Archive for the ‘A humorous colon cancer story as told by a Latina’ category

Chapter 7, Back to work

February 16, 2010

A warm reception greeted me when I went back to work. A stream of coworkers would come by and wished me well and how it was nice to see me as I was at my desk going over a month’s worth of emails. It took a couple of days to get back into the “work” mentality but by the end of the first week I was back into the groove. The second week I got an email regarding the interview for Channel 7 news.

It was on.

It’s scheduled for the following week at 10:30, it will be between the surgeon and I, the interviewer would be Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

I’m both excited and scared.

Then I got another email from the hospital publicist saying that something has come up and it’s off.
The next day I go about my work when I got another email from the hospital publicist – it’s on again. The interview will be at the surgeon’s office in Union Square East – on the 2nd floor – my primary Dr. is in the 3rd floor.

I scheduled the interview after my appointment with my primary doctor. I figured I’ll kill 2 birds with one stone.
In my primary Dr’s office I tell her of the interview-
“Are you excited?” asked my doctor.
“I’m more nervous than excited” I replied.
“Oh, you’ll do fine, I’m going to have a patient that’s going to be on TV! you have to let me know when you’re on”.

I’m in my surgeon’s clinic, escorted to an exam room by the floor nurse. She tells me that the TV crew isn’t in yet. I read a pamphlet as I hear voices of both the Physician’s Assistant and Surgeon in the office across the hall.

“Where is Cynthia?” the surgeon asked the PA.

I immediately closed the pamphlet and ran to them.

“Here I am!” I exclaimed.

The surgeon turned, we say our hellos and escorts me to another exam room.
“They’re here” he said as he and I enter the room.

In the room is the producer of the segment, the cameraman and Dr. Jay Adlersberg. We all introduce each other and Dr. Adlersberg tells the surgeon and I what will happen.

I’m interviewed first, then the surgeon.

“Cindy, you will sit on the exam table and I will ask you a series of questions – look at me when you respond – not the camera” said Dr. Adlersberg.

Easier said than done since there is a glaring light sticking out at the end of the camera.

So I sit at the exam table as the mic is hooked on the front of my blouse, I’m nervous as hell and trying my best not to show it. Dr. Jay Adlersberg is sitting across from me.

“Now, before we start I need you to say and spell your name”

I said and spelled my name.

Then Dr. Adlesberg asked me how I was diagnosed, I told him about the Oprah show and how I recognized the symptoms by watching Dr. Oz talk about “Good poop, bad poop”.

This fascinated Dr. Adlesberg, he asked me how old I was.

“I was 45 when I was diagnosed” I replied.

The interview seemed to have gone on forever with lots of questions.

Then the subject of my scar came about as well as the CT scan, Dr. Adlesberg said if they could film me with the scar, I said sure.

Next thing I know I’m lying with the sheet over me – the surgeon on one side and the cameraman on the other – Dr. Adlesberg told the doctor to make it seem like a consult and ask me typical questions.

That went smoothly.

Then Dr. Adlesberg wanted the surgeon to bring up the CT scan in the monitor that was sitting on the desk in the room. So there we are, me in the chair – the surgeon and the CT scan with the tumor in fill glory – and the cameraman catching all of this.

At one point it was just the cameraman, the surgeon and I in the room and we were started a conversation.

The cameraman wanted to know where both the surgeon and I lived.

“Midtown Manhattan” I replied.

The surgeon mentioned a place in New Jersey.

“Oh, that’s where I live” replied the cameraman, “yeah, someone bought the house in back of us and is expanding it, Sometimes my wife and I look out and see the progress – they are putting in this large addition- almost the size of the original house and we were wondering who on earth is doing that?”

Then he went on to say “I found out that this big shot Doctor from the city is doing that” the cameraman continued.

At that point the surgeon stretched out his hand and said “Welcome neighbor”

The shocked cameraman shook his hand.

“Come on” the surgeon said, “The house isn’t that big”

The cameraman and surgeon were talking about the neighborhood when Dr. Adlesberg came in and told me that he will interview the surgeon and my part is done, but he wanted a shot of me walking into the office.

I was outside when the producer approached me and said that Dr. Oz is going to have his own show and If I would be interested in being a guest.

I said “I love Dr. Oz, yes, I would love to be a guest, would his show be in New York?”

“Yes” she said, “The show will be in the former Conan O’ Brian studios”.
I tried to conceal my excitement as the conversation continued.

Dr. Oz. is going to have his own show and I might be a guest? this is beyond exciting! I kept saying to myself as I left the surgeon’s office and on my way to Port Authority.

I said my goodbyes and went to work.
At Port Authority waiting for the bus to Ridgefield Park, NJ (I couldn’t afford to drive to work anymore so I managed to find a garage in Mt Vernon, Westchester to house the car for $85.00 a month)  I called my friend (she’s was the one who accompanied me when I was discharged from the hospital) and told her about the interview and the news that Dr. Oz is going to have his own show and that I might be a guest.

“Dr. Oz is going to have his own show, wow! that’s news” she replied.

“Yes, and there is a possibility that I might be a guest!”
At that moment the bus comes and I board.

I grabbed a sandwich at the deli in the located a floor below my job, sat down at my desk going through assignments left for me by the marketing manager. I’m grateful that it’s lunch hour and most of the staff is out to lunch. I did tell everyone that I had a Dr’s appointment but said nothing about the interview.

The interview took just under an hour.

Here’s the clip:

Colon Cancer test


Chapter Six, Recovery

January 12, 2010

My girlfriend and I quickly got into a cab in front of the hospital, the snow was coming down hard and all I wanted was to get to the Upper West Side apt ASAP.
Before I knew it we were in the apt and greeted by my cousin Scotty along with Rebecca, his home attendant. Scotty is a couple of years older than me at 47 and despite his disabilities he has a very gregarious, warm personality. He proceeded to tell me what not to do.
“Don’t lift anything heavy, rest as much as you can… you  know… take it easy, and…”
I removed my coat and my girlfriend put down the blue duffle bag as Scotty finished giving me the bullet list of what not to do.
I said my goodbyes to my girlfriend since she had to go back to work since this was her lunch hour.
Rebecca was nice enough to drop off my prescriptions at the Duane Reade across the street as I laid down to what would be my bedroom for the month.
I looked at the top dresser and saw that there was a bouquet of Tulips in a vase.
I got out of bed to check it out and found an envelope attached addressed to me.
The bouquet was from a friend of mine.
What a nice way to start the month I said to myself.
The first week was spent walking around the massive apt – fixing Scotty breakfast on the 3rd day – Pancakes (his favorite) and lying in bed. During the day when I would be in the living room watching The Today Show or The View, Scotty would come in and inquire how I am and if I needed anything, you see… he is legally blind.

I would spend the rest of the day in bed.
I had a liquid diet for the first week, soups, teas and such. The second week I graduated to meals which consisted of pasta meals in light sauce, like angel hair pasta with olive oil. After the second week is when I started to eat “regular” meals.
I decided to call my Uncle and let him know what happened.
He was upset and in tears when he repeatedly asked me why I didn’t tell him earlier.
“I knew you would respond this way” I replied.
That Saturday afternoon he and his wife came by for a visit.
“Cindy, this is your best weight ever, stay this way”
“I’ll try Uncle” I replied.
Yeah, nothing like major surgery to lose massive weight!

The second week I felt stronger so I would walk around the block got a haircut and did some minor food shopping. Toward the end of the week I had an appointment with my primary Doctor.
This is the first time she would see me since the operation.
I would never forget that scene.
There I was sitting in the waiting room and I waved when my Doctor came out to talk to the receptionist.
She looked at me and with a look of shock she fell back against the door behind her.
Once composed, she walked toward me.
“Did you have the surgery?”
“Oh, yes – three weeks ago as a matter of fact.” I responded.

I was in her examining room.

“You don’t look like you had an operation” She said.
“Oh, trust me, I would have energy enough to just do a couple of errands, only to feel as if the energy switch has turned off and I need to go to bed immediately” I responded.
“You don’t understand” said my doctor “Most people don’t do errands; they stay in bed for at least a month”.
“Really?” was all I could say
“Yes, this is what a person looks like a week after surgery” and she proceeded to lie back in her chair with a catatonic look in her face.
I laughed.
“This is what a person looks like a month after surgery” and she proceeded to lie back in her chair with the same catatonic look in her face.
“Surgery just wipes a person out for at least a month, a person doesn’t feel fully recovered for at least 3 months” my doctor said.
“I seriously think that it’s because I take exceptional care of myself that I am able to bounce back so quickly” I answered.

“Really Cindy, you sure don’t look like you had surgery” commented my doctor still in disbelief as we were leaving her exam room walking down the hall. Sure enough, I lost all my energy the minute I walked outside.  I had to take a cab back to the Upper West Side apt.
I love walking around the massive apt and helping my cousin prepare dinner, then I get to observe her cooking, I learn so much just being in the kitchen helping her prepare the meals. It’s great having a large kitchen for which you could move around in and could contain more than one person. I didn’t realize how much I miss cooking – in my apt. in Midtown there are times when I get the inspiration then I look at my small Pullman kitchen and the urge escapes me.

The weeks were going by quickly, the following week after I saw my primary doctor I had a follow up appointment with the surgeon, the first since I was discharged.
The Physician’s assistant greeted me first, with her bright warn smile. Once we were in the examining room she hugged me and proclaimed how good I looked, then the surgeon walked in. and said the same thing.
As he examined my scar and abdomen he mentioned that channel 7 news is interested in doing a segment on colon cancer and people under fifty and if I might be interested in being interviewed.
I told him I would think about it.
That Saturday my cousin hosted a gathering for her block party association committee. The day of we went around the neighborhood … priorities first – we had our pedicure and manicures, then we went food shopping, first at Zabars to pick up coffee, then to Fairway. We then spent the afternoon preparing the food and played hosts that evening.
Halfway through the evening I suddenly become exhausted, like an “off” switch – no energy left whatsoever, I just got up from the couch and announced that due to exhaustion I have to retire. Off to bed I went.
I overheard my cousin telling everyone that I just had major surgery and sudden exhaustion is one of the side effects.
The last week of February was upon me, way too soon. I could easily have used another week – but I had to go back to work the first week of March.
Just went I was about to email my boss I get a call from her from my cell.
She wanted to double check if/when I was going to come back.

“Oh yes, my first day back is Monday, March 2nd.” I answered.
You could almost hear the disappointment in her voice.

The surgeon’s receptionist scheduled an appointment for me to see the oncologist – which I was to see every 3 or 4th month to see how I was doing. That Monday was my first appointment, the Dr. is (yet again, like a broken record) a handsome man with bright blue eyes. He asked if I was interested in being a participant in a study trial, I said sure. So I filled out the paperwork, the rest of the session was basically Q & A, about the first diagnosis, subsequent surgery and recovery.
Later on that day I get an email from the surgeon saying if I had thought about that interview for channel 7 news. I emailed him yes, I will do the interview.
I decided to move back to my Mid-town apt. that Thursday – at least it would give me the weekend to settle down back in my apt.
It seems that each time I move it was to a snowy, gray day – this was no exception. I didn’t realize how many cards and gifts I had accumulated throughout the month from friends who stopped by for visits, I need to borrow a small bag from my cousin to hold it all.
I said my goodbyes to everyone in the apt.
“Do you have to leave now?” asked Cousin Scotty, “Can’t you stay another day and leave tomorrow?”
“I would like to, but I want to have some time to settle in my apt” I answered as I gave him a kiss in the cheek.

My other cousin Michael helped me downstairs and got me a cab.
I’m on my way back home after being away for over a month and a half.

Chapter 4 Pre-op

October 11, 2009

The surgery is set for January 27th; two weeks away¬–which turned out to be the longest two weeks of my life. Two days after the surgical consult I sent an email to both my bosses stating that I need to speak to them at their earliest convenience. The following morning I was in the conference room with my bosses and I told them of my health condition and pending surgery and the recovery period following. There was a sense of surprise and shock as they responded that I could take the time needed to recover and not to worry or stress about work. I voiced my appreciation and thanked them for their understanding and went back to my desk. I slowly told my fellow co-workers and I was met with the same sense of shock and surprise… and a flood of questions inquiring if I had any major symptoms, I told them of the Oprah episode with Dr. Oz. A co-worker told me that her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – she didn’t specified where but she gave me a valuable tip.
“You must keep a journal of all your Dr. visits and tests…this would come in handy for the medical insurance…  trust me you will need the information. You think you will remember it all, but you won’t”
I took her valuable advice and ran out and bought a small notebook, to this day I carry it in my pocketbook.
During the day everything was fine, I was kept busy at work. But at night… at night is a different story– sleeping turned into a challenge… my mind would race with nothing but “what if’s”… “What if the surgery wasn’t a success… what if the cancer would come back in another part of my body?” I told a friend and mentor of mine my dilemma and she came over with a small bag full of homeopathic sleep remedies she bought at her neighborhood health food store. Another friend told me about Tai Chi classes held at Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport early weekend mornings with Master Ru, I started that right away. A third friend told me about an acupuncturist she goes to in China Town that is amazing so I started getting treatments twice a week; anything to keep me occupied.
When faced with adversity I believe in the power laughter, as well as maintaining
a positive outlook – so I’ve filled up my Netflix queue with nothing but comedies.
All the Marx Brother’s movies, Buster Keaton, I ordered the complete box set of the British comedy “Absolutely Fabulous” as well as the box set of the 60’s British cult series “The Avengers- the Emma Peel episodes” ok, that wasn’t a comedy – but I remember seeing it when I was a child and thought it was a very cool show.
My Netflix queue had to include all of Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes, as well as the beyond funny movie “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world” along with some Charlie Chaplin thrown in. 
So that’s how I spent my time before the surgery …work by day & watching comedies at night followed by the homeopathic sleeping pill.
Three days before surgery I was instructed by the Physician’s assistant to have a liquid only diet, light color liquid only – no dark liquids like cranberry or grape juice.

It was a snowy, grey January morning the day of the surgery. I fished for my PDA from my purse to see the time as the Second Ave bus came to the 42nd street stop. 6:33 am it reads as I board the bus on my way to Beth Israel Hosp. on 17th and first. My dear friend and mentor Karen Santry will meet me at the hosp. lobby so I won’t be alone when I registered.
The registration process was uneventful, I was asked the usual questions – verify my name, address, insurance info and such. Then my left wrist was fastened with a white ID band “now you belong to an elite group” Karen said as I checked to make sure the information was correct.
Karen said her goodbyes as I was whisked away into a change area where I would go from a person to a patient. I was given a large tote bag where I would put my clothes and given a blue hospital gown made of a lightweight paper like material. Afterward I was interviewed by a nurse who sat by a monitor and verified what I was going to have done.
Next thing I knew I was in the pre-op room laying on a bed covered in a sheet.
“Are you cold?” a nurse asked.
“No, I’m fine” I answered as I was scanning the room. It was a room that had several stalls that was divided by curtains. I saw that most stalls were filled and some had family members/friends.
I didn’t know you could bring people in here I said to myself.
I laid there watching the drama unfold in front of me… nurses fluttering around, one or 2 would check on me and my vitals, the constant ringing of the wall phone, Doctors running in and out either in scrubs or in white overcoats. Then I saw my surgeon as he walked in dressed in purple scrubs. He looked around, – I smile as I recognize him and at first he gives me a quizzical look – and then there’s the gleam of recognition in his eyes as he walks towards me.
Both of us smiling we say our hellos and he tells me what the next steps would be.
    “In a few minutes the anesthesiologist would set you up with an IV, soon you would be asleep and then you will be transported to the OR”. I asked how long the operation would be and he answered “Several hours” as he was flipping through a thick 3 ring binder he pulled from the foot of the bed. We exchange a few words and he runs off and on queue the anesthesiologist comes in, introduced himself and started the IV.
    As I laid there looking around fear was creeping over me.
        This is it I said to myself. I am not scared…I will not cry I kept chanting over and over again to myself fighting back the tears. Suddenly I wanted to know the time. My eyes gazed at the wall clock;
its 10:25am.
I was starting to feel the anesthesia setting in, started feeling …sleepy.

The odyssey begins…

October 11, 2009

I was born in Spanish Harlem…

Just kidding.

My journey started out innocently enough, during a doctor’s visit a blood test reveled that I was anemic so my doctor followed up with a plethora of additional tests of everything under the sun, more blood work, and other samples which shall remain nameless but one could use their imagination.
While waiting for the results of these tests and consequently the follow-up consult with my doctor I came home one evening and turned the TV on.
This was late August 2008.
Oprah was on.
The show was going to cut to commercial with Oprah’s words “when we come back Dr. Oz will have the poop discussion”.
Dr. Oz is on!! And… he’s going to have what discussion? Did I hear right?
That got my attention.
So I sat down and heard Dr. Oz’s description of “good poop” and “bad poop”.
As he was describing the “bad poop” I realized that I had most… if not all… those symptoms.
Then Dr Oz mentioned that if there is increased frequency in any or all symptoms
to discuss it with your doctor.

Back to my doctor’s office two weeks later, the results of all tests were negative, during that discussion I told my doctor of the Oprah episode with Dr. Oz’s poop discussion and how my symptoms were increasing in frequency. My Doctor suggested I see a Gastroenterologist and she gave me a recommendation and handed me his card; immediately scheduled an appointment.

A month later I’m discussing my symptoms with the Gastroenterologist …to be noted… I didn’t have any bleeding or pain and, although I’m too young to have one – he schedules a Colonoscopy based on the symptoms provided by Dr. Oz. with his poop discussion.
Three weeks later I’m back at the Gastroenterologist’s office having the colonoscopy. I must admit… the hardest part of the exam is the prepping the day before. You had to drink this liquid from a big plastic jug the Dr. gives you, it comes with 4 flavor packets. Everyone I talked to who had the procedure said that the Pineapple flavor is the best – so I mixed the Pineapple flavor with the liquid in the plastic jug and started drinking.
Having the procedure was easy; I was basically knocked out during the whole event.
There I was back in the examination room waiting for the Dr. to come in with the results.
Being that I always eat well (basically a Mediterranean diet) along with an active lifestyle I was expecting a clean bill of health.
Then the Dr. walked in with a concerned look in his eyes with the announcement that he had to stop the procedure due to “an obstruction”.

This was December 31, 2008


       Great animation from The Dr. Oz show
The website on colon cancer for the Latino community