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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Part 4: The Battle that God Won for me – Complications of radiation therapy

I had a lot of very poignant reminders this week on how God works in all of our lives and how we all if given the opportunity have a story to tell. My bible study ladies hosted an event and share some very life altering testimonies on how God worked in their lives despite the circumstances they have been challenged with. Some of us illness, others relationship or financial challenges and the list goes on. The one commonality we all share as survivors we must stay focused and keep running the race even when it gets tough. I know when you are going through a struggle it’s difficult to see beyond the moment. Especially when the pain (physical or emotional) is so intense you often feel like resigning or giving up but dear ones don’t be overcome. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit who is greater than us and all that is in the world (1 John 4:4) by working in us and through us can we persevere.

The Battle that God Won for Me
As I mentioned earlier I had 22 radiation treatments only lasting 22 seconds each session. That’s why I think this was one of the hardest blog posts to write since it was such a difficult time for me in my journey and it reminds me all too well of how difficult the struggle and fear was at that time. Getting healthy and staying healthy requires a fight against not only the illness but the thoughts that get in the way of your mental and spiritual health.  PRAISE GOD today when I look back at where I was then and where I am now I know that God won the battle for me! These words come from the depths of my heart I am forever grateful.

After surgery and radiation I began to adjust to my NEW life with a colostomy but it was only one year from my first surgery when my problems began. My stoma started to shut down and I was unable to eat or drink, everything was backing up and my body was no longer releasing the waste. My surgeon scheduled emergency surgery he discovered the complications caused by radiation burn which had destroyed so much (my uterus was burned and it kinked my urethra tube which attests to reoccurring battle with UTI’s)  that he had to close off my large intestines. With my large intestines closed and 40 clips in me holding everything in its place I would now work with my small intestines ONLY and switched me from a colostomy to an ileostomy. Wow the battles I faced it’s only by the grace of God I’m here to tell this story.

Learning to live with an Ileostomy
For many years I was in and out of the hospital with blockages caused from food I could not digest. It was difficult alone to learn to adjust to life with an ileostomy which was quite different from a colostomy. When I first had the colostomy I could eat most of the food I was used to eating.

However, an ileostomy was quite different it really limits the amount of food (selection and quantity) that I can intake. Remember I’m working with my small intestines only. Some of the most nutritional foods that are good most people (vegetables, fruit, fiber…) cannot be easily digested by many people with ileostomy though all cases are different. It is important to eat small meals frequently throughout the day as the ileostomy never stops working so you can easily become dehydrated and have an electrolyte imbalance. I know this from experience. The waste out-put with an ileostomy is more liquid then the paste out-put that a colostomy produces. I had to be very careful ensuring I have enough fluids and  in order to get the necessary nutrients I would lack from not being able to eat vegetables and fruit etc I learned to take 1-3 Ensure Plus a day. I also drink Gatorade to replenish electrolytes lost from having an ileostomy. Electrolyte imbalance can include loss of appetite, drowsiness, abdominal cramps and faint feelings. Seek medical help immediately! While most people should avoid salt I need to take an extra serving of salt to put back all that is lost from the fluid out-put of an ileostomy. For quite a while in addition to table salt I had to take salt tablets. Consult your physician about the proper amount your body requires. Taking pills are difficult too because even a pill can cause a blockage in the stoma so I have to crush all of the medications I take which I will review in a later post.

 No life isn’t always easy but it sure is good to be alive! Live in the present moment and be grateful and seek joy and find ways to bring joy and help to others in need.

If you are feeling or experiencing something similar, I’d love to hear from you. I didn’t have anyone who could relate to me at the time and I don’t want that for you.  Please send me an email or reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter.

TAKE ACTION, ask your primary care doctor for a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)[i] which can detect or prevent cancer long before the symptoms occur. Make your health a number one priority. You’re worth it and your family and friends are worth it!

Until next time.  Luv you all!

Dee Dee

 Psalm 91:2, I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust.

Prayer I say, I proclaim, I confess that You, God, are my refuge and fortress.  My trust is in You alone.


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Part 3: There’s No recall button on Cancer – Surgery and Radiation Treatments

Did you ever have one of the moments when you knew it was a God thing? That’s what I feel like as I’m writing to you about the journey God has brought me through as a colon rectal cancer survivor and warrior.

There’s No recall button on Cancer – Surgery and Radiation Treatments

 Since I started this journey God has slowly brought to my attention other people that have also suffered with colon cancer or loved ones that have suffered or have passed on from colon cancer and still others that may need an ileostomy. Before now I never knew any of these friends had these experiences. That’s how I know that I know God has asked me to write to you and continue to share and bring hope to others who are on, have been on or will take this journey. I deeply hope that someone … even one person might be aware of a warning sign and avoid colon cancer entirely by getting tested and/or treated early.

As I entered rocky roads
My doctor told me if I would have only come to him when the symptoms first occurred he could have removed the polyp and we would have avoided all the rest. If only there was a recall button.

Knowing I have cancer I am ready to fight the fight and I asked the Lord to carry me through the surgery. My doctor told me the prognosis of my surgery was very good. I had a polyp that was cancerous and it was on the muscle of my rectum so he would go in and remove the polyp along with the entire rectum. The surgery would warrant a colostomy but and at that time he told me I would not require any follow-up treatment (radiation, chemo).

My dear family and friends and church family continued to rally around me and support me with prayers and sending meals they had prepared to help my family while I was undergoing surgery and treatments. God is good how he’ll send giving people into your life at a time of need. I pray God will continue to show me now how to be a help to others in need.

The day of my surgery time went by very slow. Everyone was waiting while I was in surgery to hear the outcome of the procedure and to see me and know that things went well. It wasn’t until the evening when I was back in my hospital room and I remember being in a lot of pain. I was really out of it between the surgery, medication and the pain I couldn’t even open my eyes. Praise God the doctor had a good report for me and my family all went well with the surgery (Thank you Lord!). Still I knew it would be a long hard road ahead.

Only a few days after surgery the doctor told me I had to go for radiation treatment to be sure the cancer wouldn’t return. I was so upset I already had it set in my mind surgery was it. He told me I wouldn’t need any follow-up treatment either radiation or chemo. He was really insistent it was a precaution as I stated above that nothing was left behind and to prevent the cancer from returning.

I now had the task of learning how to manage my colostomy. For those of you who don’t know an “ostomy is a surgically created opening connecting an internal organ to the surface of the body. I first had a “colostomy” (connecting the large intestine to the skin)”[i]. I had an ET” (Enterostomal Therapy) nurse come into my room to teach me how to care for my ostomy appliance/supplies/equipment.

Learning the proper names of the ostomy equipment and learning how to care for myself. It was all so new to me and overwhelming.Supplies and Caring for an Ostomy: You’ll need adhesive remover, skin protector, wafer, pencil, measuring guide, stomadhesive paste, plastic bags, washcloth, clean towel, new pouch, and scissors[ii]. The steps to caring and managing your Ostomy: empty the pouch, cleaning and caring for the stoma and skin around the area, tracing and cutting the wafer to fit to the stoma, applying the skin protector and adhesive, snapping the pouch onto the wafer and pressing gently to make sure you have a good seal.

The day finally came when I had to go home and I was so worried about my kids and what they would think.

It was a Monday when I had to start radiation treatment. I remember the doctor marking my body for the treatment. I was told that I would need 22 treatments in total and that I would be on the table for 22 seconds for each session. I was only two days into my treatment and I felt that something wasn’t right but still I continued with the treatment since I knew I had to do this to be strong and stay well. I was so grateful when graduation day (from my radiation treatments) arrived and the treatments and horrible side effects would finally be over (Thank God!). Now I can finally just get on with my life… so I thought. All was well and I was beginning to cope with my new life and living with a colostomy. It was one year later and my troubles were starting again. My faith was still very strong and once again I knew the Lord was going to be with me as I entered into rocky roads ahead.

If you are feeling or experiencing something similar, I’d love to hear from you. I didn’t have anyone who could relate to me at the time and I don’t want that for you.  Please send me an email or reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter.

TAKE ACTION, ask your primary care doctor for a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)[i] which can detect or prevent cancer long before the symptoms occur. Make your health a number one priority. You’re worth it and your family and friends are worth it!

Until next time.  Luv you all!

Dee Dee

 

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Part 2: I would never be the same again (My Diagnosis CRC)

Prevent Colon Cancer Get Tested Early! Choose LIFE!

I would never be the same again (Diagnosis – Colon Rectal Cancer).

Maybe you (or someone you know) are struggling with the news … you’ve just been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or some other life altering medical condition?

This post was difficult for me to write and probably difficult to read. But please stay with me because my story is one of hope and joy. It is a painful thing to go through cancer and surgery but I know that God was with me and will be with you all the way. Don’t ever lose hope or give up or give in. You must choose to be strong in faith and in your mind and fight for your life and your loved ones. God will not leave you during your trials “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:6)

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, at this point I was too scared not to go to the doctor. So when I was bleeding excessively I decided to schedule an appointment with my gynecologist. I had experienced loss of two loved ones that year, my mother and my infant son, and I was in a very vulnerable state of mind.

My gynecologist said to me the blood was too excessive and was going on for far too long and was certain it was not related to my nerves. He gave me the name of a proctologist to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

I remember thinking to myself, I’m 39 years old and I had never heard of the word ‘proctologist’ or ‘colonoscopy’.  What in the world? Lord have mercy!

I was driving to the doctor’s office for a colonoscopy. We all know what the prep involves ….need I say more? I was scared but still I really didn’t think it was anything serious let alone cancer. Never did that thought come into to my mind.

The colonoscopy test was performed in the hospital. And I recall lying in the bed after the test waiting for the results. My mind was racing I was thinking of my children, my spouse … I was scared what if the diagnosis wasn’t good. How would my family handle it? My husband would be alone raising three children and my baby wouldn’t remember me. I would only be a mommy that she heard about from stories that were told to her. I was scared.

The doctor came into my room and stood at the foot of my bed with his head drooped down. I knew the news was not what I wanted to hear so I wanted to make it easier on him. The doctor and I had hit it off from the first moment I met him. Those who know me can tell you that I love people and make friends very easily. So no … it wasn’t strange that I would make a friend in my proctologist believe it or not.  I said doctor I have cancer don’t I? He was still looking down and shook his head yes. I immediately cried, no I sobbed uncontrollably.  He continued to talk but I don’t remember one word he said. Just about everything was racing through my mind at the time. I thought I would die. My children… how would they handle the news? Finally, I thought I heard a voice saying wait listen to what I’m saying … it was the doctor saying it’s not over its operable. I finally stopped sobbing and started to listen.

The doctor explained he would remove the rectum and give me a colostomy. I remember thinking I’m so young for this. He said who do you know who has a colostomy? My Italian grandmother had a colostomy. She also had rectal cancer… still I was surprised when I got the news. The doctor said to me it is so different today than from when your grandmother had a colostomy 39 years ago. They use disposable supplies now. It’s not the rubber pouches that you have to wash and reuse. Still I said to him I’m way too young for this it’s an old person’s disease.

I remember him asking me bluntly DO YOU WANT TO LIVE OR DO YOU WANT TO DIE? This is a life saving surgery. He explained what would happen if I didn’t have the surgery.  The cancer would ultimately spread up my spine and it would be a horrible painful death.

My decision was easy. I wanted to live! I have a family I didn’t want to die leave them behind. I understood in my mind and heart and felt God speaking to my spirit. I knew at that moment… it is what it is and I have to go through this.

I made a choice that day to fight and live. I had peace.

If you are feeling or experiencing something similar, I’d love to hear from you. I didn’t have anyone who could relate to me at the time and I don’t want that for you. Please send me an email or reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter.

TAKE ACTION, ask your primary care doctor for a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)[i] which can detect or prevent cancer long before the symptoms occur. Make your health a number one priority. You’re worth it and your family and friends are worth it!

Until next time.  Luv you all!

Dee Dee

PS: I tried to incorporate an audio file but didn’t want to hold off on posting this message so maybe my next post will include audio/video.

[i] http://www.medicinenet.com/fecal_occult_blood_tests/article.htm

 

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