It was Friday, June 11, 2010.
Wow. What a day, and possibly the best one of my life.
Dr. B came in and removed my bandage, the last one I would have.
A short while later Dr. A, my GP, arrived to tell me that the toxicology reports for the specimens they removed during surgery had all come back negative! No more cancer in the colon and it hadn’t spread out into the lymph nodes either. The news literally could not be better. She was nearly as excited as I was when she told me. I guess sometimes the doctors get to deliver some good news too. I almost couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of her mouth, and in that way, it didn’t feel that different to when I was told I had cancer in the first place. Weird.
Was I cured?
I even had a small bowel movement. Look at me and my bad self! But Dr. A explained that it was more important at that point that I be passing gas, which would indicate all the passages were clear.
OK, so I’ve been putting this off but we can’t avoid the discussion any longer. With respect to my personal journey and healing, the elephant in the room is poo. I will remember it as my year of poo. I am so tired of it, but to have you really understand what it was like, and I’m sure what it’s like for so many others who’ve made this trip, I have to talk about it. And man, there was a lot of it, and I’m going to be talking about it a lot more. So I want to help you, gentle reader, get accustomed to the topic and get over any shock or even ‘the giggle factor’ when reading about it. As I public service, I humbly provide a compendium of the many names I used for my little friends.
Shit, foof, chocolate hostage, Mr. Hanky, turtle head, corn eyed brown trout, you little bitch, shizzle, Tom Cruise missile, crap, ka-ka, toilet twinkie, junk, mud bunny, bootycakes, colon cobra, ass monkey, root beer float, product of Uranus, dung, monkey tail, Bob Dylan, ass flakes, staff meeting, puddin’, brown bomb, marbles, guano, merde, crapdillyicious, bun fudge, baby boy, bum brownie, floater, asstronaut, Michael Phelps, tinky winky, feces, ass apple, free cable, drop the kids at the pool, little bo poop, Agent Brown, the fifth Beatle, lawn sausage, butt candy, ass rocket.
And boy the first one after the surgery was difficult. As you get on the clear fluids and then eventually the solid food, it’s a real shock to the system, and there’s all kinds of bloating and cramping and gurgling. It’s gross. But I’ll tell you, it’s really exciting when it starts happening because you have to take every tiny little victory to heart to keep your spirits up during your recovery.
I had had a bunch of false alarms, but finally on the Saturday I could tell something, um, important was going to happen. I rushed to the bathroom and sat down, and I strained like you wouldn’t believe; red in the face, veins popping out of my neck, and I was sure I must be passing a baseball. I broke into a sweat, my vision failed, there was a sound in my ears like waves at the beach and I thought I was about to pass out. Plink. It was about the size of a pea, and it began to dawn on me that I was in for a long, rough ride.
Despite all the good news, the Dr.’s were concerned about my hemoglobin levels. They were 135 pre-surgery (normal), about 105 post surgery and just 85 now. In hindsight, I guess I had lost a lot of blood when my incision was bleeding on that first night. That meant I would need some iron medication to help get the levels back up, but I couldn’t start taking them for a while because they tend to constipate you, which is not what we wanted at all.
I had a fever too, although it never got high enough to raise concerns of an infection.
That evening, Dale, Madeline and I toasted to my good health with cranberry juice; it would be many weeks before I could or even wanted to drink any booze.
Things were a little rocky overnight and through the day on Saturday but nothing to be concerned about. After one trip to the bathroom I emerged victorious after passing gas and a cheer arose from Maddy and Dale; that would be the first and last time they would ever cheer my flatulence. It was a beautiful moment.
I had slept well overnight and made my rounds through the ward with a real spring in my step. I was feeling great. I bet I walked around there a hundred times that day. I mean, I was really bloated from eating the solid food again (it had been 7 days since I ate any real food), and I was forcing the stuff down, but I didn’t care. I was determined to show enough improvement to be sent home the next day. I pleaded with Dr. B to come back on Sunday to check on me, so he agreed to squeeze me in between his pedicure and caviar tasting at the club. (I kid).
It was a rough night, with lots of trips to the bathroom, but it would turn out to be nothing compared with what was to come.
Sunday morning arrived and Dr. B came by first thing to release me. I got a few instructions from the nurse, signed a bunch of papers, and was wheeled downstairs piled high with all my junk from my stay. Dale was there to greet me at the pickup door and tears filled my eyes as we drove off and I looked back at the hospital.
I choked out, “I hope I never have to go back there again”, and turned away from Dale as I cried halfway home.
I was home by 10:30am.
Six days in the hospital. Probably cured. Not bad.
I was a cancer slaying bad-ass.
EAT, POO, LOVE is a comedy based on Paul Clement’s journey through colon cancer, from diagnosis to recovery. With a balance of humour and humility, it explores the fears, complexities and realities of dealing with cancer. Our patient surrenders his dignity with grace and insight, facing his doctors, his family, his own mortality, and even his tumour and all it represents. For Ticket and Fringe Festival information visit www.eatpoolove.com