Cancer Journal

December 18

After many years of abdominal pain, repeated trips to the doctor and the emergency room, lab work, imaging, and being told there is nothing wrong with me (sorry we can’t help you, everything is normal), I have been diagnosed with colon cancer. 

 I’ve lost so much of life to pain and discomfort, and bowel issues that kept me home or having to be near a bathroom. I couldn’t go out to breakfast, which is something my husband really enjoys doing, because mornings were always when I felt the worst. There were many times I would be feeling fine, get ready to go somewhere, and be hit with pain that would make me feel sick, stopping me in my tracks. 

This didn’t just affect me. It affected my husband and family as well. I  can’t tell you how terrible I felt emotionally, knowing that I was messing up plans, depriving others of little joys, and having seemingly no good excuse for it. And the mental toll of feeling like a hypochondriac because I was continually told there was nothing wrong. “Your labs are good. Your CT scan doesn’t show anything. I can’t treat you for something I can’t diagnose.” is one of the more recent things I was told during a trip to the emergency room. I was offered narcotics for pain and I refused them. I have repeatedly been given this same offer and have always refused. I was made to feel like a stereotyped drug-seeker, and that is not me. 

I was overdue for my colonoscopy by 2 years (having a ten year schedule due to diverticulosis). This happened for a couple of reasons: the pandemic hit and maintenance healthcare came to a screeching halt, and my health insurance at the time had a huge deductible that I knew I would not be able to pay. The first thing I did when I began my new job this past spring was to buy into the best plan they had. The pay was good, the insurance was awesome and reasonably priced. I’m so glad I did. I never for one minute thought that I would use it much, as I believed that my problem would never have an answer.

So I scheduled an appointment with my new provider. She took me seriously and ordered a bunch of testing to address several issues. Guess what? It all came back normal. But she thought it was probably diverticulitis and prescribed antibiotics, like so many before her had done. Nothing new there. She went on vacation and while she was gone I kept having pain after finishing the antibiotics, so I saw another provider in the same office. Who prescribed different antibiotics. So I spent most of the summer avoiding the sun as the medications made my skin burn and itch when directly exposed. This scenario has been my normal for years. 

I’ve been to the point numerous times when I have turned to my Lord and asked, “What is the point of this life? What am I supposed to be learning? Why do I have to live like this? If this is all there is then would you please just take me home? Because I don’t want this any more.” No, I’m not now nor have I ever been suicidal. But I can well understand the path that takes people there. 

Many times I’ve heard people ask why God allows bad or hurtful things in our world. They question if he loves us. They say that if He did, He would never allow us to hurt. I can tell you why. God gave us a full range of emotions so that we could experience them all and become rich not only in spirit but in compassion for others. If we never had bad things happen to us, how would we understand others or be able to have compassion for them? We would be a world full of selfish, self-centered people who never know hurt so couldn’t see beyond our own boundaries. I believe that those of us who struggle the most, who have the heaviest burdens, who never get lifted out of the mire they are stuck in….. those are the ones who will be leaders in Heaven because they will have learned all the most valuable lessons. Those who have led easy and privileged lives here on earth will not have the capacity to lead in the next world. They have not learned the anguishing lessons, felt the pain, or grown enough spiritually or emotionally to have the knowledge, compassion, and caring to lead others on the path of common good. 

The good news is, I was able to schedule that colonoscopy. They found a cancerous tumor that had grown large enough to almost completely block the colon. It had grown through the colon wall and began invading the tissue next to it. But wait you say, that’s not good news. Well, yes it is. From my perspective, it sure is. You see, I have answers now. I’m not crazy. I’m not a hypochondriac. I’m not a drug-seeker looking for a fix. I have a way to stop the hurt that has been plaguing me for years. I can get my life back. With cancer? Yes. I had a colon resection and they removed the tumor in its entirety. Yes, all of it. I’m also very lucky that there are no identifiable metastases seen on any of the new scans. The story doesn’t end there though. It’s medical protocol to take a dozen or so nearby lymph nodes for testing. Some came back cancerous. More bad news you say. Perhaps. I would have preferred to be free and clear after the surgery, of course. But they tell me that six months of chemotherapy will greatly reduce the chances of recurrence.

Now I’m in a holding pattern as I wait for the port placement that is scheduled about a week and a half away. Chemotherapy will begin after that. I’ve been given much information to study as I prepare for these next steps on my path. I have shopped for the items they told me to get, am preparing my body and mind, have a good family support system here at home, a supportive employer, and a realistic but upbeat attitude. I’ve always been the person who takes care of others. The strong one that people rely on. This turns the tables on me. I may not like it, but now that I’m on the receiving end I’m gaining a new perspective and becoming stronger because of it. More compassionate, more understanding, more knowledgeable. Hey look, another silver lining.

That’s another thing about me— I always rise to the surface like a bubble. I can’t help it, that’s just who I am.  No matter how far down I get taken there is always a light that I rise towards. And those times when I asked God why…… I knew that there would be a light again and a solution would come. Because really, I don’t have time to be sick. I have people to take care of. This is just another problem to solve. And this one has a multi-step solution. Step one was quick and is complete, and step two is looming large and close. I will take that step by putting my best foot forward and hoping for the best. It will either eliminate any remaining cancer, or it may fail and my journey home to my Heavenly Father will come sooner. Either way I win.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

~Isaiah 40: 29-31


It’s always been cold and unfriendly to me. Well, maybe not always. I remember snow-blown days of youth, several layers of clothes, two or three pairs of Gram’s hand-knit mittens, and a hand-knit hat pulled low to the eyebrows. Walking through the neighborhood with the snow swirling all around. Or sliding down the hill next to the house, stopping just short of the road where the snow was plowed up high. There was a steep incline on the other side of the house that was perfect for jumping off into mid-air and turning a flip, before landing with a poof in a deep snowdrift. A brief moment of weightless adrenaline. Then laying there for another snapshot in time, flat on my back, arms spread wide to the overcast sky, grinning. Floundering out of the soft snow, climbing back up to do it again. Sweet youth.

Ice cakes formed in the harbor and piled up on the shore. Huge, enticing, translucent light-filled aqua. A mystery that needed to be explored, but was forbidden. The heart pounding fear of sliding off of one into the smoking-cold sea kept us at bay. It meant instant death. Looking and imagining was all we needed. Winters were much colder then than they are now. Those big ice cakes no longer pile up on the shore, just small ones that are gone within a few days. Smoke on the water happens only briefly each season now. I remember long winters of a smoky harbor and ice cakes that formed in the water halfway to Greenings Island. My Mum shared memories of when the harbor froze solid and the men used to drive their trucks on it all the way across. It’s scary to think of as we struggle with climate change and all the changes that are coming with it.

Now for many years, winter means unbearable cold and stiffness in my body. Cold that touches my hands brings instant pain. My feet, layered in wool socks and heavy boots, still get cold quickly and have even more intense pain. When I was a young woman I would stick my bare foot out the front door into the first new snowfall, and take a picture of it, pink toenails on the white background. These days I shy away from the outside in winter and at the same time, remember the exuberance of youth and know that I’m missing so much. I push my limits with the technology of “hot hands” and “toasty toes” warmers that fit into gloves and stick to the bottoms of socks. But it isn’t enough. The wind pushes needles of cold through the fabric of my clothes, and down my neck. How does it do that when I’m wrapped so well, with so many layers?

This pain from cold brings its own blessings as it makes me realize all of the relationships around it. I appreciate the wood fire more, the shelter of the ice shack when fishing, the warmth of rum and good friends after a long snowmobile ride. I look at snapshots of us on the trail, smiling in the scenery, and can smell the fresh cold air. I wonder how many hundreds of pairs of wool mittens Gram made; her love for children woven into each stitch.

I still enjoy the quiet and solitude of a walk in the woods amid fresh and falling snow, surrounded by silence and steaming breath. Seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow and wondering how far ahead of me it is. I love the wonder that God gives us with the pure whiteness swirling around, falling from a grey and white sky, or the sun glistening on the new snow in blinding exquisiteness. 

You see, even pain brings a new perception if you look for God around the edges. I’ve found that He has always wrapped my pain with blessings, when I’ve taken the time to look.   👩🏻‍💻