Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine
So there I am, minding my own business, sitting in my doctor’s office. I am waiting for him to grace the room with his presence, I haven’t seen him yet and my appointment started 45 minutes ago. I am t-minus 90 seconds away from escaping through the back hallway and the side elevators so that I can join my buddies at the bar. After all, the Bears are playing tonight and the only reason for this appointment was to go over some sort of test results.
And then he walks in, just as I was getting up to leave. “Please have a seat,” he says. He has a folder in his hand; it has my name on it. There are several papers in the folder. What are all those papers for? Am I going to miss kickoff? I can’t miss kickoff.
As I continue to think about kickoff, he is speaking to me. He sounds like the teacher from Peanuts. “Wah wah wah, …. Wah wah wah, …. Advanced rectal cancer… wah wah wah, wah wah.”
“Come again?” This is the most profound thing I think to say in the moment.
“Mr. Westin, I am sorry to tell you that your tests show you have an advanced stage of rectal cancer. It is located in the lower two-thirds of your rectum. I have reviewed your case and I’m happy to say that there are several treatment options that we can discuss today. I am hopeful that together we can wah wah wah wah wah ….”, the doctor continues as he slips back into his Peanut voice.
For a brief moment, I am oddly humored by an array of punch lines dancing in my head. “Now we know he’s full of crap,” or “What’s up with Uranus,” or my favorite, “Stop pulling things out of your ass! Too soon?”
This brief moment of humor is immediately followed with panic. I know how this goes; I had a buddy with the same deal. They chop out a piece of your, you know what, and after all that you still have to get chemotherapy. I’m thinking, what if I can’t ever go number two again? Will it get backed up in there? Do I need to be tied to a bag for the rest of my life? Or what if the surgery leaves me with a bunch of nerve damage? Isn’t everything connected? It’s such tight quarters down there. What if I can’t ever have sex again for the rest of my life? Will this leave me paralyzed from the waist down? Are those locusts in the sky?
That was 6 months ago, and boy how time flies! I missed the Bears game that day, but it’s ok, they lost anyway. My buddies knew something was wrong when I didn’t show up. Lucky for me they spared me from their punch lines when I fessed up to the diagnosis the next time we got together, but only for a day. By the very next day they were coming in hard to the paint with some good ones. I never told them, but laughing about it made everything else a whole lot easier.
I ended up getting something called a Total Mesorectal Excision. They removed the part of my rectum with the cancer and all the lymph nodes that were nearby, basically wiping out any chance of it spreading. Or at least that was the hope.
The good news is, it worked! The doctors were able to remove all of the cancer, and even though they didn’t see cancer in the lymph nodes, they wanted to take precaution and get rid of them anyway. I didn’t have to continue with chemo or radiation, and the doctors told me I was cancer free!
Today, I am still cancer free and getting tested on a regular basis to make sure it stays that way. I’ve taken up some healthy activities that they say are supposed to prevent cancer in the future. I still watch the Bears with my buddies and drink way too much beer on Sundays, but every other day of the week I eat healthy and I play tennis with my wife! I’m actually really good, but don’t tell the guys. I’ll never live it down.
To be honest, there’s a bit of nerve damage down there. But the doctors tell me it could have been much worse, and the most important machines in the factory are fully functional, so I’m not going to complain.
For folks out there who have never had to deal with the C-word, I can tell you… The sun may be shining today, but not down there. So get yourself checked out, even if it means missing a Bears game. They’re going to lose anyway.