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    Celebration (Finished treatment): One month following the last chemo, the week of April 30, I returned to Mayo; changes were in the air! The CT scan showed No Evidence of Disease!; the cancer appears to be all gone! I still struggled with things from surgery that still needed to heal but No Evidence of Disease was awesome!

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    Drug or Chemo Therapy (Chemotherapy): After surgery chemo - The effect of the chemo started right away. Touching anything in the freezer was a no-no. Even the refrigerator could be an issue. When I tried to drink a cold pop it was like I was swallowing a thousand mini ice cycles. I quickly learned to avoid anything cold. The other effect was the fatigue after the chemo shift was over. It was like having 25 blankets on, I could move but it took great effort. I remember saying I felt like a young child, so layered up to go outside in the cold that I could not do anything once I got out there. There would be other effects from the chemo; I lost part of my sense of taste; I had mouth sores that would cause me to have nerve pain with certain foods; my feet would get numb; and I had a crusty buildup with small leakages of blood in my nose. In addition, my bowels would have troubles, at times, to varying degrees, during and after the chemo cycles. Maybe the worst were the onset of bladder spasms. Considering I had a catheter in, it seemed odd to have a tremendous urge to pee; at times so powerful that it would put me to my knees. The spasm would cause urine to be pushed out of the bladder into my urethra. Since my urethra was compromised, the urine would leak out my drain through my bottom. This caused me to think that the urethra would not be able to heal as long as the spasms opened the flap that was loose.

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    Procedure or Surgery (Colostomy ): The surgery was an Abdominoperineal resection, or APR. The APR involves removal of the anus, the rectum and part of the sigmoid colon along with the associated (regional) lymph nodes, through incisions made in the abdomen and the perineum (butt area). The end of the remaining sigmoid colon is brought out permanently as an opening, called a colostomy, on the surface of the abdomen. The surgeon told me he would remove everything, hip bone to hip bone.

    They wheeled me in, got me moved over to the surgical table, and gave me a minute to collect my thoughts. I was introduced to a bunch of people but my mind was trying to absorb my surroundings; I could not have told you their names an instant after they said them. The anesthesiologist let me know they would do a spinal block as part of the pain killer used for surgery. She was very nice and explained that I would help them over the next 15 minutes, or so, to make sure they got the spinal block shot in the correct place. I think she also said I would help get my body in position for surgery but I am not sure about that. She hooked me up to more IVs and let me know that one was a sedative that would take effect in about 15 seconds and that I would not remember anything else. As she continued to talk I passed out. If what she told me was true, I was not totally out; I just don’t remember anything after that. I woke up hours later and had IVs in both hands and a 5 port something in my neck. My right shoulder hurt real bad and my left elbow felt like it had been twisted for hours. I wondered about the positioning they put me for the surgery - I am sure it would have been funny.

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    Drug or Chemo Therapy (Chemotherapy): This chemo was done with the radiation. The radiation was so extreme that I did not feel the chemo effect too much or they were mixed in with the radiation pain.

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    Radiation (External radiation ): Radiation was about 20 minutes each weekday for 6 weeks. The radiation procedure, the doctor explained, would not be much of an event; lying down on a table and not moving. Monday August 29, 2011 I started chemo and radiation and it was almost anticlimactic. I took the chemo pills (7) and dad drove to me to Mayo in Albert Lea. Two of the technicians met me and got me to the table, I pulled my pants down and then they situated me on the table using my tattoos. I then laid face down as the machine made lots of noise for about 20 minutes.

    Week 3 - they told me that the pain from radiation would begin week 3 - 4 and they were correct! The pain was like a diaper rash, and I sure understood why babies cry. To calm it down, I took shallow, regular baths or a sits baths. The sits bath is just a small bucket like thing that sits on the toilet and you put hot water and a moisturizer in. I actually preferred to put a small amount of water and moisturizer in the big tub instead; the sits bath felt like I was wetting my pants as I sat on it. Bath time was about 5 minutes. Once the bath was over, I applied a medicated cream to reduce the inflammation and to stop the itching. Then I put on a heavy cream to keep the area moist. Once I put clothes on and sat down it felt like I messed my pants (just mentioning this to lighten the moment). Over the course of treatment I would change the heavy cream to eventually use cream that is given for burn victims.

    I never understood what Jack Nicholson meant, in The Bucket List, when he said "never trust a fart". I do now. Due to the effects of the radiation on my bowels, I had lots of gas and was never really sure when anything additional may happen. When I say lots of gas, I mean most of the entire day. When I did have a bowel movement, my bowels are so inflamed, along with my anus, that things moved really quickly and hurt like XXX! The pain almost made me cry out. I just wanted it to be over quickly. The irritated skin then hurt for a few hours after. When people asked, I had them think about the worst sunburn they have ever had, and then imagine pooping through it and that gets you to about 50% of the pain I had at that time.

    My taste buds changed some and I could not eat, or at least not enjoy, certain foods and drinks. I switched over to Diet Coke over 30 years ago and I still remember how strange it tasted compared to real Coke. At this point of radiation it tasted like it first did; kind of flat, like all the zip is out of it or something was missing. My appreciation for meat changed as well. I passed on a French dip at a restaurant that I am sure I would have enjoyed prior to this point in time. Instead I ate the cheese off my French onion soup, but none of the soup, had a nice salad, and part of someone else’s walleye.

    Because of the pain going out, anything I ate had to be considered before letting it in. No more heavy fiber food. Ice cream and watermelon were my favorites. I ate Corn Pops for breakfast. In addition, I have added candy to my diet. I had not been much of a candy eater for many years but I started having candy and Little Debbie stuff hanging around all the time. I still ate the right foods - ham, shrimp, baked potatoes, and squash, just not as much as I would have eaten in the past.

    I looked normal, talked normal, and you would have never known that I had an issue. I was ashamed when I thought of all the times I may have questioned someone that talked about pain when they looked perfectly fine. I could not imagine having this level of pain all the time, like some people do. Please, if you know someone in pain, be nice, help all you can - but believe it is real. This was the most real pain I had ever felt and I looked and acted as normal as I ever did.

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    Oh No (Diagnosed): In April 2011 I threw my back out. Hurting my back is something that happens once or twice a year. I go to the chiropractor and get adjusted and then I am fine. This time was different. I had electrical impulses in my trunk area and went to the doctor. They sent me to physical therapy and during therapy the impulses centralized in my right back hip area and I started to get numbness down my leg and around my toes. This issue continues to this day but is not what I am setting this site up for.

    Because of the back issue, I starting taking muscle relaxers and the pills created constipation. Constipation created a hemorrhoid. When I went to have the hemorrhoid readied for surgery, July 26th, the surgeon found a mass in my rectum. It is about the size of 1/2 of a rifle bullet the long way with 2 lump areas on each end, kind of like a 2 hump camel.

    At the time of discovery, the surgeon let me know he believed it was a rectal cancer and that surgery would be required. He also informed me that it was so close to the anus that I would probably lose my butt hole as part of surgery. In researching this, it is not uncommon and as I talked to people about the possibility most people knew someone that had the port in the side of the belly (a stoma) with a bag to collect the stools. I was not happy about the possibility but after reading about it, I realized if it could save my life, it would have to do.