I guess the first thing to say is that Scott is now cancer free. It’s a bit of an anti-climax, the way that moment creeps up on you, but it’s still nice to say. “My husband doesn’t have cancer anymore”. He had PET scans after chemo and radiation and they found no sign of cancer. The doctors still recommended surgery to remove his rectum, just in case there were any tiny cells that could trigger a recurrence. It was a tough decision, but we’re so glad he made it. After Scott’s surgery, they tested samples of what was removed and found microscopic signs of cancer. It would probably have come back. Now, there’s every chance that we’ve knocked this one out of the ballpark.
Unbelievably, it’s already 2 months since Scott made it home from hospital. What a blur. It was a horrendous 3 weeks of post-op complications, and even once we got him home, there was a lot of pain that took longer to recover from than he’d hoped. Within a week he was hinting at getting back on the bike but pain held him back for another month at least. He was in and out of Peter Mac several times for a range of (unpleasantly invasive) checkups, but after a round of antibiotics and more rest things have finally come good. He’s back out on the bike now and we’ve started to have some happy times just enjoying normal life. The wonderful thing about suffering is the way it helps you appreciate the little things. I keep getting that ‘I’m so lucky’ feeling in the most simple and ordinary moments. Scott cooking dinner while I read on the couch. Both of us picking the kids up from school. Enjoying a warm afternoon at home with no particular plans. Our social life has returned after months of putting all the fun stuff on hold. In the last few weeks we’ve had dinners, lunches, friends dropping by – we even had a little party. It’s been great.
It was probably a bit too much too soon though. As we count down the last 2 weeks until Scott’s final procedure, we’re starting to feel the strain. On reflection it might have been better to cautiously dip our toes back into normal life, rather than diving in head first. We’re suddenly exhausted and it’s obvious the emotional strain never really left us; it was just enjoying a brief (though very pleasant) hiatus for a couple of weeks. Even though we’ve been able to return to normal life in many ways, the underlying anxiety of cancer hasn’t really left me, and Scott is only just starting to process everything he’s been through. Looking forward, we don’t really know what’s to come from the final stage of Scott’s treatment and this is a big part of what’s still hanging over us; the not knowing.
The final procedure – booked in for 2 weeks from now – is to reverse the ileostomy which diverts waste from Scott’s bowel into a bag (stoma) that sits outside his body, just beside the belly button. The stoma was a temporary measure so that his bowel could heal from the surgery before being put back to use. He hasn’t had any trouble managing it and has been able to get on with close to normal eating and living. His diet has been limited to foods that have no fibre and are very easy to digest, but after a few weeks of trial and error we settled into a good routine. That said, he’s pretty keen to be rid of it. Given the choice, I imagine most people would prefer not to carry a bag of poo around under their shirt.
Once his bowel is back in action Scott will find out what life looks like without a rectum. It’s a big unknown and the experience can vary greatly from person to person. All I can say is I’d rather have it behind us and know what lies ahead, than spend much more time wondering. For now, we’re not making any plans post November 28th. I was about to
write complain about how much that frustrates me; how I want to be able to plan Christmas, book a week away in the sun and arrange some fun things to do with the kids over the holidays. It’s so easy to lose perspective. I’m really just glad that we have ‘something’ to look forward to. I know it will be OK, whatever ‘it’ is.
A Quick Recap of Scott’s Post Operative Complications
For anyone who missed all the action of Scott’s post surgery complications, I’ve clipped a few of my Facebook posts from that dreadful 3 weeks.
Day 2. He’s weak, but he’s post-op and it went really well!
Day 3. Recovery is on track. Smiles all round.
Day 5. The first sign that things aren’t going according to plan.
Day 7. He’s losing weight. Pretty glad they’re inserting an IV for nutrients.
Day 10. Could things be turning around? The worst of the tubes are removed.
Day 12. Still no end in sight. But a bit of sunshine.
Day 15. Nowhere near as close to home as we thought.
Day 19. Waiting. Any Day Now, maybe.
Day 20. The Welcome Home Reception. Finally!