Day 15: Life Rerouting

Being diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer at age 32, seemed unheard of. That was almost eight years ago, and at that time my local doctor had only had one other patient under the age of 50. There are multiple studies available that support the fact that colorectal cancer is on the rise in young adults, and it is encouraging to see that an article from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute understands that a diagnosis at a younger age brings less traditional challenges that require medical teams to take more a multidisciplinary approach.

At 32, I thought fighting cancer would be like a hiccup in my life plan. Like making a wrong turn down a cul-de-sac, after rerouting it just takes a little longer to get from point A to point B. Being diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer is not like making a wrong turn, it changes your route completely and you are faced with challenges and life-long complications that you never anticipated.

After seven hospital stays in six years, my surgeon decided that I needed to have scar tissue removed from my abdomen. As I mentioned in a recent post, I have now had three different surgeries to remove this scar tissue. The last two surgeries were open abdomen. My surgeon opened my original scar – from just above my pubic bone to just above my (now non-existent) bellybutton. Recovery was rough physically and emotionally, but apparently my colon has taken this last surgery as a persona affront.

The post surgery diet is the soft-food diet. Basically if you can cut it with a plastic fork, it’s on the soft food diet. Yuck! Beginning in late January, my surgeon wanted me to increase the type of food that I eat and get off the soft food diet, but my colon is rebelling. My colon prefers smoothies, soups and carbs. Throughout the day I live on the soft food diet and then at dinner I can try other foods knowing that I will be at home should my colon choose to rebel loudly or boycott with pain.

Colorectal cancer at 32 is not a hiccup in life. This is life. For a few patients, their cancer is caught early and life goes on. For those of us that had radiation, chemotherapy and surgery after surgery, life goes on as well, but it’s just a new life. A new normal.

Last night, our youngest was playing in the bathtub and he poured a pile of conditioner into his bellybutton. With pure excitement he said, “Look! I have a stoma. Too bad you don’t have red shampoo”. New normal. My daughter and I were at the mall over the weekend, and I felt the rumble of pain go through my belly. I just looked at her and we walked quickly to the nearest restroom. While I changed the bag (which I rarely have to do in public), she casually prepared wet paper towels for me. New normal.

This summer I have to schedule a round of check-ups that are comparable to someone in assistive living. Life at 40? No. New normal.

People often say to me – you never complain.  I’m sure I do, but in reality what is there to complain about. Life is complicated. Things happen. You get retouted and sometimes you end up in a cul-de-sac.

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