The New Normal
Six months. That’s how long it has been since I found out.
It certainly hasn’t been the easiest half-year I’ve been through, but as it turns out, it also hasn’t been the worst, either. Granted, being given a diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer just a couple months after turning 30 isn’t something that I had ever contemplated as being within the realm of possibility. But so far, I feel like I’ve managed to hold things together reasonably well.
It all happened so quickly, it was hard to wrap my head around it at first. In a matter of weeks, I went from having some abdominal pain and thinking I’d picked up some stomach bug in India to learning I had a malignant tumor blocking most of my descending colon. When I woke up from surgery expecting that the tumor had been removed and that my colon had been reconnected, I instead learned that I’d been diverted into a colostomy, that the lower portion of my colon was pretty much covered in small tumors, as was much of my abdominal lining, and it soon became clear to me that this was not the return to cancer-free status after a week with cancer that I’d be expecting when I went under the knife. Indeed, life had changed.
Since then, we’ve learned to adjust to the new normal.
Fortunately, the transition back to “normal” life (whatever that may mean, now) wasn’t as scary as it had seemed in the hospital. Once I got healed up from the surgery, it simply became a matter of accepting the fact that things were different and learning how to navigate the world in this new context. Life with a colostomy is a bit different, to say the least. Suddenly I’m concerned about the length of the shirts I wear. Where I sit and the way I sit in a car has changed; I now must make sure the seat belt doesn’t place pressure on my colostomy or on my port. And to some extent, I’ve made some dietary changes, mostly to focus on re-gaining the weight I lost prior to surgery. And, of course, there’s the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to make plans beyond the near-term, simply because it can be hard to know how my body will deal with the side effects of chemo.
But so it goes. As time passes, we’ve become much better at dealing with these changes to our regular routines. Regular trips from Phoenix to Tucson and back, for the purpose of treatment, are now just something we’re used to. And the rest of the changes have now been integrated into our lives, as well. That’s not to say that there’s nothing still somewhat unbelievable about this entire situation; there are definitely moments when I think about everything we’ve learned these past few months and am just generally shocked by exactly what’s transpired.
The key for me, though, has been to not let that sense of shock or anything else keep me from doing whatever I can do to come to terms with my diagnosis, and to do whatever I can that’s within my own realm of control. Along with maintaining a positive outlook and taking care of my body, this also means working with my doctors to take as aggressive an approach towards dealing with the cancer. I’m going to go into this fight with everything I — and medical science — have got.
And that brings me to the next step in this journey…