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” She asked.

I nodded.

“How can you be so positive after getting such devastating news? Patients usually fall apart and can’t stop crying. We have to give them medication to calm down, but you seem happy.”

I thought about it for a minute. I figured she thought I was in denial and maybe “psychologically” speaking I was, but in my mind I refused to believe that this cancer was going to kill me.

I said, “I’m only 56 years old and I’m not ready to die. I will do everything I can to stay alive and having a positive attitude will only help. Besides, I was never much of a ‘crier.’ I’ll get mad before I start crying and if you do see me crying, it’s because I am really mad!”

A few days later my medical team (I called them my Dream Team) came back to my hospital room with a plan; they would resection my liver, and then give me chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumors, so eventually my colon could be removed. In its place would be a permanent colostomy bag.

Now that’s a plan I could live with.

Be well!

My Book “Rectal Cancer My Ass” : Chapter #1 How I was Diagnosed with Rectal Cancer

It was in the midst of the “Great Recession,” 2010 and full time work was hard to find, so I worked three part time jobs. If that wasn’t stressful enough, my “internal plumbing” was giving me a lot of trouble. Most of my days were spent juggling work schedules and looking for bathrooms. I was tired all the time but blamed it on the fact my day started at 5am, to make sure I got my “morning business” done before I was sitting on the freeway, driving to my first job. There is nothing worse than having a bathroom emergency and finding yourself stuck in rush hour traffic!

Over the years I saw different doctors to find out what was going on and they each told me the same thing: stress or IBS — caused by too much stress. Then one day I found drops of blood on my toilet paper after I wiped myself. About six months before my “correct” diagnosis, a nurse practitioner insisted the blood was from hemorrhoids that were probably aggravated by (you guessed it) stress! My gut feeling said it was something else but exactly what, I didn’t know, so I went along with his diagnosis. The bleeding continued the next few months.

This wasn’t the first time I had trouble getting a correct diagnosis from western medicine doctors. When I was forty, I started having heavy periods twice a month. I went to a woman’s clinic to get a pap smear and was told the results were normal. A couple months went by and I saw a female doctor who said I was anemic. I asked if I was starting menopause, but she assured me that I was too young for that, and told me to take iron pills and wear thicker pads on those “heavy flow days.”

The bleeding got so bad I started missing work because I sometimes bled through my clothes. There was something wrong with me but didn’t know who to turn to for help. Two different doctors already said I wasn’t sick. I was working as a waitress at the time and one day I mentioned my problem to a female customer who ate in the restaurant a few times a week. Since we shared stories about our personal lives, I felt comfortable enough to ask her if she had problem periods like mine. “Yes.” She said. “You need to see an acupuncturist. They will straighten you out.”

A week later I was sitting in an exam room at the Acupuncture and Integrated Medicine College in Berkeley. This was my first experience with acupuncture so I had no idea what to expect. After checking my pulse and looking at my tongue it was determined that I was perimenopausal. Yay! I have a diagnosis! I thought. My periods were back to normal within a month, but I would have to go back monthly for treatments until I was finished going through “the change.”

The day after Christmas in 2010, I woke up having trouble breathing. When I got out of bed my legs felt so heavy I could barely walk, so my husband decided I needed to go to the emergency room.

An hour later we checked in with the ER receptionist. No sooner did we sit down when my name was called. I was ushered into a room where a nurse took my vitals. She said everything looked normal. “I thought, how can that be possible when I feel so bad?”

It wasn’t long before the ER doctor showed up. She told me everything looked good but before she sent me home, she wanted to take some blood from me. “Maybe that will give us a clue as to what is going on.” She said.

An hour later she came back and announced, “I know what’s wrong with you. Forty percent of your blood is gone. Are you bleeding somewhere?”

“Yes, from my rear-end.”
“For how long?”
“Four months, but only it was only a few drops a day.”
The doctor yelled, “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!”

“No, I am not kidding”, I thought. I was relieved to finally find out there really was something wrong with me.

“Oh that’s good news. All I need is some blood and I can go home then,” I said.

“Oh no, my dear, you will be our guest at the hospital for a while, AND I am sending a nurse to sit with you in case you ‘stroke out’ from loss of blood.”

I sat there dumbfounded… little did I know my life was about to change forever.

Be well and learn to become your own health activate.