I haven’t written much about my long-distance caregiving for Dad, because he’s doing so well. Other than a few odds and ends (like him calling me to remember how to wash the towels…do they go in whites or darks?), Dad is moving on with life and staying busy. What a relief for me, as I was able to start getting my life back together. In fact, I was very happy about maintaining an even keel emotionally and physically while moving back into my art and writing.
Then, last Monday, my husband went in for a routine colonoscopy. The nurse called me to come pick him up. When I arrived she asked us to wait, because the doctor wanted to talk with us. My husband, Hugh, was slightly intoxicated from the anesthesia, and I was laughing as he struggled to get dressed. Then, the doctor stepped in to let us know in no uncertain terms–with photographs–that Hugh had colon cancer.
I struggled for air and felt everything spinning around me. Hugh was calm, but he also was coming out of a deep sleep. The nurse left the images with us and I looked at them again. Wow — that tumor looked like the size of New York. And…I saw blood. Did the tumor penetrate the intestinal wall? Are we looking at metastasis, or is the cancer contained?
I had flashbacks to my mother’s diagnosis in March 2013, and remembered how long it took the specialists to determine her type of cancer, the staging, and the prognosis and treatment possibilities. When I returned home, I researched colon cancer, but everything was so generalized. I decided to not worry about anything until our appointment with the surgeon. That appointment occurred within three days.
It was during that appointment that I learned that Hugh has what is known as “adenocarcinoma of the rectosigmoid region.” In other words, the tumor is located below the end of the large intestine. We now have a name. Next up is staging. Unlike my mother’s bile duct cancer, we’ll know exactly what we’re dealing with within the next two weeks. That’s more like how we were dealt the cards in Dad’s situation with his bladder cancer…first, some scans, then some surgery, then some treatment options.
That’s where we are now. Hugh is scheduled for a CT scan on Monday. We’ll know if the good doc can operate and remove that part of Hugh’s intestine by Wednesday morning. That operation all rides on the actual size and location of the tumor and the condition of Hugh’s liver. If operable, then Hugh will go under the knife on Friday — his room is reserved. That’s when they’ll also remove a number of lymph nodes and check out a few things to determine if the cancer has “traveled.”
If the surgery goes well and the cancer hasn’t “traveled,” then Hugh should be fine. If the surgeon can’t operate right away, Hugh will need some radiation treatments first to reduce the size of the tumor for surgery. And, if the cancer has metastasized…well, I’m not ready to enter that territory yet. Just one day at a time.
But, I did notice yesterday that I’m seeing Hugh differently. I think I’m seeing him through the eyes of a caregiver, and I think I’m noticing changes. But, that’s just nuts.
Am I ready for this? I seriously don’t know. I don’t think I have a choice.