Monday, March 18, 2013

Surviving Stage 4 Colon Cancer

On April 7th 2007 one month shy of my 32nd birthday I was told I had stage 4 colon cancer. Multiple big, fat tumors in my liver. That was almost 6 years ago. 

I have spent the better part of that 6 years with my mind on an automatic shutdown when I thought about even a month into my future. Couldn't see it, wouldn't see it, didn't want to see it-otherwise an all encompassing, consuming fear and terror would in-case me body, mind, spirit and soul. There I would freeze. My kids will grow up without me as their mother. They will experience heartache and anguish that will never fully heal.  I remember crying into the phone to my best friend Nicole, as I read the scan report in my car-all I could see were the words "multiple malignancies" all over the pages, and I said to her through snot-covered, blubbering sobs "Ethan will never know me." I thought of Sydney as a teenager-when a girl would need her mother the most and my soul would shatter. 

My diagnosis came and all of a sudden I noticed every funeral home, every cancer center, every commercial for cancer. Fran and I had these weirdo "we're kidding but we're not" conversations about should I be cremated and where will I be buried and you better make sure I look awesome in that casket. His burden as a father and husband only he can speak to during these difficult times, but I knew his burden was great. 

No one could say to me that I was going to get better and that it would be okay. They would want to, as I would if the situation was reversed, but the fact was that I was not okay and I probably wasn't going to get to "okay."

I remember many difficult conversations Dr. Moriarty had to have with us about me and the let's say "difficult" situation I was in. I would get bratty and try and make him say that I would make it to 50-60-90 years old. Forcing him into a corner to say "no Karen from my experience, probably not." 

I remember him telling me -as was his job and duty-just about 3 years ago or so "you might want to start thinking of having a different conversation with your kids." Me: (pretty deadpan and jaded at this point) about dying and stuff? Him: yeah

Now here we are my dear, loving supportive friends and family. Almost 6 years later. Thank you God I am still here. Thriving, joyful, and happy.

About 2 weeks ago I had my scans. Fran and I got the official lowdown at Dr. Moriarty's last week. 

Did you know there is beauty in the word unremarkable? Spleen-unremarkable, ovaries-unremarkable, kidneys-unremarkable, liver...unremarkable. I also find the words, boring, normal and ordinary very beautiful. For me they mean not only life, but a quiet, calm life.

My scan showed that again there is no visible sign of disease. It was very unexciting and very boring (a thing of beauty). I heard it from my doctors, I read it on the report, okay-breathing, breathing, breathing. 

There is a nodule on my lung that is very small (3mm). It hasn't shown up on the reports since 2009. But it was picked up during this scan. Did I freak-you better believe it. But Dr. Moriarty reassured us that it isn't new, it hasn't changed in 3 years and it is nothing to be concerned about. 

I am still considered to be in remission. I almost want to whisper that word, to write it very, very tiny. I feel like if I say it in a normal voice or write it loud and proud the cancer cells that still skulk  within me will hear and try to "get the gang" back together. 

But yet I am grateful. Grateful to the depths of my core. When Ethan calls out for me in the night it is never lost on me how lucky I am that I can run into his room, hold his hand and reassure him everything is okay. Ethan says "can you stay with me mommy?" "Yes, yes, yes-my dear sweet boy."It brings tears to my eyes almost every time. 

Or when Sydney is just so tired and had a long day and just wants to sit and hug and have a little cry, and I get to do that. I get to be her mommy and hug her and say "just need a bit of lovin and a bit of a cry Syd?" I will take that over any material thing in life. I just want, like all of us, life and to live. To raise my children and love them like a crazy person. 

I am here today. I have been shown great immeasurable mercy. As I say in almost every blog-I don't know how or why I am still here  but I am. I am learning to get rid of the survivors guilt. I am learning feeling guilty about living is an insult to our dear friends who are not here and produces and accomplishes nothing. 


I am forever indebted to all of you and your prayers, love, friendship and support. Let us all keep praying for each other because we all need it. I continue to pray for all of you, those who I know and those who I don't. May God's mercy continue, and be with all those still suffering and fighting to be well.

Much Love,
Karen

8 comments:

Melanie said...

So so beautiful Karen! All my love!

K.M. Camiolo said...

Unremarkable is the most beautiful word a radiologist can use.

Just so happy and grateful for you, moved to tears by your words...this journey is brutal, and you have walked it with such resolve.

I am just so glad for you. Yours is a story of hope. Thank you for sharing it...

Unknown said...

You have a gift of simplifying word to the ones that are most important. I am so happy and moved to read your post. Love to all ;)

Jo said...

It is such a joy to read your story. I thank God for this good news and also thank Him for giving us all such a wonderful person in you Karen. I know Francis Sydney and Ethan are always secure when you are around. Dr. Moriarty must feel rewarded after his hard work and then trying to be sensitive and realistic when you wanted firm answers to your queries. Lovingly Jo(Nenagh)

Donna R. said...

Though you don't know me, I am incredibly elated for you. I began following your (Fran's) posts in 2007, the year I lost my beloved sister to stage IV colon cancer. That loss scorched my spirituality, which I am trying to get back. Reading your post helps, because I allow myself to believe, once again, in God. Easter is a time of rebirth. Maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking through you, to me. I don't know. What I do know is that your story restores my sense of hope.
Bless all of you. Happy Easter.
Donna

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story. My 58 year old mother-in-law was just diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer last week. Has already spread to the liver, small piece on lung, and her ovaries.

Chemo is starting tomorrow. Thank you for this blog, as it provides hope for our family.

Julia said...

Thanks for sharing this story. Last December one of my close friends diagnosed with Stage II colon cancer.

Karen Rice said...

You're doing good, never give up. I want to share My personal story below:



“An Awakening”

When I was diagnosed with Breast cancer a few years back, I reacted like most who receive a cancer diagnose, first thing came to mind was a “death sentence”. I found out later that it was truly “an awakening” for me; even after being diagnosed with colon cancer a few years later. I began questioning God, why would you do this to me? What had I done so bad in life to have this thrown upon me? But instead of bemoaning my fate, I decided to look for the positive side of it. There has to be a reason for it all.

I also realized that I was about to face a new beginning, new hope, do and see more with a whole new prospective on life. When I think of the “gift of life” that was given to me, I know that I will develop and gain strength from all my experiences. Not saying, and nor would I ever say that cancer was a gift, surviving it, receiving a second change at life, is the gift. Even with the complications I now have to live with, I still feel truly blessed. For a while, I wasn't happy with the way I looked after my surgery and the pain I had to endure each day, but I decided to snap out of it. I thought about the individuals that are no longer among us. I also realized that there will always be someone worse off than I am. I reminded myself, that I “still have my life” and who am I to complain.

One day I experienced something of a miracle and felt the compulsion to write it down. I turn that experience into a poem and I called it “Peace”. Writing has become therapy for me. I took that poem, along with many others I had composed during my breast cancer period and placed them into book form. I was blessed enough to have that book published. I'm hoping that anyone who has the opportunity to read my poems, get out of them, what I placed in all of them. I wish to make a positive impact on someone who's ill or otherwise, where they could develop the strength to embrace life in a whole new way. I never anticipated becoming a writer, I just became one. I truly believe when you survive a horrific tragedy or a horrible disease as cancer, it's for a reason, “you have a purpose”,” and that's what I'm all about now, inspiration.

I would have never become a writer, producing inspirational poems and stories, if I had not gone through all that I did. I'm a true example that you can survive cancer not once, but twice, providing you
catch it in time, have faith and allow that faith to direct your path. I'm not saying all will be easy, I won't say everyone will survive it, even while holding on to their faith. But as you embark on such a journey, fight with all your might and believe, that no matter what, God is with you every step of the way!

Karen Rice
x2 Cancer Survivor/Author