(Editor’s note: Barb Killmeyer was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004. Following surgery and some complications, she had chemotherapy and was given a clean bill of health toward the end of 2005. The following is the first of three excerpts from her personal diary during her experience.)
I first noticed a problem in mid-October when I was in Nashville, TN, doing some research for a travel article I wanted to write. Sometime early Saturday morning, about 3 or 4 a.m., I awoke with some pains in my stomach. I hadn’t been feeling too well in general, not really sick – just not right. I had several places on my agenda that I was to visit that day so I did what I needed to do to get facts for my story. But I managed to sit at every opportunity and ate a small, light lunch. I assumed that by the time I arrived home the next day the pains would be gone and I would be back to normal.
That didn’t happen. I continued to have small jabs of pain and after a few days my husband insisted that I make a visit to the doctor. I described my symptoms to our family practitioner and after a careful examination he sent me for some blood work and an upper GI test. The results were a shock to me; it turned out that my sugar was up and my blood was down. I was pretty severely anemic; in fact the nurse who called with my results said that if I were much more anemic I would have to have transfusions. This caught my attention. The upper GI showed only some acid reflux. Because of the anemia my doctor thought I must be bleeding internally and he referred me to a gastro-intestinal specialist to have a colonoscopy. This was scheduled for December 21.
I was nervous and frightened, but everyone assured me that the evening before, when you must clean out your colon, is the worst part – and they were right. The procedure itself was simple and comfortable. I was given what is called “conscious sedation” so I was asleep during the entire procedure and woke up comfortably in the recovery room.
But now the real worry began. The doctor told my husband and me that he removed five polyps from my colon, but the problem came when he discovered a tumor that was cancer. He referred me to a surgeon with the comment that “he can cut it all out and you’ll be done with it.” Cancer! I was frightened and as soon as I got home I called to make an appointment with the surgeon.
I couldn’t get an appointment for several weeks and by now we were into the Christmas holidays so I’m sure that had something to do with the wait. But waiting was just horrible because I imagined every sort of tragedy. I could see myself lying in the funeral home and wondered if this might not be my last Christmas, and would my family miss me next Christmas. Outrageous things, I know, but I couldn’t turn my brain off.
I had watched my father die of cancer and it was terrible. Now I might be facing the same thing. I was so tired at night that I went to sleep pretty well, but I always woke up between 3 or 4 a.m. and then the thoughts would come and I couldn’t get rid of them. I prayed a lot and I was just plain scared.
I needed to have a CT scan prior to my appointment with the surgeon so I scheduled that for December 24, Christmas Eve morning. I was dreading this; not the exam itself, but they were going to do my pelvis, stomach and colon. What if they found more tumors there?
I have so many good friends and they all sent encouraging wishes and offers of help. I was very appreciative of each one. I was also on the prayer list for several churches and of several individuals.
On December 28 I received a telephone call from the doctor’s office giving me the results of my CT scan. They could detect no more tumors! I felt as though a 100 lb. weight was lifted from my shoulders. Now I began to feel more confident. I still had to wait a week before I could see the surgeon, but at least I felt that the cancer was probably localized and, although I still had to go through a rather unpleasant operation, I was feeling more positive that it would turn out alright.
This waiting is interminable. The longer I wait the more anxious I get. Let’s get this over with!
On Saturday evening I started to have more pain in the area of the tumor (lower right side). In addition to being uncomfortable it is very frightening to me. The pain is not a sharp jab, but more of a feeling of soreness. Today is Monday and I can’t wait until my appt with the doctor tomorrow morning. The sooner the better. Did I mention that I’m anxious to get this done?
Today I have an appt with another doctor about my eyes. What is this? I’m literally falling apart. Maybe I can get all this garbage over now in the beginning of the year and have the rest of the year as normal as possible. I’m trying very hard not to be a baby about this and complain all the time…
By Barbara Killmeyer
Barb can be reached at www.barbarakillmeyer.com.