Dec 262014
1/2 through rectal cancer treatment

At the 1/2 way point

I am about halfway through treatment for rectal cancer.  I went in today to have an IV port inserted to help with chemotherapy injections.  If you’d like to know more about how these ports work, there is a nice blog, written by a cancer patient, here.   The insertion was painless  and only took a couple hours 🙂  I can’t say that I am looking forward to chemo, but my oncologist tells me that most people tolerate my regimen fairly well.  I will have 8 rounds of treatment with two weeks between rounds, so I will finish chemo sometime in April if all goes as planned.  The infusions will be done in Grinnell and will take about two hours per treatment.  I talked to the surgeon that did my colonoscopy and the port insertion.  He says that the bowel resection I had done in November is the worst part of the treatment for this cancer.  woo-hoo!  After chemotherapy is completed, we will allow some time for my body to heal, then put my intestines back together and remove the port. The pain from the resection is starting to improve, and I have a prescription for Vicodin for the pain from the port insertion, which I barely feel anyway.

I am sick of the rectal cancer.   I  know that this will be a life changing event for me and I am curious about the person I will become.  I have a feeling that chasing my dreams in life will mean more and financial security will mean much less than it does now.   After all, what good is financial security if you are not living a life that reflects who you are and who you want to be?

The way I see people is also changing.  I am an introvert and a “transplant” to this small town in the Midwest.  Before I was diagnosed, I struggled with depression and fatigue.  Although this frequently kept me in bed resting instead of church on Sunday mornings, my church family has faithfully supported me and prayed for me throughout this ordeal.   Although I rarely see the best of people in my job as a claims adjuster (because I talk to them when they are stressed and out of sorts) my coworkers have humbled me with all the help that they have offered.   Of course, my friends and family have also been great–but I always knew they were wonderful.

I view medical care differently too.  I plan to take more responsibility for my own health and rely less on medical care providers for referrals to screenings I may need.   Nobody has more at stake in maintaining my health than I do, and I plan to step up and take care of it!  I encourage you to do the same.  Find out what screenings are appropriate for your age, gender and health status and get them.   While a colonoscopy is not anyone’s idea of a fun time, an early diagnosis with effective treatment of pre-cancerous polyps is a much better alternative than waiting and going through treatment for advanced rectal cancer.

Resources from

Dec 202014
Patient and doctor

Patient and doctor

First off, let me thank all the medical care providers helping me beat cancer!   My treatment plan is about 1/2-way done and at every step I am getting the best results possible.   I’m giving a shout out to GOD and the power of PRAYER, too.   Thank you to all the friends, family, church family and others that have stood by me with all kinds of help.   That said, I have a couple of pet peeves I’m going to throw out there.

1) I totally understand that my doctors have to ask about my symptoms.   They need to know do I feel light-headed, nauseous, or otherwise unwell.   They also need to monitor me for anemia and I appreciate that they let me know how my blood work and other tests come out.   However, it’s not necessary to ask if I have this or that symptom “yet.”   To me, that implies it is just a matter of time before I experience that symptom and I have to speak out and say: “No, and I don’t plan to invite that symptom into my life….please don’t add “yet” to that question. This probably sounds like nitpicking to many people, but I believe strongly in the power of our language and the words we use.

2)  Here means different things to different people.  Please don’t leave an answering machine message saying you are with so and so’s office and I have an appointment “here” with the date and time.  Does here mean the town?  The hospital?  The medical center?  The doctor may have more than one office and visit several towns.   Please take an extra minute or two and give me the name and address of the exact location so I will arrive where I am expected.

3)   Be kind.   It makes a huge difference when someone is chronically ill.  The wonderful news is, everyone that I have spoken with has been kind.   They take the time to treat me like a person,  not just a patient or a cancer survivor.  For that I am grateful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

To patients everywhere that struggle with chronic illness-hang in there!   Speak up respectfully but firmly to get the care and treatment you need.  I have found most medical professionals to be very responsive, but they aren’t mind readers and they don’t know what bothers you if you don’t communicate.

I’ll end with a story that illustrates a bit of miscommunication, but has a very happy ending.

I was told to come in for an evening MRI with contrast “here,” which I took to mean part of John Stoddard Cancer Center of Unity Point, located at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center.   I drove an hour to get to the appointment, arriving just a few minutes early.   The Cancer Center was locked.  I called the answering service and they found out that the appointment was actually at the Iowa Methodist Hospital, at the other side of the center.   I made my way to the correct location and was told that they couldn’t do the MRI I needed because there was nobody with access to the contrast chemicals and nobody authorized to do them.  These MRIs are not done at night.

The old me would probably have stewed and gone home, calling the next day to set up another appointment.  If it were a bad day, the old me might have exploded.  Instead, I took a deep breath and explained my situation.   I had traveled an hour one way for the appointment and needed this done to proceed with my radiation treatments.  If I didn’t get the MRI that night, it would delay my cancer treatment.

And that’s where the story gets good.   The woman I was talking to not only understood, but took it on her self to make it right.  I had to wait a few minutes, but she made the effort to organize the personnel and resources needed to make the MRI happen.   She took it on herself to go beyond her job description and make things right.   I appreciate that kind of care, and I find that as I work on my communication skills people are willing to work with me so I can get the care I need.  A big thank you to medical people everywhere that “get it.”  The world needs you and I appreciate you!