For my colorectal surgery (colectomy procedure to be accurate), I was warded in the hospital for 9 days, excluding the pre-surgery admission to prepare my bowel. When I was discharged 9 days later, my surgery lab report was still not ready apparently. Dr Samuel Tay, my surgeon, asked me to go home and enjoy Chinese New Year first.
As much as I didn’t want to be too anxious about my colorectal surgery report that’d tell me more about my malignant colon tumor and if I need any adjuvant treatment, I believe subconsciously, I was anxious. I didn’t have much deep sleep and woke up early (as early as 4am sometimes) for the 1.5 week leading to my appointment with Dr Samuel Tay to review my report.
15 Feb 2016 finally arrived and I got myself up from my worst sleep in 1.5 week. I tried to feel as chill as possible and even took a selfie to commemorate that moment. Deep down inside, I was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
When I went into his clinic, he asked me to lie down on the bed and a nurse came over to quickly clean my wound. The 2-week-old waterproof bandage was removed and my wound was cleaned, all done without me stealing a glimpse. My 5-inch-long wound felt like numbed hard skin and surprisingly there was no pain except a little discomfort, especially with me feeling super nervous. I’m not complaining but I always wondered why such a long and deep cut didn’t feel much. Any answer from any medic smarty pants here?
Dr Samuel Tay walked over, took a look at my wound and sprayed something on my wound. Then he said, “you can shower with this transparent plaster.” “Where’s the plaster?” I asked. “I just sprayed on,” he answered. What?! Wow. Spray on transparent and waterproof plaster… But oh no. This meant that my wound is now visible. Gulp. I showered without looking down that day. In fact, it took me about 3 days before I dared to look somewhat downward when I showered.
He commented that the surgery went well and that the wound healed well as well. Then he asked me about my recovery. I went on and on happily about my diet, pain, exercise, poop, weight and even asked him if I could fly to Krabi in April for holiday.
He noticed where I was going: I was expecting no more treatment after this. And so he interrupted, “Done with your questions already or not? Now I have bad news to tell you.” Oh god.
While I tried hard not to let my mind go blank after hearing the words “bad news” from the mouth of my surgeon, he told me that at least one of the lymph nodes that they tested in the lab was infiltrated by malignant cells. Even scarier, “vascular permeation is noted” — the Big-C gang invaded my blood. Shit.
This placed me at Stage 3 Colon Cancer with aggressive malignant cells that tried to spread via my lymphatic and circulatory systems. Definitely bad news and so I was recommended to undergo 12 cycles of chemotherapy, to start as soon as my body recovers enough post-surgery.
How did I feel at this moment?
Disappointed. Disappointed because I felt great; I felt healthy; but there are evil cells inside me that are messing up with my body silently.
Disappointed because even though the tumor was diagnosed before my body showed much symptoms, it wasn’t diagnosed early enough before the malignant cells spread to my lymph node and blood.
Sad. Sad because I’d have to undergo chemotherapy and cause more damage to my body during the process of healing it.
Sad because my regular hospital visit days would extend for another 6 months at least. For the surgery, I was advised to rest for a month and I already had so much to experience and write about under #sharestrength. But for chemotherapy, I’d need careful care for at least 6 times longer.
I was really positive that I wouldn’t have to go through chemotherapy. I was really positive that I can embark on my diet and lifestyle change for the better once I fully recover from my colorectal surgery in a month or two. But looks like chemotherapy will be something that’d bother my life for a while more and because of that, I was disappointed and sad but what can I do other than marching forward while doing the best I can to make myself feel and be better?
It’d be a tiresome journey for myself, my family and my friends. I’d appreciate to receive your encouragement along the way.
On a final note, even though I haven’t reach the state this cancer-fighting writer has, this is a well-written article on what cancer patients (like me, especially once chemotherapy starts) would want you to know.
p/s Can I suspect that my surgeon deliberately kept the report from me so that I could have a more enjoyable Chinese New Year first? The colorectal surgery report was printed the day of my surgery and validated 2 days after my surgery. Anyway, I have to say it was a wise decision so thanks, Doctor for letting me have a less stressful Chinese New Year.