One year ago today, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous section of my bowel. Apart from having my tonsils out about 40 odd years earlier, this was my first surgery. A little chemo, a second surgery and a whole lot of adaptation in the meantime; and here we are, a whole year down the track.
What am I doing a years later? Still adapting. Things aren't the same and most likely won't be, but I'm dealing with them. I am working fulltime. I really haven't stopped working. I had a small gap between jobs at the end of chemo. Had a few weeks off around surgery and chemo made it hard to stay at work for more than 50% of the time. Fortunately, work was lenient and supportive during that period. Then my next job, I worked completely from home which was lucky I guess, as I was physically house bound. As I started getting past that period, I moved to another job, which helped get me back into working in an office in the city, but then Covid sent us all home to work.
I think the big takeaway from this period is that while I was ill prior to my diagnosis and all through my treatment, I felt like I was under performing and lost confidence in myself as a professional. It was one of the more degrading challenges I faced during that period. Approaching 50, lacking confidence and slipping behind the professional capabilities. Now, five months into my current role, I feel like I am bouncing back. I have been putting in a huge effort, picking up new skills and gently pushing back into a leadership space. I think it has been very beneficial for the employer, but for me, in general, the confidence boost has been tremendous.
How is my recovery? My surgical scars itch and hurt. Especially the last few days. Like they are wishing me a happy anniversary. Since the whole thing started, twelve months ago, I've now had more time without a stoma than I did with a stoma. I used to call my stoma Pepper. Now I just call the scar Pepper. Physically, I'm cancer free, though the jury is still out and I've just had another blood test in preparation for my next oncologist visit. I've also just been booked in for my next colonoscopy, so my surgeon can checkout his handy work. The further I get away from the treatment with no indicators, the better the odds are for being declared cured, so each blood test, scan or other is greatly welcomed.
Ultimately, it doesn't feel like I'm recovering from cancer. I'm recovering from treatment. I think I've recovered from all the chemo side affects I'm going to. My fingers and toes still tingle a bit. I suspect my circulatory system has suffered, which I want to explore with the GP and oncologist some more. I had the ostomy for five months. Been without it for seven months. Recovering from reconnecting a bowel, which hasn't been used for five months, takes a couple of months. As I mentioned earlier, I was housebound. Progressively getting more manageable, but some days are diamonds... some days are stone. It would be nice to be more routine, but I've succumb to the idea that old normal is dead and the new normal is more chaotic.
Mentally, after dealing with the fact that I had cancer and a big change was ahead, I went into it with a positive attitude and a lot of support from loved ones. However, finding out that chemo had been put on the table and the stoma would stay until after chemo, that was a kick in the guts. Then every chemo treatment, instead of walking in the door, I could have so easily turned around and walked out. I feel nauseous just recalling how negative I felt going in there. At the end of it all, I expected to be happy and celebrate, but I wasn't and didn't. It was depressing and anti-climatic. I felt like I was getting it wrong. I should be happy about it, but I just wasn't. Then after my second surgery, I expected to be getting back to normal and everything went down hill. It felt like it would never get better. That period was worse than the chemo period.
Rounding out the end of my twelve months, I have gone through several periods of depression. I think a mixture of uncertainty with pending tests and final outcomes; and the inability to workout what normal now is. Taking out a section of bowel changes how things work. On top of that, my wife went through a traumatic experience of her own, massive summer bush fires all around and then Covid19. But if I put all that aside, I think I am just bitter and angry that I got cancer in the first place; and that I had to go through the treatments. And that is weird, because there is no one to be angry at.
So what's next? More tests. More scans. More colonoscopies. Hopefully a clean bill of health. Hopefully, settling down into some more habitual routines. I have to get a hip replacement at some point. I'll make sure I can stem that off I know I am cancer cured. If the cancer returns, I'd rather invest the time and money in going fishing. I'll keep trying to improve professionally. In the IT world, things are always changing and you can't afford to slip behind. Hopefully next year I'll get back into competing in rallies and the Camp Quality Escarpade. Hopefully even secure an entry in the ShitBox rally. I THINK I QUALIFY NOW!
Well! That's it. My twelve month journey. How does my twelve month journey compare to yours?
All the best cancer dudes and dudettes.
Glad to hear from you @PhilPepper, you've been missed!
What a journey you've been on over the past year!! I do hope yourself, your wife and the family are well.
Have you had a chance to chat with your GP about your circulatory issues?
Something else you might want to think about, don't forget that counselling is an option too if you find you need to consider it. You could give 13 11 20 a call and see if our counselling is an option or you can chat to your GP and go that route too.
Please don't be a stranger 😘
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