It’s been a while since I’ve given a health date, and unfortunately, lots has happened. So here’s an update on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
My Physical Health: A “Brief” Summary
Back in March 2017, I had a CT scan at my 5 year cancer-free mark. My oncologist told me that this scan came back “clean”. This was only partly true. It was true that the scan showed my COLON was clean, but it showed a spot on my liver. As a colon cancer patient, I KNOW that colon cancer spreads to the liver. If it does, your chances of survival plummet.
At the end of May 2017, I went to see my family doctor for my yearly routine physical. (Honestly, I just needed to get my medication refilled and didn’t want to pay for the appointment so made it a “yearly physical” appointment so the insurance would cover it in full.) My doctor did routine blood work like anyone else would have. However, my liver enzymes came back “elevated”. Because I’m a cancer patient, this was concerning so he decided we needed to investigate it further
So, during the month of June, I had a series of imaging tests including an ultrasound, CT scan, and PET scan. Hubby questioned why we weren’t having an MRI, but I replied that I was simply doing what I was told by the doctor who was doing what was recommended by the radiologist who reviewed all of the images. All of the image studies showed the spot(s) but were inconclusive as to what it was. So, I was sent to a surgical oncologist at the local (1+ hours away) teaching hospital in July 2017.
During the appointment with the surgical oncologist who specializes in liver cancer, we determined that surgery would be possible to remove the spots, but that we needed to get an MRI that would determine if they were cancer. (I guess Hubby was right.) He also asked if I had any other issues. Hubby informed him of my digestive issues that seemed to be getting worse despite significant medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. The doctor said he had a friend who specialized in colon surgery and wanted me to see him after I had the MRI. I had the MRI which revealed two spots that were not fatty liver but were benign and harmless so we weren’t going to worry about them unless I had to have colon surgery. If I had colon surgery, we would also remove the liver spots.
So, I met with the surgeon in August about my colon. While I had thought we would meet to discuss removing a section of my colon, he felt like the best solution was to remove my entire colon. Wow! This was a shock. Hubby and I had already come to the realization that I would eventually need to have my colon removed, but we were hoping to wait until I was 40. I’m only 34. The surgeon wanted to do some other tests to make sure this was the best option and to evaluate the rest of my digestive system.
After weeks of tests, lots of pain, and multiple colon cleanses, I ended up at the GI specialist in September who wanted to do a colonoscopy. Oy vey. I had only gone 17 months since my most recent scope, although I was supposed to have been able to wait 5 years. I was crushed. But, I did the prep (the prescription cleanse AND the miralax cleanse this time) and went for my scope. After the procedure, she informed me that she didn’t see what would be causing my pain and said it was just “irritable bowel syndrome” or IBS. I cried. I was devastated. She said there was nothing she could do to help me. I was crushed.
I went back to the surgeon the next week who told me that the defecagraphy test revealed that I had anismus (problem with my rectum) and that removing my colon wouldn’t help my pain. If he did remove my colon, I would have to have an ostomy bag with no hopes of connecting the small intestine to the rectum as we had originally thought. I cried…big crocodile tears and snot everywhere. After an hour appointment, we came up with a plan to try to “reset” my colon. I had been on so much medication and such a pureed and liquid diet that we were hypothesizing that maybe my colon couldn’t function properly.
So, perhaps, if we try little or no medication and whole (chewable) foods, maybe my colon would function more normally and I wouldn’t be in as much pain. I would also need to cut back on my water consumption. (That may sound strange, but you have to understand that I was drinking approximately 170 ounces of water a day. The maximum I should have been consuming was around 100 ounces.) When I had my follow-up appointment with the GI specialist, she agreed with the surgeon, so now we at least had a plan.
We know that this “reset” plan is going to take TIME, so I have to patient, which is something I struggle with…a lot! We have started to try to become more “normal” in diet, medication, and water consumption. It’s going to be a long, often difficult and painful, ordeal as we don’t want to shock my system. So far, things seem to be going well. I’m excited to be able to eventually eat my vegetables without having to puree, liquefy, or steam them. But I have to remember that this is a slow process and not to rush it which can lead to painful set backs.
So that’s how I’m doing physically, but I hope you’ll keep reading to find out how I’m doing emotionally and spiritually and what I’ve been learning about myself and God through this physical trial.
My Emotional and Spiritual Health
I have experienced a wide range of emotions through this time. In March, I was overjoyed with the news of officially being a cancer SURVIVOR….5 years cancer free! So, in June, when we learned that there had been spots on my liver that showed up in March, I was in shock. Then I was angry because I hadn’t been told. Then I was concerned because I knew what liver spots meant to a colon cancer patient.
So, Hubby and I started planning for the worst. We had many discussions on what would most likely happen, what I wanted Bubba to be exposed to, and what I wanted Hubby to do as my health deteriorated. I literally made my bucket list, thinking that I had less than a year to live. I had a myriad of goals for the summer, assuming that I would be too sick in the fall, winter, and spring to do much. So, things like leading VBS, preserving food for the next year, and trips to the beach with my family were top on my list. I chose to distract myself with my to-do lists instead of facing reality. I didn’t want to think the worst, but I was preparing for it. Instead of focusing on God and what HE wanted me to do during this time, I busied myself with endless tasks, including decorating my house.
As we progressed from one medical test to the next, my anxiety level went through the roof. It just seemed like we were on this never-ending rollercoaster of medical test, waiting for results, scheduling the next test, waiting for results, and so on. Anxiety while waiting, joy over good results, fear about the next test.
By the time we saw the surgical oncologist in July, I just wanted the spots to be removed from my liver so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore, now or in the future. While that was, and still is, an option, at this time, it’s not the best option. Since the spots have been officially ruled benign, it’s fine to leave them and the risks and complications outweigh any benefits of surgery. At first, I was not ok with this decision, but I was given hope that we could remove part of my colon and relieve my constant pain. During that colon surgery, the oncologist would be there to remove the liver spots. Seemed like a win-win to me.
However, I left the initial appointment with the colon surgeon in shock. He wanted to remove my entire colon. That was not my plan. My plan was a simple colon resection. I didn’t want my whole colon removed. I wanted to keep it for a few more years. I wasn’t ready to live with an ostomy bag. I wasn’t ready for the lifestyle change that comes when you have no colon…uncontrollable loose bowel movements. I was angry!
Then, as we progressed through the addition medical tests, my abdomen pain increased. I became more desperate. I reached the point where I was ok, and even wanted, to have my colon removed, even if it meant an ostomy bag for life. I was in so much pain and was so miserable, I just wanted it to be over…permanently. I would try to drown my sorrows in food while binge watching shows on Netflix and on-demand when my son was at school. I felt like God was ignoring me. And since none of the doctors were able to help me, I assumed the Great Physician didn’t care and wouldn’t help either.
The pivotal point for me was Monday, October 2. I dropped Bubba off at school and was driving to pick up Hubby from work so we could ride together for the hour drive to the surgeon appointment. As I was driving down the road, I began to contemplate which side of the road would present itself as surety in my death. I was ready to literally end my life. I knew that the surgeon wasn’t going to have good news, or at least not the news I wanted to hear. I was tired of being told that no one could help me because it seemed like no one wanted to help me. I was done. I couldn’t bear to do this anymore.
I picked up Hubby and we drove the appointment, discussing the possible options that we thought would be presented. As we listened to the radio, we heard the tragic news of the shooting in Las Vegas. We learned that the shooter had taken his own life. Ironically, we discussed how we wanted to die. We agreed we wanted to go quickly and without pain. Hubby prefers a heart attack in his sleep. I suggested a car accident, but Hubby said with the advances in car safety, it’d be difficult to guarantee your death in a car accident and that you would most likely be severely injured. Honestly, that may have saved my life.
As the doctor told us that removing my colon would not guarantee eliminating my pain, I panicked. I tuned out of the appointment, knowing that I would have to live in pain forever and not wanting to do that. However, the surgeon was sympathetic and noticed that I had seemed to shut down. By the end of the appointment, we had a plan with the end results of me being “normal” again.
As we drove home, I blubbered to Hubby again about my disappointment of not being healed or cured. I shared how I wanted to be “normal”…that I thought if I could eat normal, I wouldn’t have the emotional problems because I wouldn’t be in pain and I wouldn’t be gaining weight from eating my emotions away. Then Hubby said something that has changed my life. It’s something he has said multiple times before, but it took his sternness and my brokenness for it to sink in. He said…
“If you think that being able to eat normal or seeing a certain number on the scale is going to make you happy and solve your problems, YOU ARE WRONG. Even if your abdomen pain goes away, something else WILL come up. For whatever reason, you have a low self-esteem. You always have. But NOTHING can fix that problem except for GOD. I love you, Bubba loves you. We would both do whatever we could to help you and make life easier on you. But YOU have to do the work of letting God control your life.”
That’s when the Holy Spirit started working overtime in my heart. Tons of verses that I had previously memorized came flooding back into my head, such as…
- “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew that I would have these issues. He created me this way. I just have to accept it.
- “My power is perfected in your weakness.” – Paul had asked Christ to take away the thorn in his flesh three times before he realized that this thorn was for God’s glory. Maybe my abdomen pain was not to teach me something but for God to teach someone else something through my experience.
- “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – God made this promise to me, and HE doesn’t break His promises. I’m not alone through this. God is RIGHT HERE WITH ME.
- “Be JOYFUL always. Pray continually. Give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – No matter what my circumstances may be, God’s will is for me to be joyful and to give thanks always..in good times and bad times.
- “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus told us that we WILL have trouble but that He has already conquered the world for us.
- “NOTHING can separate us from the love of God…“- N.O.T.H.I.N.G.!!!
- “I have learned to be content in ALL circumstances…” – It’s a learning process and God will help me to learn…if I allow Him.
After I dropped Hubby off at work, I was driving back to town to run some errands. The song “Thy Will Be Done” came on the radio. (Click here to listen/watch.) As I sobbed through the song, I realized that God could and would use my current pain for His glory. He does hear me when I cry out to Him. He wants to give me good gifts from above. I have to submit to Him and allow Him to work in life, in every situation.
As I continued through my errands and went to pick up Bubba from school, I completely surrendered this situation to God. I realized that I had been so focused on my digestive system and how to satisfy it, I have neglected God and how to satisfy and please Him. In a way, I had made my digestive system my idol.
In the days and weeks since then, I have shared my story with others and have shared how I was/am depressed. It’s amazing how once you share your story, others will share theirs and it can be a huge encouragement to you and to them. I have been able to reach out to friends who have cried and prayed with me, who have encouraged me. God has brought the JOY back to my life as I have focused on helping others and serving God through serving others. I have a renewed desire to go to church, whereas I had dreaded it for weeks beforehand.
So, let me wrap this up by saying this:
- If you feel like no one cares or no one wants to help you, if you’re overwhelmed by a trial or just by life in general, if you think that ending your life is the best way out, PLEASE reach out to someone.
- If you can sense a friend is depressed, overwhelmed, or seems to be withdrawn, don’t give up on them. Reach out, and continue to reach out even if (and especially when) they withdraw or deny their depression.
I pray that this has encouraged you. I don’t share my story to get sympathy or so you feel bad for me. I share my story to bring hope and encouragement to someone else and to ultimately bring glory to God.