COLUMN: Support can be all the difference  

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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June 27 was the scariest day of my life but according to the doctors, it went about as well as it possibly could.  

Doctors were able to remove the area where cancer cells were detected and Dr. Jamie Cannon – my surgeon and one of the most respected surgeons in the country – told me I am now considered “no evidence of disease” (NED), which is doctor speak for “cancer free.”  

The night before the surgery I think I slept four hours – trust me though I made up for it the next day – the thoughts of every single thing that could go wrong rattled through my mind. When I finally picked up my phone that morning, though, I was swarmed with videos, pictures and posts from family, friends and even some people I didn’t even know.  

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All of these people were not only wishing me well but each was wearing a blue-ribbon pin to signify colorectal cancer awareness in support of my surgery. All of those pins were supplied by wife and she even brought one to my mom’s gravesite. I think I cried for 20 minutes straight but the feeling was overwhelming and comforting in a way I didn’t expect would be possible.  

Llama Kisses

By the time I was brought back to pre-op the worry and fear returned but messages of support continued to pour in and I couldn’t help but smile. The last thing I remember as I was being wheeled towards the operating room was Bethany and I giving each other one last “Llama kiss” (it’s an inside thing). 

When I woke up, all I could think was “I’m alive!” The doctors were happy with how it went and while I will have to wear an ostomy – probably my second biggest fear through this entire thing – the doctors think it can be reversed potentially in six weeks and I can go back to as much of a normal life as humanly possible after a part of your insides is literally removed.  

The recovery has been painful, to say the least. The first few days it didn’t just hurt to try and walk, it hurt to move. Just to get up from the bed was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Through it all my wife, my mother-in-law (who has done her best to fill the mom sized hole in my heart over the last three years) and my dad were there to help me and lend support while in the hospital.  

Since being released from the hospital, it’s been a whole new struggle. Pain is the least of the issues. The ostomy itself has been a nightmare, that’s the only way I can describe it. I was already terrified of dealing with it; the embarrassment of having it, the struggle to put one on without facing leaks and the pain that continues to beat me down.  

On Saturday, we had to change the bag at least four times – a home health nurse even struggled with it – and eventually I still ended up in the ER because of the rashes that have surrounded the site on my skin and the inability to keep the bag on. Saturday was as close to having a full and complete mental breakdown that I think I’ve ever had. I uncontrollably shook, punched at the air and cried like an infant. I was broken.  

Through it all, my wife was right there to calm me down and take care of me. She’s struggling with this whole situation as much – maybe even more at times – as I am. In the ER, the nurse taking care of me – I don’t even remember her name – also did her best to sooth me as she saw clearly how close to the edge I was. She carefully cleaned and took care of my skin for more than an hour that night. The bag still leaked by the next morning but Bethany got one on me after that that lasted all the way until Monday night. It was a few days of ease that we had not felt in a week.  

I’m saying all of this to say that there is no chance whatsoever that I could have gotten through the surgery and I absolutely would not be able to get through the recovery without the support I’ve received from the people in my life and even a bunch of strangers. Never take for granted what acts of support or even just kindness can do for someone.