Recovering from surgery is a long and emotionally trying process. Each day you wait patiently for improvement, for your limb, shoulder, hip, heart, bowels, or whatever was operated on to return to some level of normalcy or regularity. You wait eagerly to get on with your life… maybe even, your new and improved life, as the surgery treated some discomfort, pain or ailment.
Recovering from surgery while fighting cancer is different, it is no longer only a process to return to normal, but a time to try and regain strength, focus, resilience. After surgery life doesn’t simply go on, it is not guaranteed, instead you are returning from a short “medical” leave and then urgently shipped back to the battlefield.
During my first month after a sigmoid colon resection I saw a lot of physical healing to my actual incisions, but felt little improvement to my internal digestion process. Painful cramping, bloating, indigestion, countless trips to the bathroom, accompanied by endless hours of insomnia left me weak and in a fog. When in darkness you grasp for the smallest amount of light and trudge forward, and I had my army and torches to help guide me. The fog lasted until about Christmas day and then something amazing happened, my own little miracle, as if someone flipped on a light switch my body decided it was time to start working again. What plagued me for the past month suddenly gave way to better digestive habits, decreasing pains, and a little bit more sleep. It was just in time as my body had withered down to a measly 130 lbs. But in my mind, 130 lbs is a great platform to build on!
Over the next three weeks I ate pretty much everything in sight, trying to gain as much weight, strength and energy back as possible. As my energy returned and immune system stabilized I was even able to treat my beautiful fiance Amanda to a romantic New Years dinner on the town which included a delicious glass of Malbec (my first glass of wine in 6 months.) Basically, my life returned to normal for three weeks and I was happy, we were happy. It was if there was a cease fire called on the battlefield to celebrate the new year, the front lines on either sides had time to sit back and gaze at the stars, and if you stared at them long enough you might even forget about the battle around you…
The harsh reality with cancer, especially stage IV cancer is that even when you remove everything you can see, there is sometimes some you can’t see and it likes to return. As the light switches on for my body to heal and regain strength, it is also turning on the green light to continue my treatment, to continue my fight to prevent this disease from returning. Come Monday the cease fire is over and the battle starts again. My remaining treatment includes 6 more cycles of FOLXFOX chemotherapy (48 hours on and 12 days off for 12 weeks) which will be promptly followed by 25 radiation treatments (5 days on, 2 days off for 5 weeks.) Just as I said on day one, I believe I am going to beat this challenge, I am going to beat this illness, that I remain on my “Path to a Cure“: “I firmly believe I will reach this goal, and that all of your support, prayers, emails and votes of confidence will only push me harder until I have driven every …last…. drop… of this disease from my body.“
Well troops, it looks like we are on the final leg on this triathlon, this battle against cancer. The first leg we pounded the monster into submission, the chemotherapy shrunk and killed the tumors, weakening their defenses and allowing more effective surgeries. The Second leg we attacked, destroyed, and surgically removed its 9 outposts throughout my liver and its homebase of operations in my colon. Now on the third and final leg we are going to wipe out any of the stragglers, the splinter cells, the killers hiding deep inside, because when it comes to cancer cells, we show no mercy. Make no mistake about it, this is war and the enemy wants to kill you, so when the red light switches on, ALL WEAPONS FIRE.
Much Love – Teej