The worst aspect of surviving a cancer death sentence comes from well-meaning people asking you, “What kind of cancer?” They ask with the wide eyes of someone who met cancer on the tv screen or in the movies but never dealt with it in their own lives.
Going through chemo proved less aggravating than answering questions, some ignorant, some well-intentioned. Lung cancer. Liver cancer. Skin cancer. Breast cancer. All have explanations and implications. We survived colon cancer, the shittiest one to talk about. When we discuss potty habits, generally it refers to a baby or a senile person who has lost control. We never thought other people passing gas was as funny as they did at the time and we don’t like potty humor. There are a few rare occasions where it fits. Usually it is saved to get laughs at the lowest level.
If our colon corroding were not bad enough, the fine doctor removed the rectum – bottom-line, he cut the colon short and ran a straight line to the good old sphincter. Before cancer, rectums and sphincters provided a source for humorous insults, if anything. “With friends like that,” we’d quip, “who needs enemas?” In fact, one reason for this blog is that we are tired of being ashamed of our missing rectum. Up until now, it is the one thing we never wanted to divulge about ourselves. What would people think? We could leave a mess anywhere! Will they be looking for stains on the seat of our jeans…well, fuck that. We are tired of hiding it. Now we tell the world! So there….
We wish we had our rectum back – just so we could throw it at the next person who asks!
Why? As usual, because we are pissed off. When you have cancer, you learn a number of new things. First among them is – doctors lie. Doctors lie a lot. Doctors have lied so much that it takes a lot for us to find respect for one anymore. We recently moved from east coast to west coast. We picked the State of Washington because this state is very kind and progressive, as we found in studying the states. Washington allows same-sex marriage, was among the first states to do so, legalized medical and recreational marijuana and even allows people to die with dignity. Governor Jay Inslee oversees things here and he is the first politician we have seen in a long time who doesn’t make us angry. He seems like a just and moral servant of the people. We thought that didn’t exist anymore.
Laws provide for people who have cancer. Laws do not provide for people who are no longer whole because of cancer. Recently we visited a new doctor. We have been trying to find a specialist since we moved here, close to a year ago.
We told him, “I have no rectum.”
“Yes, you do,” he shot back.
“No, ” we insist, “They cut it out!”
“No they didn’t,” he wisely counsels, “you still have a rectum.”
On Friday we left a message for our surgeon. We asked for a callback to tell us if we owned a rectum or not. The nurse said she had sent our records to the doctor who argued about the rectum. “It is right there on the records,” she sympathized, “You had a colorectal anastomosis. It is right there in the pathology. All he has to do is read it.” That was news to us. When the operation was performed, it was so rare it didn’t have a name yet.
All he had to do was read it…imagine that!!!
All he had to do to learn how to treat us was to read the Washington State Law on prescribing drugs, which states that doctors may give certain drugs to people with ‘pain related to cancer.’ This doctor told us that since the cancer was gone, it was not cancer pain. Does that lessen the pain? Does that help us as a patient?
Speaking of patients, the Washington law also says that patients must be believed. The funny thing about cancer is, they say you always have the chance of it coming back. Another fact bandied about frequently is that stress is proven to cause recurrence. When you visit a doctor and they infer that you are either a liar or an idiot because you refuse to agree that your rectum has NOT been removed, we call this a major stresser. The last thing you expect from your good doctor is to cause you stress, which can make you sicker. What happened to bedside manner?
We will return to this but, unlike our other blog, we intend to keep this one short so it can be read more quickly and reach more people. For now, many of you may understand why we are angry. That is why we have a comments section.
If any of this strikes home, we hope you will comment.
Thanks for reading!!!