Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flower of Hope

The words you never expect to hear. The thing that happens to other people. The moment that changes your life forever. October 18th is a difficult day for me. It’s the day I heard the words, “We found cancer.” I was 38 years old and I never expected to be told that I had stage IIIc colon cancer. There was no history of cancer in my family, still I am the only one.  And colon cancer is not expected in a person 38 years old - I must say I was the youngest person in my oncologist's office, and each new doc I have is surprised that I had it, at my age, with no family history.


So, I get a little melancholy this time of the year. I think of all the things that could have been, all the things that have been and wonder what things I will still get to be a part of. Today, I have more hope than I did four years ago. I have lived through chemotherapy, I have found remission, and I have been lucky enough to be blessed with three grandchildren, and to see one of my children get married. These are things I wasn’t so sure I would ever see, when I heard those words, “We found cancer.”

I remember being in a store shortly after my diagnosis and overhearing a woman talking about her 40th anniversary. I started crying. Would I see my 40th birthday, let alone my 40 year anniversary, at that time I wondered if I would ever get to see our 5 year anniversary - well I did, we’ve been married 6 years now and who knows, maybe I will get to see 40.

There is a high risk, a high chance, a high probability, of recurrence - those words are repeated all throughout my medical charts. Reality bites! There is a greater chance of it coming back than there is of it staying away. And, I think part of my trouble with this particular anniversary, the 4 yr anniversary of my diagnosis, is that I am currently in a scare. I know, I haven’t mentioned it, but I think about it every single day.

When I went for my check up in August, I told you that all tests were ok and they were, except, well Dr. Onc decided to run a CT Scan and when you get a phone call from the oncologist, himself, you know it's never good news.  A few spots were seen in the chest cavity - Dr Onc says the chances are very good that they will be nothing, but because of my history I need to see him in November and have more scans and such.  So my plans of having Portia (my chemo port) removed this month came crashing down.

I tell myself it’s all ok, that I have had issues before and each time things have turned out ok. But I’m really scared. I think I could liken this to pregnancies - I got more worried with each pregnancy, thinking I had already had X number of healthy babies that the odds were against me having yet another healthy infant. So, I guess it’s just the way of me to worry more with each scare. So far, I’ve had needle biopsies that have ended up being ok, then earlier this year was the liver enzyme scare that ended up ok, now this - what if. . .

I will be spending this day at Lambeau Field having a tail gate party with friends, then the evening will be spent with my husband. What do I call this? It’s not a happy anniversary day that’s for sure, it’s not a celebration, but what ever it is, this day does not go unnoticed. The day is noted, the one that changed my life forever, the one that reminded me my days are numbered, ours all are.  It's the one day each year I will allow myself to wallow a little if I need to, have my little pity party, get ticked off, then get back up fighting.  It's all I can do - keep fighting, keep going, keep living each day like it might be the last, but also like it's the first, if that makes sense.

I do want to share the post I wrote four years ago, when I got the news, these were my feelings at the moment of finding out.  To clarify a little, I went through denial for months and months, up until after my surgery at least, I expected to hear a doctor say that they were wrong, that it was not cancer after all - sometimes I still hope to hear those words.  I shared my denial with my family, when I first told them the news, I told them the doctor thought it might be, even though the doctor never used the word 'might'.


Cancer - way off topic of house building

After eight years of having issues with my stomach I had a test on Tuesday and the Doctor says it's cancer.  Three years ago I had every test imaginable except the colonoscopy.  Six years ago I had every test imaginable except the colonoscopy.  Since we started building the house I've had more issues and more pain so I finally could put the test off no longer.  Other doctors had wanted to do, even scheduled me for, this test and I always chickened out.  I couldn't do it.  I was embarrassed and scared.  I just couldn't.

Well, I went to an internal medicine doctor in July or August because things had gotten so much worse over the last few months.  The pain was coming more often and the blood was coming more and more and sometimes was straight blood.  Also, I have lost 28 lbs in the last few months.  So I was scheduled to do it in September and I moved the appointment because I was too busy on the house.  Then I was supposed to do it on Sept 29, but we were totally busy trying to move.  I forgot about the appointment.  Oct 2 I spent three hours in the ER because the pain was so bad I could not walk without tremendous pain.  The ER drew blood and said everything looked fine and I should reschedule the colonoscopy.   They told me to take Tylenol and sent me home -  my husband got pissed.  Oct 3 I called and explained everything to the gastroenterologist's office and they got me scheduled for the 18th.

I overcame the fear of the test because of the fear of not having the test and made it to the appointment.  Immediately before the procedure I told the doctor that I knew it wasn't cancer because I'd already be dead by now.  The IV that was placed was not in right so my medication did not help the procedure.  I remember everything that happened and I felt everything because the medication went under my skin instead of in my vein.  Needless to say the doctor did not finish the procedure.  He stopped because of the pain and the mass.  He told my husband and I that I have cancer.  He set me up with a CT scan on Wednesday and a surgeon next week.

We went home puzzled that he could KNOW it was cancer that quickly but apparently he can.  He has years of experience and according to my regular doctor he is able to tell by seeing it.

I had the CT scan Wednesday but won't get the results until next Thursday when I see the surgeon.

Today I saw my regular doctor and she tells me that on the positive side of things the cancer has not "broke through the wall" and has not spread to my liver. She's not sure if my treatment will entail chemo but she seems to think it might.  She could tell me no more, she couldn't tell me that I don't have to count days.  She just said that when I see the surgeon I need to know that his suggestions are the ones he thinks will save my life and that I need to be most concerned with what will save my life not things like the fact that I don't want a colostomy.

I told all four of my kids Tuesday evening that the doctor thought it might be cancer and I had to have some more tests.  My daughter (19) told me that if I had to have chemo she would cut her hair (which she never does) so that I would have hair.  :)  Wednesday morning Mikal (17) got up and let the dogs out & in, fed and watered them and swept the hallway before he left for school.  Khristiaan (16) had a lot of questions, some of which I could answer.  I don't think Haden (14) fully comprehends.

I told my daughter today.  Before I told her it might be, but 2 doctors have said it so now it's real.  She cried even though I tried to reassure.  I told her to talk to her dad and her step-mom (she's an RN) and they would help her feel better.  I reminded her that cancer treatment has improved a lot and that it isn't a death sentence anymore.  Just sucks I can't hold her and tell her everything will be ok.

My kids are full of many of the same questions I have and I can't answer and it's so hard.  My husband and I were totally floored by the diagnosis, we were not expecting this at all.  We thought it might be Crohn's disease or something similar.  So now he's trying to finish this house on his own.  We have to have it done by the end of the month so we can get the reappraisal and close on the new loan.  We've already locked in our rate; we have to close in November.  I feel bad that he now has to carry more of the load and me less but honestly I have less pain when I do less.

I hope by sharing this that maybe I have just helped someone gain the courage to get things checked, don't let it get as bad as I did before you go.  I am praying I didn't wait too long.  I finally did it (the colonoscopy) and you can too.


FYI: Statistically Lung cancer is still the number one cause of cancer death, colorectal is number two and breast number three - any ideas why I get so ticked off that breast cancer gets loads more coverage?  In 2009 alone, it is estimated 49,960 people will die of colorectal cancer and 40,170 of breast cancer.  Because I am a woman people assume I had breast cancer, women's cancer magazines are aimed at women with breast cancer.  I'm here to tell you women can, and do, get other kinds of cancer!


Humor is a petal on the flower of hope, and hope blossoms on the vine of faith ~ Dean Koontz (Life Expectancy)


  1. I just want you to know I was here... but I couldn't read your whole post.
    my husband died because of cancer.... 2 days before his 38th birthday.

  2. Wow Lisa. I had no idea. I have come into reading your words and watching your pictures with delight in the summer... we never know what the lives of those on the other side of the computer monitor are dealing with. You should absolutely mark this day. It isn't always the happy times or the overtly sad times but the times that change our lives that should be marked. I am wishing you good health, and peace in the knowledge that you are doing what you need to be doing, here and now. I am so happy for you that you are share your stories and your beautiful images and your grandbabies and your kind and generous spirit. And thank you also that you mention that Breast Cancer isn't the only one, especially for women. My very favorite aunt died of another cancer, I do not recall which one, but it wasn't what most would have thought. Know that I am thinking of you. Remember my quote... "Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day." I hope you can seek out the "something good" tomorrow. Enjoy the day! Erin

  3. *sigh* I hate that word. I think it touches all of us one way or another. My friend called two days ago to tell me she has breast cancer. She is in her early 40's. I am so glad you fought and made it. I will keep you in my thoughts, along with all the other people I know going through this right now, and send you my strength. Love you!

  4. I think you are an inspiration to others; to bad you had to go through it to inspire people. I think getting it at the age you did is more common than doctors make out. I read about a man who went to a few doctors over a period of a year or so and they told him he had hemorrhoids and finally he got someone to do more tests and it was colon cancer. He died at 35 leaving a wife and young children because they found it too late. Sirdar's aunt who is 91 has just finished a bout of Chemo. They couldn't do surgery due to her age and weakened state, but they thought the chemo would sustain her and give her a better quality of life for the time she has left. Last week my dad went in because of bleeding. He went to his doctor who he has been seeing for about a year and she told him it was hemorrhoids. He is 70 years old; I would think he would have suffered from them before and would know if they were or weren't hemorrhoids. He told her he has diverticulitis and was hospitalized for that once in the past. She then decided to listen to him. I think there are awesome doctors out there, but sometimes there are those who don't know that some people know their body. I think there are many cases where people don't know and it is wonderful to have doctors who know there stuff. It is important to have a check up, important to be persistent if things aren't right and seek other opinions if necessary. Cancer touch all of us in some way, some closer than others. You are an inspiration and you have a right to spend you anniversary date a little melancholy because you have to spend the other 364 days fighting.

  5. Oh Lisa. I've read your mentions of being a cancer survivor before, but I didn't know the details that you shared here...I'm glad you finally had the test that you needed to find out what you were dealing with and get it treated, and I hope others read your story and do the same.

    I was diagnosed with skin cancer a little over three years ago, I had surgery to remove it right before my 39th birthday. It gave me a new perspective on life - and how to live it - too, but I think I've been losing sight of that perspective lately. Thanks for the inspiration to live each day as if it could be your last - because the truth is, we all have a limited amount of time here, we just don't know how long that time is.

  6. I hope all goes well for you with the next check-up. I admire your courage and your honesty and your knowledge.I feel for you.

  7. I am so sorry you are going through this period of stress and worry. You will certainly be in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your life so openly with us.

  8. oh lisa....i had no idea! i can't even imagine what you've already gone through and living with this fear now. you will be in my prayers. hugs!!

  9. I already knew the details and keep you in my prayers on a regular basis. You really are such a wonderful inspiration and pillar of strength to others! I can imagine the fear you are feeling right now, I've had several long term wait and see scares myself - we can't not let our minds wander to the what ifs, it's just human nature. I will keep you close in thought and know that I am only an email away if you ever need a shoulder or anything else! I'm here for you!
    Love and hugs, Martha

  10. are an amazing inspiration to all of us. And you are in my prayers. Live life to the fullest girl! I hope all goes well for you!

  11. i've been away for awhile. got caught up in the rat race and a new job. dove back into my photos tonight an am visiting some old "friends" online - even though it's waaaaay past my bedtime. Find it no coincidence that i rediscovered your blog today, of all days. My mom is is a cancer survivor, too.

    Just thought you should know i'm thinking of you - hoping for the best.

  12. Lisa,
    Sending hugs your way. I'm sure this is a difficult day, and one I can't fully begin to comprehend. Life is such a precious gift...and one that we never know when it might end here on earth. Know that I'm thinking of you today, and know that you matter...your life matters...

  13. Thats the attitude to live with... no matter what happens... You have so many people looking up to you just because of this...

  14. Sending you a hug... nothing more because sometimes a hug is enough. There's been so much cancer in my family. I fear it every day even though I don't have it. I think most of us feel that fear because so many of us have had someone close to us diagnosed. Just so sorry you are having to deal with this because NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO... NO ONE!!

    Live for today.

  15. Lisa,
    I am overjoyed that you have made it through all the hardship you have been through.
    I also feel sad that you have had to endure and survive so much hardship!
    I hold you in my heart of hearts, wishing you vitality, health and a life overflowing with dreams come true.

  16. I wish the best for you Lisa and I hope the spots on your CT scans are benign. I usually post in the morning but I am really late today because yesterday I drove to Tampa to visit our good friend and co-worker who recently got burned, and my sister has finished her 2nd of 6 chemo treatments for breast cancer and is having trouble with allergic reactions to the chemo. Too much on my mind today so I am taking it slow. I guess we just have to face up to it...Life is hard...but never give up! Give your battle all you've got and let your family help you along the way.
    love ya,

  17. What a testimony you have to encourage and spread seeds of hope and instill a desire to be vigilant with our lives and health. I am often encouraged by your blog, and am glad to have connected with you in this way. Thanks for such candid sharing. May God continue to bless you and your family in amazing ways. I am thankful for you!

  18. May the Lord bless you with excellent health and no reoccurance. I am a survivor and know the fear and uneasiness when facing an upcoming test. When I keep my eyes looking up, the fear is replaced with peace.

  19. Been thinking about you! God bless.

  20. Oh Lisa ... my heart goes out to you. I'm praying for you and that nothing is coming back. This is one anniversary you certainly don't want ... and it sounds like you've been lucky so far so I'm keeping that in mind that it will still be this way. From what I've seen on your blog in the short time I've "known" you, you've made the most of your life. You seem like a happy person with a vital life force and you are surrounded by love and grandchildren. Sending you hugs and good wishes.

  21. Okay, now I'm even sorrier for being so far behind. Hang in there girl. You'll be alright, the good ones always are.

  22. I didn't know that colorectal cancer was number 2 and I am sure I'm not the only one. This was difficult to read not because I have cancer, I don't. But it made me think back to the day I was told I had multiple sclerosis and how I felt. MS doesn't usually take people's lives, but I really understand the wondering of what life could have been, what will it be and the toll it takes on the people who love you. I think denial is the first step to dealing with any loss. Then anger and bargaining and then acceptance and then back again. I think that you have really helped people to see that and also how important these tests are even if they are kind of scary. And how life is such a gift and how I know you treasure each and every moment. Don't you wish that everybody did.... I will keep you in my thoughts...Michelle

  23. Hugs to you Lisa. It's not everyday that we meet a fighter quite like yourself. :) God Bless and good luck in Nov.

  24. I knew. I remember because it's around thge time of my birthday. I still remember last year's post.
    I hope all goes well for you. ((( Big big hug. )))

    PS Any chance of meeting up in Chicago? To celebrate all is well? I'd love to meet you?

  25. I had no idea. Thank you so much for your sharing of this intimate part of your life. Not knowing is almost harder than knowing, sometimes. I so appreciate your courage in sharing. And all of us need to live life as if it is our last day, and our first as well, and not get freaked out or depressed in that knowledge. I commend and support you in your quest to live the conscious, spiritually aware life. Best of luck and wishes for a long and happy life to you.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Lisa. You are helping others by telling your story. You are an inspiration. Blessings and hugs.

  27. I lost a friend (in her 30s) to colon cancer. her Dr didn't even push for the tests, because he told her she was too young.

    I had my first colonoscopy here.
    And will be looking at another one in in 2 years.

    Hope you will smile for a minute when you read it.

  28. Dear Lisa,
    As a newbie here, applaud you for sharing such difficult feelings in the hopes of helping others. (How I wish many friends of mine would have their routine checkups of all sorts.) You've been through too much, but faced it with courage and you've survived and seen life unfold with its treasures. I dearly hope you remain in remission. I'm glad you have a thorough dr. and even if there's another scare, you WILL beat it.

    BTW, all of my cameras are Canons, too, although I have not used them to the extent you guys have. I recently discovered photography, moving from a Canon G shot (I think it was called) several years ago to the first Rebel and recently to a 50D with an added L lenses I'm hungering to try out. Keep enjoying each day. I LOVE your photography.


  29. you are a brave person:)... and i know, you'll get through this... it won't be easy but you have shown inner strength that made you and is still making you overcome this difficult trial... and with the love of people around you, i know you'll keep that positive attitude you've always shown...