How does a small pain in the ass turn into a life threatening disease? My answer to you is, I don’t know. Present day we know exactly what I am dealing with; however, I wanted to take everybody back to the beginning, back when Trudy was in hiding. Trudy is the name my wife and I came up with for the tumor that has been causing me so many problems. We felt a female name was more suiting given the fact that she really is a bitch.
Late February, early March I started having minor discomfort in my lower abdominal and around my tailbone every night when I would start to relax for the evening. Given the fact that I was working out frequently and had a pretty laborious job, I justified the pain, assuming it was just a small muscle pull. As the weeks passed, the discomfort started becoming pain that was limiting what I was able to do. After a “small push” from the wife, I decided to go see my family doctor and get things checked out. As I expected, the examination was pretty routine, and nobody was thinking that this pain was anything more than possibly a small hemorrhoid. After taking the hemorrhoid meds for a few weeks, I ended up right back where I started: in pain and in the doctor’s office. This time we started treating for a possible infection. Once again, I completed the course of medication that now puts us around the beginning of May and as you may suspect, the pain is getting worse and we are no closer to solving the mystery.
Now it is time for the fun stuff. At this point I have been referred to a surgeon who brings me in for a routine exam, yet again. Finally, someone wants to do a colonoscopy! These things are not pleasant at all, but at this point the pain was affecting every aspect of my life and I was willing to do anything to find some relief. I remember telling myself going into the procedure, “ I don’t care what he finds, as long as he finds something so we can begin treatment.” My prayers were answered on May 21st and the doctor tells me he has found some masses in my colon and that he believes that I have Inflamed Bowel Disease (IBD), leaning toward Ulcerative Colitis. Of course, I was hoping that what he found was something very simple, but either way, at least now we knew what it was and we could start treating it. In case you’re wondering, biopsies were taken of the masses, but the results showed no signs of cancer. In our minds, we were dealing with a disease that is more of a nuisance rather than something that is life threatening. With this diagnosis, we decided things were going to be just fine, so my wife packed up with the baby and moved to Michigan as planned the very next day, not because we found out I was sick.
About a week later, times are really getting tough for me and I am handling this on my own. I couldn’t walk without pain, I couldn’t sit without pain, I couldn’t even use the bathroom without pain (number 1 or number 2). The meds aren’t working and my doctor’s response is simply to give it some more time. To avoid sounding like a big sissy, I continued working and just dealt with it and got through the days the best way that I could. The last week in May I started noticing a hard bump on my butt. No, it wasn’t growing on the outside of the skin, but the kind of bump you feel pushing out from the inside. This thing started out painful and seemingly got worse by the minute. I could literally feel this thing growing significantly larger with each touch. I haven’t been able to sit down for three days at this point and kneeling on all fours was about the only position I could find any relief in. I wasn’t sleeping at all and I was actually scared to eat because that inevitably meant I would have to use the bathroom some hours later. When I needed to urinate I had to take a shower in order to go. The mass was so big that it was messing with my bladder and pretty much any other structure from the hips down. There is now a grapefruit in my buttcheek, so I finally decide to go to the emergency room, again with a “small nudge” from my wife. Looking back on the situation, there is no way I should have driven myself to the hospital, but luckily I got there without causing an accident. Doctors take one look at my rump and immediately order me to be admitted, and an operating room is booked.
The wifey hops back on a plane the second she hears the news and is there to take care of her man as he comes out of surgery. I don’t recall how long the surgery was, but I do remember about two seconds before I went under, and that feeling was awesome. The surgery consisted of a single two inch incision in close proximity to my “backdoor”. The mass turned out to be a gigantic abscess that was drained and the void was filled with packing gauze. So I go into the OR with a grapefruit-sized infection and I come out with a grapefruit-sized ball of cotton stuck in my wound. This type of wound needs to heal from the inside out, therefore the incision was not stitched shut.
Try to image having a wide open wound on your butt. Yeah, just the thought of it is quite strange. You could literally see the muscles and soft tissues of my rear end by looking into this incision. My wife, who agreed to be with me through sickness and in health, was given some instructions that most may see as rather strange too. Twice a day she was to pull out all the packing material in the wound and replace it with fresh gauze. I don’t feel as if I even need to say this, but this was an extremely uncomfortable procedure. I think pulling out the old stuff was the worst part of it; however, it wasn’t very pleasant feeling her push this stuff back inside my open wound with a stick of wood that resembled a giant Q-tip. I do feel a little of relief at this point now that the abscess is gone, but we still haven’t addressed the original problem. Again, I am ordered to keep taking the meds for IBD and be patient.
When I get home from the hospital, my wife and a great group of friends are working diligently in the blistering sun to pack up all of our belongings into a moving truck so that I could move to Michigan and be with my family again. After a couple days of packing, it is time to hit the open road. As you might expect, sitting for me is still a huge problem. Not only from the IBD, but also from this incision on my rear. To account for this issue, I create a bed in the back of the Acadia by placing a piece of plywood wrapped in blankets across the center row bucket seats to create a bed of sorts for the dog and myself. After a few hours of trying to sit in the front with my wife while the hound gets the pseudo-bed in the back, it’s time to switch. Now the hound is riding shotgun and I am laying in the fetal position across the two bucket seats trying to find some comfort so we wouldn’t have to stop every 20 minutes. This game of musical chairs continues for the full 18 hours of drive time from Florida to Michigan.
Finally we arrive in Michigan and the first thing we do is see a specialist. Keep in mind we are still under the assumption that I have Ulcerative Colitis (one of the two IBD diseases). The doctor here reviews the report and the test results from the doctor in Florida. Based on that information and how I am describing my symptoms, the Michigan doctor changes a few things with the meds, changes the diagnosis to Crohn’s Disease because of the abscess, but ultimately keeps treating me for IBD. More time goes by and I am not feeling any better at all, in fact things are still getting worse. My tailbone feels like it being crushed in a vice and any movement whatsoever is terribly painful. I describe what I am going through as suffering. At times the pain was so intense I would start shaking uncontrollably until I would literally pass out. After a few more calls and visits to the doctor she puts me back in the hospital to beef up my meds with some crazy strong IV treatments. Six fun-filled days (one of which was my very first Father’s Day) of laying in a bed and watching Fresh Prince and Reba re-runs, and one more small surgical procedure to remove another abscess, I am sent home with hopes that I am on the mend and will be as good as new in a few days.
June 29th, I am in so much pain that I can’t stand it and my family can’t watch me suffer any longer. I head back into the doctor’s office and politely demand that we start from square one and redo the tests and examinations that were done in Florida. At this point, I have been in constant pain, mostly horrible pain. I can’t eat, sleep, go to bathroom, or do anything. I am down 40 pounds from March and I am on the verge of a breakdown because I have no idea what is wrong with me, but I know something isn’t right. Doc agrees to start from scratch and we go back to the old scope in the rear end. It doesn’t take long before we see what is causing so much pain. A tumor, that will later be known as Trudy, is found in the lowest part of my colon (my rectum). A biopsy is done to confirm suspicion, but it is safe to say that the past four months have been a waste of time and that we have been treating a disease that I clearly don’t have. After the examination is completed, the doctor asks me to come up to her office. I wasn’t sure what she was going to say, but I knew I wasn’t going to be good based on the look on her face and the tone in her voice. After a few minutes of fancy doctor talk, the verbiage that I could understand comes out. She says she is very concerned and believes that the mass she found is cancerous and that the location of the tumor was not favorable in terms of saving my rectum. Again, not completely sure what all this means, but she did state that removing the rectum would require a colostomy bag. June 30th (my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday), the pathology report confirms the mass is cancer. Trudy the Intruder is now a reality, not just a suspicion, and certainly not a joke.
After crying with the family for a few hours, and putting things into perspective, I made the decision to remain positive, lean on my faith, and not let this diagnosis touch my spirit and mind. I know that feeling sorry for myself and wondering “why me” wasn’t go to change anything. The very next morning after hearing that I have colorectal cancer, I had a strange inner peace about the situation and I knew that I was never going to give up or let Trudy take control of my life. After spreading the news to family and friends, the prayers and support started flooding in. The power of prayer is amazing and I become stronger with each and every message I receive. The next week, a series of tests are scheduled and we will soon know exactly how big of a pain in the ass this Trudy is going to be.