This is an excerpt from a chapter of Dancing With Cancer. A memoir of a life with cancer.
What should one expect when traveling down Cancer Street? What does it do to personal relationships? How does it change one emotionally,spiritually and physically?
How does one deal with stepping on the stones of hell when nightmares and fear take over?
This is about one life with cancer. It is about all lives with cancer. It is about you, me and the person nextdoor. Cancer has no boundaries. Any one of us can end up walking down this street.
This book is to help us to cope with living with cancer day by day.
The night before surgery, I begin to prepare. I fasted all day which is not very difficult. I can’t eat even if I want to. It feels like a few hundred butterflies are hatching inside my stomach.
I am more than happy to take a shower as it gives me and my mind something else to do. The surgeon gave me a bottle of liquid shower soap. It smells like disinfectant, which I suppose is what it is. Per Doctor’s orders, I am to lather up my belly and soak in the suds for a few seconds. Next, I scrub with a steel-wool pad and repeat all over again. Well, okay. I am not using steel-wool. I am just making sure you are really paying attention. I hate to think I lost you somewhere in the shower. I am nervous enough without having to worry about you.
I allow the water to pour over me. I have apple scented shower soap and lather my peach shower puff. I relax and enjoy the apple scent swirls as it rises up to envelop me like a blanket. When I finish shaving, I pull out my favorite apple scent shampoo and create a thick white lather. I close my eyes and hide in the warm fog. As I rinse my hair, tears began to slip down my cheeks. I imagine it looks much like the water droplets training down the shower walls. I begin to pray. Right there, butt naked in the shower. Just God and I.
Dear Lord, I am scared. Please come into surgery with me. I told Him I am scared. Watch over Del and my family. I am asking for a miracle Dear Lord. Allow me to feel your healing touch. Be with me and my family every step of the way. In Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Stepping out of the shower, I dry off with my favorite fluffy white towel. My belly is so clean it squeaks and I swear I just saw my belly button wink at me.
I have one final step to take in preparation. Moaning, I dig around until I find the enema I purchased earlier at the drug store. Sighing deeply, I pick up the box to read the directions. All of the comfort the shower just gave me, evaporates as I open the box. I stand staring at the illustrated contents.
Dropping my mouth open as my eyes grow wide in horror, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I think. “Is that even possible?”
With nothing but a towel wrapped around me, I enter my bedroom, closing the door behind me. With a groan, I drop my soft fluffy towel and spread it on my bed along with a couple more. After studying the directions and one last disturbing glance at the diagram, I crawl on my bed to mimic the picture.
I feel like I am playing a demented game of twister. Place right and left knee on bed. Stick naked butt up in the air. With one elbow on the bed for support, reach back with free hand…
“Free hand? What free hand?” I think. ”OH! The hand holding the bottle with the horrifying applicator!” Swallow. ”Oh God.”
The instructions say to relax.”What idiot wrote this?” I mutter. “Obviously someone who has never tried this!”
Deep breath. Reaching back again and after a few failed attempts and watery eyes, I finally make contact. “Houston, we’re ready to lift-off.”
Quickly, I begin to squeeze the contents inside me. Big mistake as it ran right back out. Mortified, I s-l-o-w-l-y empty the contents. No wonder this particular bodily orifice has a puckered opening. It is nature’s way of clamping itself shut as if saying, “Hey idiot! Don’t even think about inserting anything in here!”
I barely get my arse out of the air when the stuff kicks in. The next couple of hours are spent cramping and trotting to the potty. Before surgery I think I will ask Doc to remove the ring from around my butt.
A couple of hours worth of bathroom trots later, I finally go to bed. As usual Del reaches over for a goodnight kiss. However this time his eyes pool up with water. He pulls me close and silently we weep. There is no need for words. We are one. We are going through this together. He holds me as if the act of letting go will mean I will be lost to him forever. We finally try to nestle down for sleep as our knees fold into each other cricket style. Del’s head against the back of my neck. His tears roll down into my ear, mine soak into my pillow. Together we sleep restlessly.
Pins and needles. He tosses. I turn. Each of us feigning sleep. Each of us sharing the same thoughts. We are scared. What if I must have an ostomy? The possibility is very real. I keep reminding myself if I must have one, it is to save my life.
An ostomy connects either the small or large intestine to the abdominal surface. The intestines are essentially re-routed to empty all excretions into an ostomy bag attached to the opening. When the large intestines are re-routed it is called a colostomy
It can be temporary or permanent. A temporary ostomy might be necessary if the intestinal tract is scarred or blocked by diseased tissue. In most cases a temporary ostomy can be reversed with minimal or no intestinal damage. If the intestinal function is impaired due to disease or if the intestinal muscles can no longer work properly, a permanent ostomy may be required. A permanent colostomy is often used in conjunction with inflammatory bowel disease and rectal cancers.
We start out spooning and end up flailing. What if I lose too much blood? A blood bank is stored up for me. What if more tumors are found? Rollover, curl up. What if I die? Del moans. Could it be cancer? I am so cold. Why am I so cold? It’s dark. So dark. No light anywhere. Darkness. Cold. Death.
I receive a one-way ticket from Hell. A mist consumes me. Dark. Damp. Cold.
“Congratulations. You have colon cancer”…stop…breath…colon cancer?
“Please watch your step and enjoy your stay”…what?…breathe, remember to breathe…
I hear the words over again, “Enjoy your stay…enjoy your stay…” I am transported into another world. Carrying a large burning torch, a demon named Cancer grabs me with his free arm and drags me into his lair. He is giddy with pleasure as he tries to sink his finger into my skull. Like a drill, his nail penetrates through flesh and bone. He stirs his finger around. Inside my skull. Inside my brain. Shrills of laughter echo and bounce off the damp, black, stone walls.
Quite suddenly Cancer withdraws his finger from my skull. He appears startled. He screams out with a high-pitch shrill I am certain wil make my ears bleed. My eyes clench tight and my hands fly to my ears in reflex. The screams bounce off the walls. It reminds me of a siren as it seems to slowly go farther and farther away but never stopping to shriek. Finally, the shrill vanishes within the mist. I take my hands off my ears but I keep my eyes clenched shut. Afraid the beast is still here. Afraid this is a trick. Afraid as soon as I open my eyes he will be right here in front of me sucking my brain matter off his fingertip.
I begin to sweat but I am frozen too. After what seems hours but is no more than a few moments, I open one eye. I sweep the dungeon from wall to wall as far as one eye can see. Satisfied I was alone I open the other eye. I almost wish I hadn’t.
Frightening shadows appear on the wall. Is it Cancer? My heart stops. Is he coming back? The walls seem to move to the beat of my heart. It smells of death. I shiver in fear, or maybe it is in cold. Alone. All alone.
With help from the torch, my eyes adjust to the darkness. The walls really are pulsating. I have the impression I am being digested! Cancer is consuming me. Quickly, I try to get the picture out of my mind. I remember how Cancer sucked my flesh off his finger. For the first time in my life I feel Terror. While Cancer consumes me, I feel the arms of Terror holding me into place. Unable to move or to even scream. Terror coils itself around me, taking my breath. Cancer and Terror are allies. Together they render me helpless.
Slay The Beast. Only I can see him. He has haunted me for years. His prophecies are real.The root of my fears. He finally attacked. I am fighting him off.
He is so strong. I am too soft. I have turned to mush. This is a long battle. There is no time to rest. His tail rattles. Ready to strike. The snake that he is. Venomous bite. Feeding on flesh. Sucking out blood. Bone and tissue. Poisonous flood. Craving my life Fangs in deep. Holding tight. Making me weep. But I will win. The beast will be slayed. He won’t get me down. Inside of a grave. Nae, wake up! Nae! Del shakes harder.
I spring bolt upright, gasping for air. My hair is wet and sticking to the side of my face. My skin clammy and my nightgown drenched in sweat. With a whimper I lay back down. Too hot to curl up against Del, I turnover. Back to back, we both drift back to sleep.
Glass shadows cracking under my feet. Step on a crack become obsolete. How did I get here? How do I leave? I feel like a trick, pulled out from a sleeve. I am in Wonderland without Alice. This is frightening full of malice.
Glass shadows casting on the land. Cracking under my feet as I stand. If I fall through, where will it lead? I can’t stay here, I must leave. How do I go, where is the way? Bring me guidance, don’t let me stray.
Cracking shadows full of lies. Shattered hearts and broken dreams. In a place which is not what it seems. Trust no one, all is bad. If I am stuck here much longer. I will go mad. A funhouse which never ends. Full of horrors and screams.
Close my eyes and pretend. Click my heels think of home. Open eyes, I see a gnome. But I am still here. What do I do? Pray for a prince. To make my dreams come true?
Take me away from shadows that crack. Take me away from shards of glass. Take me away from all that’s ill. But let me escape from some of the real? Can’t I have two worlds in one? No pain or hurt. No sickness or death. Gather all horror and leave it behind. Please leave me. Only a good design.
Take me from here. Take me away. Put it in a dream and scream it away.
Desperately, I look all around. I need Inspiration, Hope, Faith! I see nothing. “Please, come. I am here”, I shout out.
I pray. Dear God, please lift the shadows. Destroy the nightmares. Allow me to see your light. Do not allow my soul to be lost forever. I am your child. I put myself in your hands. Please Dear Lord, hear my words. The chains are broken. Though Cancer continues to lurk nearby, I am free! I spread my wings, the chains break-away. I arise. I arise. I arise!
Today, I am Okay. Today, I will be alright. What will tomorrow bring? I won’t know, until I turn the page..
Today is the day. Today is the day….breath…today is the day of the rest of my life
Cancer is My Name, by Renee Robinson