#4 The Diagnosis
After a full week of scans, testing and meetings with doctors, the verdict, though still inconclusive, suggests that I have Stage 3 rectal cancer, with possible spread to lymph nodes.
It’s Stage 3 because the cancerous mass is, in fact, through the wall of the rectum. It is not contained as originally indicated in earlier testing. The MRI showed enlarged lymph nodes in the immediate area. As best they can tell, there is no indication of any spread of the cancer to any other parts of my body.
The treatment plan uniformly recommended by my medical team includes 5.5 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation Monday through Friday. The goal is to shrink the tumor and kill the cancer cells, pre-surgery. Then after a period of recovery from the treatment, I’ll need to have laparoscopic surgery to remove the tumor and related lymph nodes for assessment. This process will also remove most of my rectum. If all goes to expectation, that should do what is necessary to eliminate the cancerous activity. Though, if they find any remaining after they test the cells, there might be extended chemotherapy.
The reality of this diagnosis and treatment plan is starting to sink in. I’ve rummaged through the stages of grief with all of this all week and found connections to all of them.
Shock catches me as I’ve sat and waited for a test or appointment with the doctor. There are times when complete and utter disbelief overtake me.
“How and why is this cancer happening to me?” lurks in the background then shows up with regularity.
Then, I catch myself in complete denial.
“It is not happening. It can’t be.”
Anger, fear, uncertainty and numbness. They all absorb me and grab me for a time.
“What did I do to cause this?” holds my attention longer than most.
In late night hours of sleeplessness and the moments when concentration on the task at hand is lost, I’ve catalogued in my mind all the causes of this disease for which I might be personally responsible.
Was it my love of Coca Cola in my twenty-something years? Or the extreme stress I lived under during my thirties? Did my time as a frequent flyer and the road-warrior diet that accompanied it cause this? Or, is it the amount of sitting I have done at my office desk trying to build a business over the last 13 years? The list of self-induced causes seems particularly easy to document. The coffee? The sugar? The Scotch whisky? The cell phone? The multiple computer screens? The list grows if I let it.
It’s easy for me to think that life is the absence of the crappy and difficult things that show up. Thus, the goal is to get rid of them as soon as possible.
I’ve looked at my Athletic Greens powder, Vitamin C, and other supplements and conspired to have them work with me to destroy the cancer before the chemo and radiation begins. “I’ll just double the dosage.” seems appropriate I think.
But then, in the stillness of my morning mediation, or the times when my foundation feels solid from the support I have received from so many, I know the plan. I accept my fate in it and am ready to face that which lies ahead of me.
I have rectal cancer. I will have chemotherapy and radiation. I will have surgery and all that comes with it.
A Zen Proverb reminds me, “The obstacle is the path.”
This newly discovered cancer, its treatment and its effects are life. My life. They are my path.
There is a greater meaning to this. It’s my task to find it. There is a purpose for this new reality in my journey.
So, I will find it, try and learn it, and if I do, I will share it with you.
Becky continues to shoulder this new reality with me. There is no one you would ever want more in your corner than her. She’s single-handedly managing a complex healthcare system, insurance and all the details that come with that. And that’s after all the amazing things she does already to make our lives, our family and business work. I am the luckiest man in the world to be her husband.
Thanks for your support and concern, your prayers, your energy and your love.
I am a blessed man to have you in my life.
Stay tuned to this page to be updated on what is happening with me in the days and months ahead.