Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Colon cancer 3-years later


Ed hiking in Canada 2012
The surgery scars are barely visible
while I am hiking in Canada 2012.
It has been three years since I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and had my rectum removed. This is a brief recap on how things changed since I last wrote about my surgery two years ago. See http://guydads.blogspot.com/2010/12/colon-cancer-one-year-later.html

Since the cancer surgeries and recovery, I have had no additional health problems. I continue to have a checkup twice a year with my surgeon and oncologist as well as an annual physical with my general practitioner at Kaiser. All the tests and checkups come back with good reports.

The main change has been in my daily regiment. I spend immense amount of time focused on the type of food to eat, when I am going to consume it and going to the bathroom. A typical day consists starting with a normal breakfast (high fiber cereal, non-fat milk, cut bananas and raisins, orange juice and hot coffee or tea). I have a very small lunch (non-fat yogurt or half a sandwich or a granola-type energy bar).  The type of dinner I have depends on our activity schedule. If we are home for the evening, I will have a nice size meal with a couple glasses of wine. If we are out to dinner with plans for the evenings such as a play or concert, I will usually have a small Caesar salad, sometimes with grilled chicken, fish or shrimp on it, and a single glass of red wine. The reason for the smaller, simpler meal when we are out is to try not to over activate my digestive track. Large meals, especially with rich foods, make me have to go to the bathroom a lot more. There are still no restrictions on my diet. The doctor says I can eat whatever I want. However he adds, you will learn what foods work and which ones cause problems. For me, eating too much at one sitting is a problem. So are corn, raw root vegetables, beef, rich sauces, and indulging on too many sweets.

I have also increased my physical activities a lot in the last two years. I do 100 sit-ups every morning. I also make it a point to get a lot of aerobic exercise. My work commute is a one and a half-mile walk each way. In addition to that, I do a 4-mile run in the Stanford foothills four times a week.  For the last two summers, Eddie and I have done a two-week hike. Two years ago we hiked across Scotland and in the Scottish Highlands. This last summer we did a one-week hike in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and a second week on the Gulf Islands off Victoria.

The good news about the reduced food intake and the increase activities is my weight has come down 10 pounds. At 5’ 10”, my weight is now in the mid-160s. The last time my weight was in this range was 15 years ago when I was still doing marathon running.

So far everything sounds great. But there are daily, unsettling challenges and side effects. I have to poop at least a dozen times a day. I am like the person with the small bladder but with a #2 problem. I always have to be aware and sensitive of the locations of the nearest bathrooms. And when I have to go it is not a casual thought of “hmmm, I have to go,” rather it is an urgent and desperate “Ack, must go NOW or there will be consequences.”

< rant > Men are insensitive, careless, filthy pigs in public bathrooms. Since I have to poop all the time and standing and peeing at a urinal often triggers a need to poop, I use the stall. Pee-shy guys drive me nuts because they tie up the stall I need to use and even worse just let loose with a stream of urine all over the place. Just because they are in a Men’s room devoid of women, they can disregard everything their mothers/wives/girlfriends taught them: “Put up the god damn seat and aim before you shoot.”< /rant >

< rant > Banging on the door to the bathroom or stall will not make me go faster. It takes me 4 to 5 times longer than a normal person. I don’t have the muscles of the rectum to move things in a quick manner. I have to rely on the slower, peristaltic waves of my colon. Just chill. < /rant >

I usually carry a bag of supplies
everywhere I go.
I no longer pop Imodium pills like they were M&M’s. At one point I was taking about 8-10 a day. Now I only take Imodium when needed.  This usually occurs every few weeks when for some unknown reason when my colon goes into overdrive and won’t calm down.  I still take concentrated shots of 3 teaspoons of Metamucil dissolved in a couple ounces water or juice after lunch and dinner. (This is based on a bowel-training program.) Wherever I go, I typically carry a small bag of supplies. Anyone making off with my manpurse will find quite a surprise because inside is just extra Imodium, Metamucil, change of underwear, small roll of toilet paper, sanitary wipes, underwear pads and when hiking a small, collapsible trowel.

The most common question people ask me if the management issues will get better over time. The doctor initially said it would take two years for my body to accommodate and adjust to the changes. It has been three years now. This is probably as good as it is going to get. I am not going to grow a new rectum and there is only so much the end of my colon can learn to manage. The best thing I can do is to stay fit, active and watch my diet.

Me and my wonderful husband.
The greatest asset I have in getting me through all this is my incredibly patient and supportive husband. He has an amazingly positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm.  It is practically impossible to be depressed or pitiful around him for very long. When accidents happen I tend to get into a degrading and destructive funk. Fortunately his support and love moves me out of this cycle and onto more affirmative and constructive behaviors.

When I start to get overwhelmed or depressed about the situation, I try to remember these positive outcomes:
- I am alive, active and productive.
- I just started working at 80% time, up from 50% time.
- I can travel and participate in almost all activities I was doing before the cancer.
- I am running, hiking and working out.
- I didn’t need radiation, chemotherapy or a permanent colostomy bag.
- The procedures didn’t make me impotent; have erectile dysfunction or urinary incontinence (all possible side effects).
- I have lost 25 pounds from my high point. My clothes fit better and friends say I look healthier. (I would still like to lose 5 more pounds.)
- I have the most wonderful and supportive husband. He has taken great care of me in a multitude of ways.
- The doctors, nurses and staff at Kaiser Permanente have been first rate. I could not have asked for a better health care team.

1 comment:

Nikolaos said...

Good on you! Your attitude and your husband's obviously help you cope. Life deals out horrible cards sometimes. I admire your resilience. I dunno if I would be so strong.

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