The Beginning of a Long Battle With Colon Cancer

It all kicked off in 2014 with me feeling under the weather. Within months, my weight plummeted by 25 pounds, and I knew something was seriously off. The diagnosis hit me hard – colon cancer, with a suspicious 5-6 cm mass lurking in my rectum. By June, I found myself undergoing colostomy surgery. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I felt like a shadow of my former self, barely scraping by with 90% of my usual energy and with an incision that felt like a constant reminder of my ordeal, even two years on.

Despite the setbacks, I discovered that while my strength and stamina had taken a hit, I wasn’t out for the count. Adjusting to life with a colostomy was like learning to walk again and figuring out how to live what felt like an upside-down life.

Facing Unexpected Foes

2015 threw another curveball my way – shingles. It felt like a cosmic joke, a test of resilience I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Then, 2016 brought its own surprise in the form of a blood clot in my lung, spotted on a routine CT scan. Blood thinners became my new normal, turning me into what felt like a human pin cushion and putting my motorcycle rides on hold.

That July, a biopsy from the back of my head added to my growing list of medical woes, while selling my beloved bike in September felt like closing a chapter I wasn’t ready to end. However, hope arrived in the form of a new Suzuki and the promise of more riding adventures.

A New Challenge Arises

The rollercoaster continued into 2017, with my CT scans revealing a new challenge – bladder cancer. The surgery on May 4th marked the beginning of a bittersweet routine of examinations every two months for two years. Despite the pain and the relentless cycle of procedures and exams, I found moments of victory in my consistently good results, holding onto them as beacons of hope.

The Ongoing Battle

The years rolled on, each bringing their own trials – from the dreaded prep for colonoscopies to the unexpected arrival of gout, making even a simple action like walking a painful ordeal. Turning 70 brought its own set of challenges, with high blood pressure leading to yet another addition to my routine – a personal blood pressure monitor.

Reflections on My Stoma

In the early days post-surgery, my stoma consumed my thoughts. It was a constant barrage of questions and concerns – a relentless mental checklist that seemed never-ending. Yet, with time, these concerns have become less pervasive, fading into the background of my day-to-day life.

Despite the years, the pain in my GI Joe Butt remains a constant reminder of my journey. It’s uncomfortable at times, but it’s a part of me. It’s a testament to what I’ve endured, a badge of survival.

Life Today

Retirement has come as a blessing. The thought of weathering a full shift at work feels like a distant dream. Instead, I find solace and purpose in tending to my home, nurturing my garden in the summer, braving the winter snow, and taking joy in the simple act of preparing supper. It’s a different kind of busy, but it’s fulfilling. Not to mention my trips south during the winter!

Being part of the Calgary Ostomy Society has introduced me to a world of support and camaraderie I didn’t know I needed. From holiday potlucks to Step Up For Ostomy to volunteering for the Ostomy Canada Youth Camp, this community has become a beacon of hope and a source of strength.

To everyone out there facing their battles, large and small, take it from me – you’re stronger than you think. Amid the trials, there are triumphs, and in the company of fellow warriors, you’ll find an unbeatable force.

By Jerry Exner, a colon cancer survivor living with a colostomy. He is a member of the Calgary Ostomy Society.

Jerry’s story was first featured in the Calgary Ostomy Society “Changing Times” Newsletter December 2019, and also in the Ostomy Canada Magazine for the Winter 2020 edition.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *