Since much of this info is spread over many blog posts over the last two and a half years, I wanted to share the story of this cancer warrior’s journey in a single recap post …
I am heading toward seven years as a cancer warrior (I prefer that term over survivor) – PRAISE GOD!
A colonoscopy in 2007 detected a polyp that could not be removed in the procedure. So in August of 2007 they did a sigmoid colectomy (basically the section of the colon with the polyp is removed then they reconnect the two ends). The biopsy on the section removed came back as cancerous … but the surgeon declared they got it all. Thus began the cancer journey (I might add unbeknownst to me). At the time I really did not realize the bullet I had just dodged.
Colonoscopies over the next couple of years revealed no issues and life returned to normal (and pretty much to an unhealthy way from weight, diet and exercise perspectives).
Then in early 2011, I was sensing problems in the colon (something I never sensed in the 2007 episode). So in April, I had a colonoscopy that proved inconclusive so my surgeon scheduled me for another colonoscopy in August. While the August procedure revealed an unknown blockage, it did not confirm a polyp. Before the week was out I had a CT scan and a second sigmoid colectomy surgery was scheduled.
In the pre-op appointment with my surgeon I asked for worse case scenarios. His response was two-fold:
- We open you up and find widespread cancer
- The cancer has done so much damage, we will not be able to reconnect the colon and you will come out of surgery with a colostomy
And that my friend was exactly what happened. Unfortunately with the rapid sequence of events and perhaps from some misguided sense of not wanting her to worry, I failed to discuss the worse case scenarios with my wife. When I finally came out of surgery, my wife was weeping by my bedside because of decisions she had to make and a diagnosis that suggested my life would quite quickly be cut short … she was shocked that I was so calm and at peace with what she had to tell me … but God had prepared me and in that moment and the days, weeks, months and years that followed He gave me His peace … a peace which does indeed surpass all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Later they discovered the cancer had spread to my lungs with several nodules … the medical profession labels that … incurable Stage IV metastatic colon cancer.
You may wonder ‘Why the colonoscopy did not provide the early detection that is so critical in the battle against colon cancer?’ Two answers come to mind. First, the normal (and there is nothing normal about cancer) expectation is that it take 4-5 years for a polyp to grow into something cancerous – the growth of my cancer was much faster. Second, a colonoscopy looks for polyps growing on the inside of the colon … my cancer growth occurred on the outside of the colon.
God was NOT surprised and He has been IN the midst of everything that has happened … and I have always (OK, most of the time) sensed His presence!
In early September 2011, my surgeon implanted a port-catheter on my left collarbone. Biweekly chemotherapy treatments began later that month and continued through June 2013. Quarterly CT scans to monitor growth continue to this day. Every two weeks my chemo routine consisted typically of a 3-5 hour infusion session at the oncologist followed by 46 hours of wearing an infusion pump (yes, even through two nights of somewhat restless and/or evasive sleep) that constantly pumped the chemotherapy drugs into my system … over 21 months came much tiredness and weariness. I constantly have said … my battle was with the chemo not the cancer. But the cancer did not spread …
Complications with my liver (Ascities) during the summer of 2013 caused my oncologist to cease chemo for 13 weeks … he had never seen chemo cause the onset of liver problems like mine before … problems that went away with the cessation of chemotherapy. Then to his surprise the results of the CT scan at the end of that 13 weeks showed that the nodules and cysts they were tracking had all shrunk. After a 26 week break, he saw the same results. The 39 week break scan comes in February and I fully expect him to see the same thing once again.
God’s healing touch … nothing else! And I truly believe he wanted my friends, my family and my doctors to see it … while Jesus has constantly been strengthening my faith throughout this cancer journey … I’m sure you can imagine the impact seeing such results would also have upon both the faith of the cancer warrior and his loved ones!
Incurable? Maybe … but we are all dying … and God, NOT cancer, numbered all the days of my life long before I took my first breath (Psalm 139:16).
So PRAISE GOD – I find myself in the midst of a God-given intermission from the tiredness and weariness of chemo. I have no idea how long God intends for this to last … but I am learning once again to live life to the fullest in the midst … something I had really forgotten how to do long before the cancer journey began.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NASB)
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth … He has given me His strength and His power … I walk and do not grow weary. And it is so incredible …
Don’t expect me to provide any insights whatsoever about what I did to make this happen … because absolutely nothing I could do could or would make this happen. This is ALL about glorifying God not only for what He has done, but what He will do and what He is capable of doing – ALL PRAISE AND GLORY IS HIS!
Lord willing, in a future post I hope to share some of the changes going on in the midst of this divine intermission … it would seem God is not finished with me yet here on planet earth.
Filled with thanksgiving …