On April 23, 2010 I walked into a local surgeon’s office expecting to walk out finally free of the months of irritation connected to internal hemorrhoids & all the pain that came along with them. Needless to say, that theory would quickly dissipate & my introduction into the cancer world was only days away.
It took around 20 seconds for my surgeon, the extremely amazing Dr. B, to stop talking mid-sentence during my digital rectum exam. It was at that very second that my throat dropped to my stomach. I sat back up & we all (all being myself, my mom, Dr. B, & Nurse Kathy) shared a few silent seconds looking down at the floor. He put his hands in his pockets & cleared his throat before he raised his head & made eye-contact with me. “I, um…its, well, its not internal hemorrhoids” he said ever-so-gently, almost in a way you tell a child about Santa Clause. My eyes began to water. I tried to speak but no words were able to find their way to my mouth. “There’s a pretty substantial mass lining the right side of your rectum...a very substantial mass actually" he added before taking a deep breath.
Trying my best to digest what was just said, I put my hands down on the table to steady myself. “What do we do now?” I asked although I clearly wasn’t ready to hear his response. “We need to schedule a colonoscopy & a biopsy to find out exactly what we are dealing with & we really need to do this first thing Monday morning; then we’ll talk about where we go from there.” “Go from there” I thought…I’m not even sure where I am right now. Five minutes earlier I thought my biggest problem was IH & now I was in need of a biopsy of a “substantial mass”. I remember looking over at my mom & seeing the tears in her eyes that she was trying so hard to fight back. Moments later, a nurse brought Chad back to my exam room; he immediately came over & wrapped his arms around me. He knew. I sat silently trying to make sense of the insensible, while at the same time, not wanting to imagine what potentially laid ahead.
Three days later on April 26, 2010, I had my first colonoscopy & a biopsy of the mass (which would later be renamed a tumor) taken to test for malignancy. When I opened my eyes in recovery, I saw tears falling down my parents’ faces. Chad kissed my forehead & told me how much he loved me. “This isn’t good, is it?” I asked. I didn’t need them to answer, I already knew. All of a sudden the months of symptoms, of DIYs, & of Dr. WWW flooded back & washed over me. “This is all my fault” I managed to whisper between my tears.
It took 2 more days to get the “official” word: on April 28, 2010 I was diagnosed with Stage III Rectal Cancer with a 7cm tumor that was blocking 90% of my rectum. There was no more wondering or guessing or playing Dr. online-I had cancer & unbeknownst to all of us, I had it for quite some time.