Too Soon Wildfire: Colon Cancer
[The timeline of age, dates and characters are fictional. I used no real persons or descriptions of any real persons during this essay.]
I sat patiently in the examination room with its endearing holy white presence called paint. It was quiet and eerie on a sunny day in Torrance, California. The room had no windows to the outside world. I sat in the waiting room thinking about how my wife was not here with me because she was at work. The last time I was in a silent examination room was only two, maybe three weeks ago. I had a colonoscopy performed, a procedure where the doctor removes a tumor called a polyp and could examine it for cancer. That time came for me to hear whether I had colon cancer or not.
The door opened with a creak and there was Dr. Clovis in his fancy white lab coat, blue dress shirt with a strange orange tie and black slacks. In his hands, a folder with papers, the results. He had a faint smile and reached across the room to give me a firm handshake. I stood up and returned the handshake feeling his grimaced tone, then sat back down. The doctor went over to a board that lit up as he grabbed some scan sheets from my previous CT scan from the folder and clipped them onto the lighted board. He went over my previous friend, the polyp, then looked over at the rest of the contents in the folder. The doctor explained how the tumor was cancerous, how it metastasized beyond the colon into another part of my body. My eyes widened as I shifted in my chair uncomfortably, and stared blankly at the wall behind Dr. Clovis. In my mind, the past sprang up, how short a life I lived. Then, all the possibilities of the future flooded my mind. My future goals seemed to fade away in a black void, my family, friends, the world.
I bounced back to reality realizing the doctor was asking if I was all right. Yet he knew what I was thinking, my future, my goals, the dreadful news of having cancer.
“Yes….Yes I’m okay, just a lot to take in,” I said calmly.
Dr. Clovis, felt unusually comfortable with my contradicting statement, because he was an odd fellow himself, especially the way he dressed; feeling top notch, yet worrying about the disease. He asked me what I would like to do next, mentioning surgery as a recommendation to remove what could be removed of the colorectal cancer. No words could escape my mouth. For a minute or two nothing was said, until the doctor recommended that I get back to him when I’m ready.
“Take the rest of the day to think about this, or maybe two, and call my office number when you are ready,” he said with a sympathetic tone.
I stood up slowly, making eye contact once more with the doctor, and shook his hand. Before he let go, he put the folder of my results down on the chair beside him and cupped my hand with both of his. An unusual feeling of “I know how you feel” ran through my nerves.
Finally home, waiting for my wife to return, I sat in my comfy arm chair, because it helped me to relax, but it didn’t. I blankly stared at the bookshelf in the left corner, looking at a book titled, “History of Spain.” As I thought more of the news I got earlier this afternoon, the front door opened as my wife came in and somehow knew I was in the living room, because that’s where all my history books were. Turning to her left, she saw my blank stare glaring at the bookshelf adjacent to her. Walking over, she knelt down and held my hand, somehow knowing. When I stared like that, she knew something was wrong, especially after today. I could barely explain about the results, but she knew. I began to cry, finally letting go of all the emotions I held inside. I was only twenty-six and a half, realizing how short life really was. My wife embraced me, not knowing what to say at the given moment.
Two days later, on a Sunday afternoon after church, I was home, washing dishes after lunch. My wife was upstairs, taking a shower, washing out the mud she got from a game the youth group played. My mind was free to think again. This time my thoughts randomly drifted to the mesothelioma survivor, James “Rhio” O’Conner. I thought about how his life was affected by this cancer; a malignant tumor of the covering of the lung or the lining of the pleural and abdominal cavities, often associated with exposure to asbestos. He was diagnosed with this and was expected to only live a year, yet he outlived it by six, because he made a fighting effort to research ways and come up with his own methods to combat this cancer. I stopped washing the dish that was in my hand and I smiled. My foot stomped the tiled kitchen floor as I found myself again. This story brought up a new light, either do the research myself or give up and count my days. I had to do the research, I couldn’t give up, there was so much going for me!
I dropped the dish I stopped washing and it broke on the floor as I reached for the home phone next to the toaster. Dialing in the numbers, I called the doctor’s office and surprisingly he picked up. The surgery was scheduled in a month or so, with a surgery prep beforehand. My wife bolted in the kitchen and looked at the broken dish. I embraced her and explained that I was going to fight this!
Over the next month I did what I could before the surgery, asking friends, my wife, and family what was possible. I visited two doctors on their free time and asked as well. After the surgery, and after a thorough examination of the surgery some time later, Dr. Clovis once again gave me some more grieving news. The cancer continued to metastasize, infecting my lymph nodes, stage three. Things looked grim, but I didn’t want to give up. My wife continued to push me forward, as well as the doctor himself. Over the course of the next six months, he gave me treatments with 5-FU (www.cancermonthly.com) , to help combat the cancer. He explained there was only a small chance of it working and how it would only reduce the size by either half if not less than half (www.cancermonthly.com).
I continued to do research for countless hours over the months as the cancer itself was fluctuating in my body. It made me weak at times and I even vomited on occasions. Then there were times I felt as strong as an ox. Over time, I compiled all the research I could possibly do. Among this research included: 5-FU and the other treatments my doctor gave, eating healthier, resting my body more, and much more. My wife could not help but laugh when she went over my notes, seeing some on the floor and the scattered mess among my study desk. This research included the history and origins of some of these treatments.
For the next four years, he would battle what he nicknamed the bubonic plague to him, as I heard it so many times. It tricked him time and again. I watched my husband lay in a hospital bed, feeling weak and appearing as pale as a ghost. He had done what he always done, go beyond what he was possibly capable of to fight this infection, even when it reached the final stage in the last few months. Yet like all viruses in advanced stages, it finally took a toll on him. Surgery became useless even after three operations. Money meant nothing to him and it had emotionally drained him. The only thing that had a meaning at the end was his family, friends, and God. Although dying, I know in my heart he was blessed to have a great life with wonderful people by his side, somehow knowing that God would watch over them, because I seen how many were touched during his trial. He never gave up in the end, especially because of James “Rhio” O’Conner’s inspiring story; it helped steer my husband in the right direction to take up arms and go out into the battlefield. He enjoyed his fight. At last, as he closed his eyes, I felt his hands embrace my hands. The last thing I saw from him was his tears of joy and his warming smile.
[More information about mesothrlioma can be found at: www.survivingmesothelioma.com ]
By: Freeman, Thomas