Honor Your Loved Ones

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In Febuary 2011, I had a routine physical that is required by employer. During that physical my RBC was 7. I had finished a 16 hour shift the day before so when the doctor asked if I felt sluggish or tired? I thought duh who wouldn't. She told me it was not normal, safe, or healthy to have the blood work that I had at the time. She had me do a set of fecal cards. They came back positive. She told me that I needed to have a colonoscopy. I was 34. I thought the stress of being a police officer, a veteran, a husband, and a father had given me an ulcer. I refused to believe I needed to be "probed". Dr. Abasi then put it in simple terms. Get the colonoscopy or she would not allow me to go back to work. Initially I was furious. I felt strong and healthy. I had survived combat and numerous bumps and scrapes as a patrol officer. I felt insulted. After protesting to anyone who would listen it was made clear to me that I could not win the debate. The colonoscopy was coming whether I wanted it or not. I met my GI doc. Doctor Slone. She walk me through the prep. It should be called by its more accurate name. The jug of death. She said that given my age an ulcer was the most likely cause. To be sure and to identify where the blood was coming from she said she would perform an upper and a lower. She laughed and promised the upper would come first. The day had come a week later. I had swallowed that vial evil solution for hours the day before and I was ready to be examined. I remember the surgical center being old and dated. The monitors looked like they belonged on Quincy. In my ingnorance or arrogance maybe both, I believed it was all unecessary. When I woke up from the nurse told me that she was going to walk me down to the Doctors office. That seemed unusual to me, but I had never had this procedure so I was still not alarmed. Doctor Slone walked in to the office. I was seated in a cheap plastic orange chair. I was still a little groggy from the procedure. When I looked up I could see that she had lost the smile she had when I first arrived. She then placed her hand on mine and said the scariest thing I have every heard. "Mr. St.Clair you have Cancer." It did not seem real. It was almost as if it was happening in slow motion. I kept looking for a hint of a laugh and was waiting for the punch line. Her jokes in the past were kind of lame. I thought maybe she and my wife drummed this one up to scare me away from my only vice. Soda. It was no joke. She said that she did not need to wait for the biopsy. It was clearly a large tumor. I started to cry. I sang my protest to the heavens. In my life and career as a soldier and a police officer I had been hit in the head with a brick, stabbed in the hand, shot in the shoulder, and had numerous other close calls. Cancer?!!!! How the fuck? How did I get Cancer? I had always fought the good fight. Surely, I was meant to go out in a more heroic guns blazing kind of way. My thought then went to my daughter. The Doc said Cancer. I thought this is it. I am going to die and leave my daughter. I am going to fail her. My body is going to give up on me and I will not be able to take care of her. Its amazing how quickly self pitty can take your thoughts hostage. As the tears started to flow, I felt a hard thump on my chair. I looked up. Dr.Slone had kicked my chair. Her facial expression had changed once again. She didn't ask she told me the time for feeling sorry for myself just ended. She said it was time to fight. It was the verbal slap in the face that set the trend for my comeback. Dr. Slone outline the CT scan and set me up with the surgical appointment. She was clear that this was a fight. She put it in terms that this soldier could understand. She was clear WE were in the fight. I met my surgeon Dr. Kansal. He informed me that he wanted to use a new robotic instrument for the operation. He would receive assistance from Dr.Sommerville who was the most familar surgeon with the instrument in the country at that time. He said a date would be set after the CT scan results were back. I was ready to go in the next ten minutes. I would have to wait. I had the CT scan the next morning. The tech running the machine was young. He was in his early twenties. He was unshaven, his hair was long and seemed be laying in what ever position it dried in as came to work. The guy looked down on me laying in the tube. He called me dude. He then asked me what I was there for. It was the first time I said the words out loud for someone to her. "I have........I have...uh.. I have cancer. " The young man and I chatted. for a few more seconds. I was crying. Some of the motivation had worn off after I said it out loud. It was then the guy asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a cop. He then told me his dad was a retired trooper. I am sure he could see the fear on my face. The scan was going to tell me just how far the cancer had spread. The young man (Kevin) put his hand on my shoulders and said WE are going to get you through this. He promised he make the doc read the scans as soon as they were ready. Twenty minutes after my scan, Kevin was true to his word. Dr.Slone called me on my cell phone. She was amazed. She asked who I knew to get results that fast and then asked if she could get his number. Even better. "It appears to be contained in the colon." It was already March and it would be eight long weeks before my operation. At the end of May I entered St.Agnus Hospitals. My uncle had flown into town to be with me. My wife was there with me as well. By this time, the team of doctors at Kieser and my friends and family had prepared me for the fight. I was in great spirits. I had the Rocky theme song on my Ipod as they wheeled me down the hallway toward the operating room. Dr.Sommerville asked if I was taking this seriously. I had to search for the answer. I was not sure. I then looked up and smiled. I asked if he would write me a note. I had been accused of being an asshole by several citizen whom I had given a ticket. I wanted it in writing that after the operation I would be less of one. He laughed and said that was a first. I told him that I refuse to let this kill me. I had plans. When I woke up in my brand new room. My family was there to greet me. I had a few small bandages on my belly. No bag!!!!!!! What a relief. A small army of doctors came into to tell me what I am sure was important information. Morphine made that impossible to digest. All I had heard was that the tumor was large and they had remove a large portion of my colon, but were still able to reconnect the good tissue. I was out of the hospital in two days. I walked the hallways as if trying win the Boston marathon indoors. I wanted to hit the benchmarks heading toward remission. My first night home Dr. Kansal called my at about 9pm. He didn't want to wait to tell me. All the nodes where clear. It appeared as if they got it all. My daughter was asleep. I walked in her room and sat at the end of her bed and balled my eyes out. It was the first time in three months I felt safe. My first visit for chemo was so surreal. Everyone in the waiting room looked as if they could be my grandparent. Over the next six months I was initiated into their chemo community. We laughed with and found hope in each other. After completing the chemo all my scans were clean. So was the follow up colonoscopy and the complete gene study. I had been saved. WE had killed it. Currently I am in a drug study with a statin. Its showing promise. Oh and Dr.Abasi and Dr.Slone get flowers often.

Are you at Risk For Colorectal Cancer?

  • 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined
  • Colonoscopies not only discover cancer, but can also stop cancer
  • 50% of Americans still do not get colonoscopy reimbursement
  • Colon cancer research is still vastly under-funded

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