Next up after my visit with Dr. NY was Dr. Care Bear. I have heard stories about the stoic or brusque personalities of doctors, but I have been so fortunate in that I didn’t experience this at all. Each and every one of my doctors and nurses genuinely cared about me and were invested in my well-being. I was just lucky.
Once we checked in with reception, we were led to a room with a TV. As we waited for the nurse, I picked up a pamphlet on colorectal cancer and looked through the list of possible symptoms. I say possible because not everyone will experience these symptoms, especially in the early stages. For me, it was like I was reading a checklist of the things I experienced leading up to my diagnosis (dx).
Nurse Angel came into the room and put on a video that was supposed to give me an idea of what to expect. I honestly don’t remember a thing about the video with one exception. Eddie looked at me and asked if there was anything in particular that I had noticed about the video. Yes I did – they were all OLD. I don’t mean 50 or 60. I mean that they were in their 70’s and 80’s. How on earth did I get an old person’s disease? I led a very healthy lifestyle. I have never smoked, I’ve never done any drugs, I ate healthy, I didn’t really drink, and I had no knowledge of cancer in my family. Cancer simply didn’t care about all that, so I just needed to suck it up and get on with it. I really thought that I was alone in the category of being dx’d with cancer at such a young age. Sadly it isn’t as uncommon as I had originally thought. I just hadn’t met my friends on the Colon Club yet. I don’t know if there are more young people getting colonoscopies and being dx’d or if it’s that colorectal cancer really is hitting folks at a younger age. So how old should you be before you have a colonoscopy for preventative screening? The general rule of thumb nowadays is when you turn 50, unless you have a family history in which case it should be 10 years before that family member was dx’d. Of course, this goes out the window if you experience any symptoms (refer to the link above). If you have any of those symptoms, it’s worth the trip to see your doctor.
Nurse Angel brought me to see my radiation oncologist, Dr. Care Bear, after the movie. He is a very soft spoken man and carried an air of sympathy while being assuring about getting though all this together. He actually apologized because he had to do a digital exam. Here we go again…up on the table, lay on your side. Just when he’s ready to probe, Eddie says “Hey doc, you wanna sign the guestbook first?” Son of a motherless goat! Hey, sweetheart, could you do me a favor and NOT make the man who is about to stick his finger up my butt laugh? I don’t need him shaking around unnecessarily while he’s in there. I had to laugh too though. Dr. Care Bear chuckled and said that was a new one, even for him.
After feeling the tumor out, Dr. Care Bear made his recommendations for treatment. Pending my visit with the Wizard (my oncologist) to determine the chemo regimen, he said that I would have radiation treatments 5 days a week for 6 weeks in order to shrink the tumor. Surgery to remove it would follow a recovery period so that my body could heal up from the effects of radiation therapy. Did I have any questions? You bet. What are the side effects that I should expect? Radiation burn was a possibility, but there are preventative measures that could be taken to minimize that problem. My bowels would be affected. Again, there are meds that can help with that. And I would most likely be sent into early menopause. That wasn’t such a big deal…but there was a grenade buried in there.
I would never be able to bear children.
I considered not sharing this because it is such a deeply personal and emotional issue for me, and the truth of the matter is that I still struggle immensely with this. Over the last 5 years, I have had my cry sessions, feeling sorry for myself. What keeps me going is my unbelievably wonderful daughter and knowing that I’m not alone in this. Eddie is right there with me and he completely understands. Ultimately my reason behind starting this blog won out. If I want to give some answers, strength, and hope to someone in a similar position by sharing my experience, I can’t hold back on any of it – especially the painful and embarrassing parts because those are the scariest.
The radiation would destroy anything in it’s path and since my ovaries would be in the way, my eggs would not survive. Dr. Care Bear gave me 3 weeks to get it together. I had 21 very short days to research and find a clinic to harvest my eggs. So with a heavy heart, we continued on our journey to seek the Wizard, hoping that he would have all the answers I needed.
Christine Murphy said:
Thank you for your candid post. I am interested to learn about the duration of your radiation treatment and the dose, if you have any of that. I am about to undergo the same and need some advice on what to expect as side effects with regards to sexual function and other function down there… Please email me privately. Thank you!