On March 25th, my mother’s birthday, I got to call her with the best birthday present…EVER! I told her that my oncologist just gave me the news that the tumors in my liver were either gone or dead! The CEA protein marker used to identify cancer in my body was almost imperceptible.
I am CANCER-FREE!!!
Since it’s been a while since my last post, here’s a recap of what’s been happening….
How it All Started
It all started nearly 15 months ago, on January 10th, when I went to the hospital thinking I was constipated and wound up needing emergency surgery to remove a tumor completely blocking my colon. A couple days later, my surgeon came into my hospital room and announced to me that I had stage 4 colon cancer with secondary metastasizes in my liver. I was just recovering from radical surgery leaving me with a huge incision on my belly and a colostomy bag hanging from my abdomen. It was not a pleasant situation, so the new diagnosis was just more bad news on top of bad news.
A couple months later, after recovering completely from the surgery, my doctors suggested that I go back in and have the ostomy “taken down” because I was doing so well. This meant they wanted to reconnect my descending colon to my sigmoid colon and make my bowels work again! This is really a very good thing. Never underestimate a properly working pooper! So, in May, four months after my first surgery, I went in again for my 2nd surgery.
What I did not realize, however, was the extent to which my body chemistry for repairing my second surgery was also so encouraging to growing cancer. Repairing large incisions requires lots of angiogenesis related chemicals in the blood that encourage capillariy growth to feed new tissue with blood. But it also supplies cancerous tumors with capillaries that help them grow!
The result was a tripling in the size of my formerly smaller, more manageable liver tumors. This was really disheartening for me. It was frightening. Up until the second surgery, I had slowed their growth using my natural therapy of diet and supplements. But, could I take care of these new larger tumors? I did not know.
Over the next few months we watched the new, larger tumors. Their growth all but stopped, but a new phenomenon occurred…Pain. Every inhalation of breath let me know they were there. Several times, after a vigorous workout on the racquetball court, I irritated the tumor on top of my liver just under my rib cage and I found out how painful it could be. I had to break out the serious pain killers and chill on the couch!
I was diligent with my diet and supplements, but the tumors were not shrinking. Up to this point, I still had not yet chosen to use chemotherapy as part of my anti-cancer regimen.
Making the Tough Choices
At end of August/Early September, my considerations were simple and the risks were pretty clear. To date, and much to the surprise of my doctors, my liver function was pristine…even though almost half my liver was now tumorous material. The risk was that, if my liver somehow started functioning less than 100%, I would now have a severe health challenge in addition to the tumors that could seriously limit my ability to sustain chemotherapy if I were to choose trying it. Stated another way, it could kill me.
I had a really tough decision to make. To do chemo, or not to do chemo.
The daily pain helped make my decision a lot easier. Even thought there was a chance that, given time, a totally natural approach might have worked, if it did not, my liver did not have any more margin for error. So, I decided to do chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy, Oh My
I started chemo at the end of September. It was as shocking to my system as it was to my psyche. During the previous 9 months, I did everything I could to get my body into the best shape I’d been in since I was 30 years old. I was, and am still, 180 pounds and in great physical shape. I could run several miles, play racquetball for 1 to 2 hours at a time with no problem, and overall, I felt fantastic!
Honestly though, in my mind and emotionally, I felt like I had failed. It took me several months to reconcile my feelings with the reality of chemotherapy. To my credit, for at least the first 8 treatments over 16 months I felt good due largely to my continued exercise, diet and supplements. My oncologist was impressed that my side effects were minimal. I did not lose my hair like so many others. I did not experience nausea or diarrhea.
But I did feel like a traitor to my own convictions. I know what causes cancer and I know how to defeat it. And yet, I had trouble shrinking those tumors. I was scared of the considerable pain they were causing. I was scared that my liver could start to fail. Fear is a powerful motivator, but I felt like a coward.
My Oncologist / Healing Partner
At this point, I need to tell you a little about my oncologist. If you have read my blog, you know that I’m a huge advocate of natural methods – and still am. At the start of my cancer journey, I decided I to pursue a natural path. But the engineer in me wanted to measure and test and monitor my results. When I met my oncologist, I told him that I was not wanting to do chemo at this time. Rather, what I wanted was a partner to help me monitor my progress while I did everything I could do for myself first. I wanted him to do the blood tests, ultrasounds, MRI’s, and any other tests as needed to let me know how things were progressing. It did not seem prudent to proceed without this kind of support.
To my surprise and his credit, he agreed. Most oncologists would have sent me packing because I was not simply agreeing immediately to their recommended course of chemotherapy.
When it came down to making the decision, I did not feel pressured by my oncologist. I felt his support and his willingness to give me the help he could. My sister, a neonatal nurse practitioner, who was also incredibly supportive of my choices to date, felt that I was at a decision point as well. But she would have supported any choice I made.
Chemotherapy, the Details
Let me take a little sidebar and tell you a bit about chemotherapy. It’s not fun. I could never really tell how I would feel on any give day. Chemo went in two week cycles. Week one was a crap shoot. Mostly, I felt effected by the chemo from a mild discomfort to feeling totally crappy and wanting to live on the couch. The second week of each cycle, I felt mostly back to normal – at least the first 8 cycles. The second week, I felt up to exercise, which is great for the body.
After 8 cycles over 16 weeks, I had another MRI. The results were more than encouraging. Tumors that were the size of my index finger were now the size of my finger nail! Needless to say, I fell to my knees and cried tears of joy and emotional relief. My oncologist recommended we stay the course and do 4 more cycles over 8 weeks to try to completely eradicate the rest of the tumors. With this much progress already made, and with my enhanced ability to handle the treatments with limited side effects, I saw no reason to stop and agreed to continue.
The Cancer Cure
At the time of this writing, it’s been a month since my last chemo treatment. I just had an MRI on March 23rd and got the results on March 25th. My sister and my wife were there with me and we all heard it together. The tumors are either gone or dead with no living tumor activity in my liver. There’s a little scar tissue, but my CEA marker reading is about 1.2 in a normal range of about 1-to-4 for non-cancer patients!
In a word, I am CANCER-FREE!
I realize now that I needn’t feel like I initially failed in my mission on my own. What I did to get myself in tip-top shape and to strengthen my immune system through exercise, diet and supplementation was a KEY part of my overall recovery process. It gave me a superior ability to withstand the chemo treatments and allowed them to work that much more effectively in my system. Also, having a rejuvenated, strong immune system is the KEY to not growing cancer in your body and not having a recurrence and having to go back for any more chemo!
I am so very grateful for all the support you have given me, from my family and friends. I’m humbled by the gracious generosity shown by so many in my darkest hours of need. All these words do not even begin to express the depths of my feelings and my gratitude.
It’s good that I have two sons, because they have been and are my strongest motivation. I want to be there when they graduate from college, get married, have children, or whatever they choose to do with their lives. I want to see who they become on their journeys. The same can be said of the rest of my family and friends. Theres so much I do not want to mis on their journeys.
In addition to my family and friends, I also owe a debt of gratitude to my oncologist for his support as a healer, and to his caring pa’s and staff. While I dreaded the possibility of having to do chemo, they made the experience as tolerable as it could have been. They were there when I needed them. They responded to my concerns and questions with candor and honesty.
I owe so much to so many. Most of all, I owe my loving wife, Nanette, who has been my rock. She has been the foundation upon which I stood during my recovery. She has stood by me every step of the way without wavering. It’s been tough on her. Yet, she gave me the space and the time to heal and supported every decision I felt I needed to make on this leg of our journey together. Thank you, my dearest Nanette.
And thank you, my readers, for all the love and support you have given me. I felt the outpouring an it gave me that much more reason to stay the course.
Two more quick mentions (sorry, it would take another 2000 words to mention everyone, so please forgive me). First, thank you to my sister Doreen for her steadfast support, love, encouragement and for being there at my oncologist appointments. Second, thank you to my friend, Christine Alexander, for visiting me in the hospital way back in January 2014 and giving me the gift of a book that set me off in the right direction from day one. I can never repay that gift and it saved my life.
Thank you all so very much. I could not have done it without all of you.
As for me now, well, life is now ahead of me again! I’ve had almost 15 months to ponder and think about my life – where I’ve been and where I want to go. My journey is far from over. I just got the confirmation that my life is now full speed ahead!
Some Nasty Cancer Cells! What can you do?
Since my diagnosis with Stage IV Colon cancer, I’ve been on a journey to learn about the source or cause of this mysterious and scary thing called cancer.
Turns out it’s not something that you can catch from a toilet seat or a door nob. It’s not a virus or a bacteria. It’s not contagious.
If Cancer is not a disease, what is Cancer?
Let’s think about our bodies for a minute. A beautifully complex biological machine, evolved over millennia to be in harmony with the environment. Specifically, to be in harmony with naturally occurring food sources. Our bodies knew how to process the berries and roots, the occasional piece of meat, the whole grains. The ultimate green machine.
Over the last hundred years, the blink of an evolutionary eye, we started to learn how to alter our natural environment. We quickly learned how to engineer our surroundings at the chemical, atomic and subatomic levels.
It took our bodies thousands of years, generation after generation, to adapt to natures slow, glacial pace. It takes humanity a mere blink of a historical eye to make sweeping, radical changes all around us, while our bodies keep functioning like nothing has happened.
Imagine for a minute, your incredible body all of a sudden surrounded by unfamiliar situations, strange electromagnetic fields, foods that contain chemicals, enzymes and proteins that our bodies do not know how to process, and oceans of information and constant mental stimuli.
Our complex bodies had learned how do protect and defend themselves from the threats it was used to for thousands of years. But since our bodies can not change and evolve as quickly as the changes we are making to our environment, our bodies will still try to protect themselves as best as possible.
Cancer is our body dealing with all this change as best as it can.
If you look at the incidence of cancer in the world, the more “advanced” the country, the higher the cancer rates.
Typically, when our bodies are younger, our immune systems are stronger and able to deal with more systemic stresses and irritants. Cancer was pushed off till older ages. But now, cancer is showing up in younger and younger ages.
Why is this happening?
This is an oversimplification, to be sure, but let’s just go with it. What does our skin do when some impurity gets unto a pore or under our skin? Our skin packages it up and creates pimples. Pimples are neatly packaged impurities that eventually pop out of the skin, disposing of the problem. Got a splinter? Your white blood cells will begin eating it up, it gets packaged up, and eventually pushed out.
Since birth, our bodies have used our immune systems to dispose of our own cells when they do not divide properly or are damaged in some way. They are packaged up and excreted in some way.
But when our bodies just can’t handle the onslaught any more, those damaged cells circulate around our bodies and may wind up somewhere they don’t belong. When we don’t get exercise and get enough oxygen, those cells can learn to survive without it. They learn to ferment glucose (sugar) to survive. They change their aerobic nature and grow protein coatings making them harder for our immune system to identify. These cancer cells are also just trying to survive in a hostile environment – our own immune system.
Not only do cancer cells camouflage themselves, they also fake the body into treating them like a fresh wound that needs healing with new capillaries for a blood source. This causes the body to provide them with blood sources so they can grow (angiogenesis). The other problem is that they become “undifferentiated.” That means that they don’t know what exactly they should become – so they just grow and grow as blobs of cells that we call tumors.
But Why? Why is our immune system not killing these cancer cells like it used to? It’s packaging them up, but using a mechanism designed to repair damage in our bodies that does not kill them – it makes them stronger!
Isn’t that odd? It seems we have a systemic problem brought about by the gradual breakdown of our bodies ability to deal with our environment, our lifestyles, our diet, our stress. We have a problem brought about by the breakdown and weakening of our natural immune systems.
Cancer, Not a Disease.
Clearly, cancer is not caused by invading foreign bacteria or viruses. Therefore, chicken soup or antibiotics will not work to remedy the problem.
Modern medicine’s solution is to either cut it out (Surgery), poison the cells (Chemotherapy) or burn the offending cells to death (Radiation). The problem with this is twofold. First, the Chemo and Radiation kill both bad and good cells. Second, these treatments only deal with the symptoms and not the underlying cause of the cancer. It’s a temporary solution, at best.
The cause of cancer is a perfect storm of irritants that are simply overwhelming our body’s natural immune system processes. Therefore, the solution has to be a restoring and re-balancing of our natural body chemistry by reducing as many of the irritants that we were not born to deal with.
The Cure to Cancer is in Your Hands
Find a Healthy, Balanced Lifestyle
You have it within your own self to make the changes you need to help your body cure your cancer. I know that this is hard to reconcile against all the messages you see on TV from the cancer centers and hospitals. They tell you they can cure you and you want to believe them. In a sense, they are not 100% lying. They do kill cancer cells in your body. When the cancer cells are all dead, they declare you cured… for the time being.
They don’t tell you to change your life. They just tell you they will monitor you to make sure it doesn’t come back. Oh, and if it does come back, they can do the surgery/chemo/radiation again!
That’s right, they don’t treat your cancer’s cause, they deal with the symptom and expect it to come back. Hence the 5 year cure rate I’ve spoken about.
Making Better Choices
Healthy Living helps Prevent and Cure Cancer
Regardless if you are doing chemo/radiation or not, if you want to deal with the cause of your cancer, you have to make better choices. What kind of choices do you need to make? Re-balancing your body calls for an entire systemic makeover. Here are the areas you need to look at for making better choices:
- Reduce Stress
- Remove Toxins
- Eat Foods that are Natural to the Body.
- Supplement as Needed to Strengthen your Immune System
- Learn about Nutrition and Vegetarian, plant strong eating
- Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Since Cancer is not a disease, it’s up to you. Doctors can not cure cancer. Doctors can only provide temporary (and dangerous) help. Only you can get your cancer under control. If you adopt a Lifestyle that Re-Balances your body, your body can heal itself of cancer. It’s that simple. Make better choices every day to live cancer free for the rest of your life.
Listen to cancer survivor Elaine Gibson explain how she used anti-cancer fighting nutrition instead of chemo to heal stage 4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer! This video was posted by stage 3 colon cancer survivor and anti-cancer activist, Chris Wark of ChrisBeatCancer.com who did a great job interviewing Elaine Gibson.
UPDATE – July 2014. It’s been a little while (too long?) since my last update. Many people have asked me how I’m doing so here we go!
First, a little context. Back in April, when I was presented with the idea of going in for a second surgery to reconnect my colon (a good thing), it was clear that there was more at stake. Healing from surgery takes a LOT of the body’s chemical and psychological energy. In effect, this meant possibly diverting energy that was healing cancer away to heal the surgical wounds.
But then, I’ve always been an entrepreneurial risk taker. This time, though, the downside was potentially more serious.
Returning back to today. A few weeks ago, I had an MRI and blood work. As expected, the MRI did show some increase in the size of the tumors in my Liver. There is no increase in the size of my liver overall. Interestingly, though, the blood work showed a near perfectly functioning liver.
Over the last month, my physical condition has improved significantly. I’m at a stable 190 lbs and am able to walk, jog, swim, play racquetball, and do sit-ups and calisthenics. Basically, I look and feel great.
Treatment-wise, I’m doing some more to focus on liver cleansing as well as cancer fighting. I’ve added “Essiac” Tea to my daily regimen. I’m also adding Laetrile to the mix in the form of apricot seeds with some added protyolytic enzymes.
In speaking to my Oncologist, we discussed some other ways of monitoring my livers’ progress short of a lengthy and expensive MRI. He suggested we could do a more frequent ultrasound as a simpler way to check my progress. Incidentally, he thought I looked great, too! He wanted me to understand more about his available treatment – chemotherapy – so I sat with a nurse who filled me in after my visit with him. I have to say, for as much as I thought I knew about chemo beforehand, it’s even worse than you can imagine! Chemo kills pretty much every kind of cell in your body, from red and white blood cells, platelets, bone marrow, blood cell production is impaired, and, oh yeah, it kills cancer cells. So, chemo can kill the cancerous liver tumors and shrink them.
By the way, I insisted on hearing about the version of chemo that did NOT have nerve damage (neuropathy) as a side effect so that my feet and hands would not be permanently damaged! Holy shit! This is just like the military term, “acceptable losses!” Now I know that they are doing their best to mitigate the downside of these serious poisons, but damn. This is why I’m doing all this alternative (complementary) therapy – to avoid being poisoned to death!
I also spoke to the Bill Henderson, who designed my protocol and has worked with over 3500 cancer patients himself, to get some additional clarity on the situation. He felt strongly that things were well in hand and that the Liver could most definitely be healed over time with my current therapy. Bill did not feel that the tumors themselves were as critical an issue as others might think and that they will shrink over time.
Bill also emphasized two other areas to focus on: emotional issues and stress, and dental toxins. Both of these issues are worthy of their own blog post, but I’ll summarize for you here.
For dealing with emotions and streass, Bill recommended reading “The Emotion Code” by Dr. Bradley Nelson which discusses “How to Release Your Trapped Emotions for Abundant Health, Love and Happiness.” Sounds good! I’m working my way through it. I know I’ve had my share of emotionally traumatic events in my life. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s leave it at, “I’m working on it.”
As to dental toxins, they are produced from: bacteria growing inside teeth with bad fillings and root canals; Mercury from amalgam fillings; and holes left from pulled teeth. (Sorry, I’m not a dentist). The bottom line is that these toxins are highly toxic to our bodies. In the thousands of people Bill has worked with, he has seen people’s health problems clear up over and over after they remove the toxins from their mouths. Especially the toxins inside of root canals and the mercury.
Fortunately, I don’t have any root canals and most of my amalgams were replaced with crowns in the 90’s. I’m working on getting the couple remaining mercury fillings replaced as soon as possible.
I’m not going to say that seeing that the liver tumors was not unsettling. It was. But the rest of the news has more than compensated for the initial concerns I had. I’m doing everything I can to regain my health and get the cancer under control. I am grateful for my Oncologist, Bill Henderson, my family and friends, and you for your continued support and encouragement thought this trying period of my life. I’m looking forward to a 2015 where I look back on 2014 as a distant memory and a humbling learning experience.
Finally, thanks for following me and reading my blog. Please post a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
We’ve all received bad news. Usually, it’s something like, “Somebody dented your new car in the parking lot,” or a loved one is sick. Perhaps a loved one has cancer. Or worse, a loved one has died.
But what about when the loved one is you? What about if the bad news is about you and it sounds like, “You have Stage 4 cancer” or “You have a year to live?”
The Five Emotional Stages
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler Ross (EKR) wrote her book, On Death and Dying about the five emotional stages we experience when faced with impending death or similar bad news.
The 5 emotional stages are:
- Denial – the “No, Not Me” stage.
- Anger – the “Why me, it’s not fair!” stage
- Bargaining – the bargaining with God for more time stage
- Depression – the “I’m so sad, why bother with anything” stage.
- Acceptance – the “It’s all going to be okay” stage.
This is pretty self explanatory. It’s easy to read this and say, “Yep, that sounds well thought out; it probably bears some true.”
The problem is, these are emotional stages and you have to FEEL them. It’s not an intellectual exercise. Cancer weighs heavy on your heart. You can’t appreciate it without having experienced a similar situation where you broke down into one or more of these stages.
I can now tell you with perfect authority that EKR was dead on in her assessment of the emotional journey. She points out that it’s not always in that order, but we experience these steps nevertheless.
For me, Denial was over quickly. When you have emergency surgery to save your life, it’s hard to deny it. It just is.
I tend to not be a very angry person, so for me, it was more a feeling of frustration. The triple whammy of healing from surgery, emptying a colostomy bag several times a day, and treating myself for cancer was enough to anger the best of us and I was definitely there.
The thing about cancer is that we’ve been told, and are conditioned to believe, that it’s a death sentence. That was what I knew at first. I freely admit to bargaining with God. I asked God to help me understand what my life was for, now that I might die. I asked for more time. I asked God to teach me what I needed to know. I asked God to live through me so that what remained of my life would mean something.
What followed was a bouncing around between depression, more bargaining, and some grudging acceptance. It took a while to allow all these concepts to settle in my heart. To “get used to it.” But that didn’t make it any better.
Which brings me to the notion that EKR did not mention, which is Surrender
Surrender is the step between the steps. And it’s done often. With each emotional state, the heart holds onto it, indulging itself in the moment. It doesn’t want to let go because it’s entitled to it. The heart is Angry and, damn it, it’s entitled to be angry!
Eventually emotions pass. Passing, though, is the heart surrendering to the inevitable reality of the situation. Here’s where it gets tricky, though.
If cancer is a “death sentence” and you surrender to cancer as a death sentence, then the heart makes the death sentence real, i.e., you will die.
I’ve spoken to many people with stories of loved ones who just surrendered and did nothing about it, did not change any behaviors and died pretty quickly.
Between the emotional state and surrendering to death, there are gradations. For example, just surrendering to the truth of the diagnosis and NOT to the “inevitability” of the prognosis. That would mean that you accept that you have cancer, but you don’t just accept what your doctor told you about the death sentence.
I’ve always been entrepreneurial and my dad taught me to fix just about anything. So I took those skills and started scrambling to learn more about cancer. I took my prognosis as a hypothesis and set out to disprove it.
I researched everything I could find on cancer. What it is, how it works and, most importantly, how to treat it.
For me, surrendering to the truth of the diagnosis was useful to me and did not leave me paralyzed. I was, rather, motivated to learn what I could do for myself.
Does this mean I did not get depressed? Does this mean I accepted everything? Not really.
What I learned challenged me more than anything else I’ve ever had to learn or do. Between reading this or that, I fought off depression, gloom, feeling distraught.
I had many things to accept and it’s not been easy. Here’s a list of some of the things I needed to accept in surrender.
- that I had cancer at all
- my body will continue to grow cancer
- I might die sooner than I expected
- the doctor might be right
- the doctor might be wrong
- the medical profession might be suppressing other ways of successfully treating cancer
- I might be able to treat myself
- I might live a full life, even with cancer
Fortunately, I’ve had some great mentors. In 1987, my first client, Antreas, told me that I needed to trust myself and trust in the karma of the universe.
Acceptance of something inevitable requires little more than simple surrender. Then, it’s more like waiting and just doing nothing.
Acceptance of an uncertain future possibility requires Andreas’ kind of trust. In my case, it’s surrendering to trust. Trust is the essence of faith.
What I had to trust was that there are physicians who are healing cancer outside of mainstream medicine. I had to trust that surgery-chemo-radiation (slash-poison-burn) were not the only possible treatments. I had to trust that completely healing my body was possible.
The alternative was for me to surrender to death without a fight. To just accept the common conceptions and accept the doctors’ words without question and just go gently into that good night.
I don’t think so.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
~ Dylan Thomas
My first surgery did save my life by removing a cancerous tumor blocking my colon. There was no choice in the matter. My second elective surgery reconnected my colon, giving me normal bowel function. These last four months have been an up and down journey. I’ve experienced the full range of emotions and come to terms (mostly) with my situation.
I am still dealing with these emotions, though. Surrender and Trust help to get through it. I choose to trust that I can heal myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t get a little down, or frustrated, or want it healed right now. It doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts.
It means that I’m human and I own my emotions. It means that I’m not completely ruled by my emotions. I surrender to reality and the now. I will not go gently into that good night. I practice living in the moment and trusting in tomorrow.
I know it’s been a while since my last update. When I last posted, I was getting ready to go back into hospital to take down my ostomy, i.e., to reconnect my colon. Since January, I’ve recovered from emergency surgery to remove a tumor blocking my colon, and then treated myself for stage 4 colon cancer. The treatment was going so sell that my oncologist suggested I just keep doing it for a while and go in for the second surgery.This from a man dedicated mostly to the use of Chemotherapy. May 9th, I went in for surgery 4 months to the day since my 1st surgery! Now that’s some progress! I checked in at 197 pounds. I was in such good shape that I had played racquetball twice in the previous week. I remember that week. I was properly dreading going in for roughly the same surgery with a similar recovery period of 4-6 weeks. I just HAD to get on the court and FEEL ALIVE! I thank my friend Lee for indulging me with some friendly competition. On May 9th, at 9 am, Nanette and I went to the hospital and check in for my 11 am surgery. It was pretty uneventful. They were expecting me. I got my ID wristband, got out of my clothes and into a hospital gown. Then up on the bed to start the IV and get me comfortable. The anesthesiologist came to visit me and offered me an epidural which I declined. I didn’t think it was smart for have people messing around with needles too close to my spinal nerves. Better safe than sorry.
Surgery, Recovery and Pain
There is a strange thing that happens when you go in for surgery. There’s the before surgery time, the surgery, and there’s recovery. It’s like you close your eyes one moment, and then almost immediately open them in recovery. There’s no sense of any time passing. For me, one moment I was very happy and comfortable. Then I was given a little something in my IV to “relax” me, and the next minute I was in absolutely excruciating agony unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. Don’t think for a minute that I’m being dramatic. I actually can’t think of words that adequately describe the despair I felt amid this agony. It was just awful. No wonder they wanted to give me an epidural block! For the rest of that day following the surgery, I just endured the pain between doses of pain killer every 8 minutes. It got so that Nanette set a timer on her phone to remind me to press the red “pain” button every 8 minutes. I did this because god forbid I went some time without pressing it, like if I dozed off. After waking up, the pain comes roaring back and I’d have to play catch up to get the pain killer level back up. It takes 3-4 presses over a half our before I would get relief because of that 8 minute between pushes limit. This went on for 4 miserable days. During this time, they got me up to walk (more like an ambling shuffle) holding on for dear life to my rolling IV bottle holder. I seemed to be slowly getting better during this time. On the 5th day, I got up for my walk and didn’t make it 75 feet from my bed. I could barely stand up. Something was wrong. Turns out that I had an infection rapidly developing under my abdominal my wounds. My surgeon came in for a look. He had to pop open some staples and literally open the incisions to allow the infection to drain. For the next 5 days I drained and received IV antibiotics to help clear it up. I didn’t get out of bed for a couple days, though, because the infection knocked me out pretty badly. By the 8th day, the infection started to get under control and I started walking around again. Things were looking well enough to send me home by the 10th day.
Pay it Forward
Before I left though, I asked to see the ostomy nurse that was so very helpful to me in January when I first got my ostomy. She showed me how to use the colostomy bags and gave me the confidence I needed to go home and do this for myself. She also gave me a bunch of supplies to get started which turned out to be over 2 months of supplies. I had no idea how generous this was of her, though, until I went to order supplies. I needed to return this favor. I found out how generous she had been to men when I ordered 3 months of ostomy supplies in April right before finding out that I was to go back and have the ostomy taken down (reconnected). I had a big box of stuff for her that cost about a thousand dollars. It was already purchased and paid for before I knew I was not going to need most of it! I told you she was generous to me. Got to pay it forward!
When I got home, my mom came to visit during the first week. This is a week when it hurts to do pretty much anything. I was so doped up, though that I’m afraid I was not much of a conversationalist. Mom was great, though, and just kept me company which was about all I was up for. This was also much different than my first hospital visit in January. In January, I was given dire news and everyone was upset. Mom was extremely troubled back then. But after 4 months of healing to the point of being told to return to the hospital and take down the ostomy because I was so strong, it was cause for celebration rather than concern. Mom was as relieved as I was. And let me tell you something, never underestimate the value of a properly working pooper! The second week, Nanette was home for 10 days. Nanette took really great care of me and I cannot thank or love her enough for doing so. She was as patient and loving as could be. I really don’t know how I could go through this without her. After that, It was just me and I pretty much focused on relaxing and healing. Somewhere during this time, around the beginning of June, I got off any medications or pain killers and my head started clearing up. It also took about as long for my intestinal tract to get back in shape, due to all the antibiotics, so I could get back on my mostly raw veggie diet. It’s hard to digest raw food without the proper intestinal bacteria to do the work!
Today was an eventful day
During this entire recovery period, I have required daily home nursing visits to tend to the two holes I had in my abdomen up until today! One has just closed up as of today on the main incision. The other is the hole from the ostomy which was as big and deep as your index finger! To be expected, I suppose, considering that this was the hole through which they put my descending colon. Combined with all the nasty intestinal bacteria it was exposed to, this hole’s been tougher to heal. Every day they came and cleaned and packed the holes so they would heal from the inside out. Today was the first day that I was able to pack this wound myself with gauze. You have to do that with deep holes. You have to help them heal from the inside out. If you just sewed them closed, the hole would fill up with infection and you could become septic and die. This is what happened to King Henry VIII with his every rotting leg wound. None of that for me, thank you As of today, I can finally take care of this remaining much smaller and manageable hole myself. It’s about the size of a nickel and a centimeter deep, but it’s now healing rapidly. It will probably be gone within the next two to three weeks.
I’m so very thankful to the nurses that visited and cared for me over these past few weeks. There’s no way I could have done it myself. Also, thanks to all the folks at Wake Med in Cary. All the staff was so very genial, friendly and professional. I always felt like I was in good hands. Another thanks goes to the surgeon who saved my life in January, and gave me back a normal functioning colon in May, Dr. Michael Malik in Cary, NC. He’s really excellent in every way as a physician and healer. Thanks also to my oncologist for suggesting I get reconnected in the first place. He’s really been quite supportive of my “complimentary” therapy. He’s done a great job of monitoring my progress and advising me on how I’m doing and interpreting the numbers for me.
First, continue healing up the last of my ostomy wound. That should be done by the end of June. Exercise to get my abdomen back in healthy working order. Lots of walking to get back my my leg strength and endurance. Cancer therapy wise, I’m continuing with the modified Budwig protocol a la Bill Henderson. To that, I’m adding some pretty strong liver cleansing using coffee enemas. I know that may sound strange, but it’s a time tested treatment that used to be in the physicians treatment books until they took it out in the 70’s. (That’s another blog post) I made a deal with my oncologist that for the next six weeks, I will be doubling down on my therapy and focusing on my liver to reduce the tumors. After six weeks, we’ll do another MRI of the liver and see what we see. I also know that I need to start thinking about the future. That’s been difficult. I think that’s yet another blog post. I’ll end this update by saying thank you to you, my readers and loyal friends and family for all the unconditional love and support you’ve given me when I’ve needed it most. Nanette and I literally could not have made it without you. It’s my mission in life to somehow pay that forward in whatever way I can.