This is photo of me, eight months post bowel resection surgery, about to get a colonoscopy to check for the possible return of cancer.
Although I was somewhat joking around when I took this photo, it did accurately represent a portion of my feelings at the time.
Less so feelings about having a scope shoved up my ass and into my colon (the Fentanyl makes that a breeze), but more about what may or may not be found once we had a visual of my insides.
Due to the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic, my original check up appointment had been cancelled leaving me feeling a bit uneasy and wondering about my internal state of health.
"Did the cancer return or not?" This was my big question.
Although I always try to remain on the positive side, the fear of cancer returning (I'm learning), is a normal experience for any cancer survivor.
My fear was exacerbated in part by the fact that I experience a sensation in the lower left portion of my abdomen that feels eerily similar to the one I experienced when cancer had been growing there.
Although I repeatedly told myself "It's ok Jess, that's probably just the feeling of scar tissue from the surgery," a whirlwind of countering thoughts began creeping through my mind in the months leading up to this check up:
it would have been really easy to allow myself to get sucked into these thoughts and down the swirling black hole of eternal doom (and admittedly at times I felt myself starting to go there)...
I knew that wouldn't be helpful.
I chose to focus on love and self care instead.
Here's what I did:
- Instead of believing these thoughts as truth, I observed them, acknowledged and validated their concern, and then (to the best of my ability because this can be hard), let them go.
- To get out of my own head, I talked with a friend who had gone through her own bout with cancer. She was able validate and re-affirm that the feelings I was experiencing were normal. This went a long way towards my accepting of the fact that this was just a part of the process. (Thank you friend <3)
- To keep myself grounded and focused on the present, I devoted myself to an (almost) daily 21 minute meditation. It helped, BIG TIME, by providing me a complete mental reset. There are many positive things that came out of my experience with cancer and learning to meditate was undoubtably a HUGE one.
- To stretch out my tense muscles and increase my physical strength, I upped my yoga to an (almost) daily practice as well. This helped me to stay flexible, feel powerful and regain the abdominal muscle mass I had lost since my surgery. As an added bonus, this also gave me a goal to work towards and something positive to focus on.
- As a personal form of health insurance, I continued to consume healthy, largely non-inflammatory, whole foods with the knowledge that not only were they supporting the ideal functioning of my organs and immune system, but also making my insides a non-ideal environment for cancer to live in. I may not be able to control the genes I was dealt in life but I can help control wether they turn on or not.
on June 3rd, (just shy of a year and one month since I received my diagnosis of cancer), I arrived at the hospital for my check up colonoscopy in a slightly disheveled but outwardly confident state.
As I undressed in the change room I felt a sense of calm in knowing that no matter what the results of my procedure turned out to be, I was in an optimal place mentally and physically to move forward.
I pulled my johnny shirt over my shoulders and looked at myself in the mirror.
As I stared into my reflection, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of love towards myself for all I have been through and all I have overcome in life thus far.
I felt love for my bravery to face my fears and my pain, and for my courage to push through, always seeking a better way, a better life.
It was a beautiful moment. One that I will hold onto during tough times.
to prep myself for the needle that was about to be poked into my arm and scope that was about to be shoved up my arse, I let the part of me that was afraid and slightly horrified show itself.
"Sweet Jesus, I gotta deal with this..." and so was born the cover photo for this blog post.
As the nurse inserted the needle into my arm, another rush of emotion hit me.
Memories and feelings from the day of my bowel resection surgery flooded into my consciousness and tears formed in the corners of my eyes.
That day had been filled with so many unknowns and intense emotions.
"You've got this Jess", I told myself and gave myself permission to look forward to the short snooze and uber relaxed state that the soon-to-be-injected-into-my-vein, Fentanyl would provide me.
Sometimes in life you just have to look for the perks and if I'm honest, at this point in mine, legally injected mind altering drugs was one of them.
The procedure went off without a hitch and had the added benefit of being quicker than last time due to my colon being 10 inches shorter.
Cheers to another perk!
As I lied on on the hospital gurney, groggily farting out the air that was pumped inside of me during the procedure and feeling utterly ridiculous, I got the news I had been so anxiously waiting for.
"Ok Jess, well, the resected portion of your bowel looks good and, we didn't see any polyps or anything that could be indicative of cancer."
~Exhale~ (and a few farting-in-front-of-hospital-staff giggles).
Although I can't say I was emotionally able to actualize the news in that moment as I was still riding a bit of a Fentanyl high..
"Right on Doc"
... I knew I had gotten the answer I was seeking.
I slept for most of the car ride home and then again for several hours after.
When I awoke, clear headed and rested, I was fully able to gasp the news and felt MUCH lighter.
I'd be kidding myself if I said that the results of this procedure will, for the rest of my life, take away all fear of cancer ever returning (and who's to say that it never will).
for the time being, my mind can be free'd up from the uncertainty as to the current state of my gastrointestinal health.
I can find solace in the fact that I have the tools to take back my power and avoid exacerbated feelings of helplessness if or when those fears and feelings do re-emerge.
I wan't to continue to express my upmost gratitude for everyone who has supported me throughout this phase of my life.
My hope is that by following my journey you gain benefit as well.
cultivating a better understanding of what it means to experience cancer,
recognizing and acknowledging your own strengths and abilities,
learning new tools to overcome obstacles in your own life,
finding comfort in the relatability of dealing with difficult situations.
Whatever your reason for supporting me and reading my blog, I thank you and am sending oodles of love and appreciation your way.
And so, onward I go: discovering what's possible and continuing to figure out what life after cancer looks like.
Peace, Love and Thank You for following me on my journey,