So those of you who know me well, know there is not much of a filter for things that come out of my mouth. Life is what it is and we put our big girl panties on every day and make the best of it. And boy do I have to put those on for real! I don't know how else to say it, but just to say it. I have rectal cancer. RECTAL Cancer of all things. I know there is nothing about cancer that is glamorous, but come on. Really? Just saying those words was hard. I don't want to hide it behind "Tavia has cancer" or "GI Cancer " or even "Colorectal Cancer". It's in a spot no one wants to talk about. But we have to talk about it. If I can talk about it then I expect you to talk about it. Deal? So our journey slogan is "Cancer, you can kiss my ass!" I thought it most appropriate for rectal cancer and I'm sure you'd agree.
My pastor preached today on authenticity. Patti, there are no card board figures in this story or this journey! I'm just sayin'. I would love for you all to come along on this ride with us. First, because if it helps one of you to go get a colonoscopy who has been putting it off, then it'll be worth it, but also, we will need you. Just knowing your love and support is there will help us tremendously. So the tickets are free and some of the post will be serious, but I'll do my best to be real with you in my witty and sarcastic way!
You should know up front that while we are pissed about having to do this, our spirits are good and positive. It will be a hard and bumpy road, but it sure as hell could be worse. So here is a bit of what has transpired to get us where we are today.
I know some of you are thinking...what symptoms did you have? I'd been having some GI issues since last year (extraordinary bloating, gas, and changes in my stool consistency), but Darla and I were experiencing an incredible amount of personal stress and many just chalked it up to that. I felt like something was wrong though, but you know, late 40's stuff starts to creep up on you and you feel like you are becoming a hypochondriac. And for some doctors, they treat you like, oh poor little lady, you're just all worked up and it's just anxiety. I did have an endoscope in December, but the GI guy would not do a colonoscopy. We are still a little pissed about that, but it wouldn't have changed the outcome.
Fast forward 6 months and due to a report that was read wrong in my OB/GYN's office, I had a abdominal and pelvic CT scan that proved normal for why they performed it, but found a narrowing in my lower colon. Thank God for that mistake! It may have very well saved my life.
I met with a colorectal surgeon in mid July and on July 24, 2018, I had a diagnositc colonoscopy. During the colonoscopy a 4 x 5 cm ulcerated lesion was discovered in my upper rectum. Six biopsies were taken from the ulcerated lesion and were submitted to pathology for testing along with 16 polyps. On July 31st, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Later that week I had a pelvic MRI and a chest CT in order to stage the cancer and to make sure my lungs were clear. So what we know now is that it's early, not as early as it could be, but Stage 2 (Technically it's T3N0M0), meaning it doesn't appear to be in lymph nodes and other organs though is has protruded the rectal wall. Luckily it's in a spot in my upper rectum that has a little space before encroaching on any other wall tissue.
A multidisciplinary team met to review my case last week and apparently I have options. The bottom line is that I will have chemo, radiation, and surgery in the near future. In what order, I don't know yet. On August 23rd, I will meet with a medical oncologist, as well as a radiation oncologist to talk specifics. Until then, we are carrying on as usual. I'm trying to get as fit as possible so surgery will be easier. If you see me around town on my bike in Baton Rouge, please honk three times so I'll know you are supporting me and not about to run over me!
More to come as we learn more in a few weeks. I'd appreciate your continued thoughts and prayers, and please reach out with funny stuff for me. You all know that crap keeps me going. In the interim, I'm considering an essay contest to name my temporary ileostomy bag. She's gonna be with me for several months so I should start to prepare for her now.
Much love to you all and please don't worry too much. This will suck, but it's very doable!
P.S: Check Your Colon! Don't wait and if something is not right, push til someone hears you.