Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One Year Later - A Cancer Story, Part One

I returned to work yesterday after a two week vacation.  We actually stayed home so technically, I suppose it was a “stay-cation” so to speak.  Originally, Mark had planned to take off the second week with me.  With very little arm twisting, I convinced him to take the whole two weeks off instead.  Business is very slow for him in August so he wouldn’t be missing much and, that first week was a short one due to the holiday.  Now that we’re both back to the grindstone, I know he is glad to have had a long, two-week break.

This is the first time since we’ve been together (14 years) that he has had an actual 2 week vacation.  Last year, he missed several weeks of work, but recovering from surgery isn’t exactly a holiday.

Speaking of that, it’s very hard to realize that at this time last year, Mark was in the hospital, waiting to be sent home after having a piece of his bowel removed.  It was a bit of a scary time for us.  We knew that the surgeon felt that the operation was a success but we didn’t know what the results of the biopsy would be for a few weeks.  His cancer could have spread to other organs or to his lymph nodes.  At that time, we just had to be patient. 

In honour of the anniversary of his surgery, I’m going to share some posts here which I have kept private until now.  They were emails I sent to our friends and family while Mark was in the hospital.  Over the next few days, I’ll be publishing them here as a series.

Early detection was the key to our good luck and I feel like it would be good karma to share our story on the outside chance that someone else is going through what we have already lived.

This first missive was sent out to some close friends on August 14, 2012:

On July 30th Mark was officially diagnosed with Colon Cancer.  We were 99% sure he had it after a colonoscopy on July 13 (the doctor doing the test basically told him he did and they sent the nurse navigator in to see us and they don't do that if it's just a polyp).  While he was having his pre-surgery tests for his Kidney Stone surgery, he was diagnosed as being slightly anemic.  When he did his fecal occult screening test, it came back wonky, hence the colonoscopy.  He had a CT scan the week of July 23 and it looks like all of his vital organs are clear.  The surgery he's having is a hemi-colectomy.  His tumor is in the ascending colon so they will basically take out the right side of his colon and reattach it.  He is having his surgery today and he'll be in the hospital for about 7 days (until they are sure that everything is healing correctly, he is eating normally and his bowels are working - apparently your stomach become paralyzed during this surgery so they have to make sure it's working again).  I'll be taking an extra week off to be home with him for at least the first week when he's home from the hospital.  It's pretty major surgery, he'll have an 8 inch incision so, as Mark said to the surgeon, his swimsuit modeling days are over!  As cancer goes, this is a good one to have.  When they remove the colon, they will biopsy the lymph nodes and if they are clear, he will not need to do chemo so we're hoping for that.  It seems like it was caught early so we're pretty optimistic.

Of course, Mark is all "sure, you're tired, but I HAVE CANCER" or to which I keep having to remind him, "Yeah, but you won't have cancer in a few days so shut up about it already!"  Fun and games with the cancer jokes!

We're keeping this one really close to the chest because we don't want everyone and their uncle talking about how so and so had it and they died or had five million terrible things happen to them.... also, he does not want it getting onto Facebook.  If it were to get back to his demented sister in law, she'd just be way too happy to hear that he had something like this.  asshat.  We have told my parents and Patrick (and swore them to secrecy) and some folks at work because I have no idea exactly if I'll be back to work on August 27 or beyond that.

So that’s what we’ll be doing this week.  I expect that he’ll be released around August 20, barring any complications and will be home from work for at least 3 to 4 weeks recovering.

I’ll probably drop you a line in a mass email later  today to let folks know how he made out with his surgery (he told a few of his friends finally – no one his family knows still, over the past couple of days) and will keep you posted.

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