First, I have to admit my dog saved my life. My 18-pound dachshund, who thinks she can fly, jumped onto my chair and into my lap as if I was a trampoline, and it HURT. The pain didn’t go away and I thought she had ruptured my spleen. A trip to the family doctor revealed a mass in my belly that wasn’t supposed to be there. Uh-oh! So off we go to consult with a surgeon, Dr. Medley, and we scheduled a colonoscopy and endoscopy. Yes, my first for either. After it was over, Dr. Medley told my beautiful and loving fiancée, Rebecca, that he would try to do what he could but recommended I get my affairs in order. I had colon cancer and there was a large tumor in my belly. Uh-oh!
The surgery was scheduled and off we go to the hospital on the appointed day. Things went well and no cancer was found in the lymph nodes or other hiding places. I should say at this point that there is a lot that either I don’t remember or was not aware of due to anesthesia, which is probably a good thing. After a few days, I could get up and walk a bit and just started on soft food. I had been told that the whole visit would be no more than 5 to 7 days. Rebecca was with me one day and all of a sudden I felt pain in my belly and started bleeding. A lot of people rushed in and did a lot of those things you “see on TV” and the movies as I was going into shock from blood loss. Directing this was Darren, a PA with Dr. Medley. They rushed me into surgery. At some point I was awake again, of course, with no sense of the passing of time. Apparently, my SMA (superior mesentery artery) was leaking and they thought it was fixed. Nope! I was in ICU at the time, talking with my brother and I felt my blood pressure go up and asked him to leave. The next thing I remember, I wake up in another room, paranoid as the dickens, and I was told later that had I not been in ICU; had Dr. Eskew, a member of Dr. Medley’s team, not been making rounds; and had the ICU operating room not been available, that would have been it. But it wasn’t, because those things did happen. After a total of 34 days, I went home.
After I got my strength back, we went to the oncologist, Dr. Arb. Although all the tests and CAT scans showed no cancer, we started a six month-program of chemotherapy, that was an infusion and go home with a pump for two days every two weeks. I will spare you the details, but suffice to say, it was not fun. I was basically sick for six months. But in the end, after one more CAT scan, Dr. Arb said I was cured. Sweet words indeed!
I am grateful to Rebecca, now my wife, and Martina, my step daughter, for their love and support and of course, all the doctors and nurses who cared for and about me.
I have had a lot of time to think about my experiences. I must say that I never lost faith. I never doubted that I would make it, that I just had to do it. I read somewhere that an athlete who had cancer said, “Find a way to do what the doctors tell you to do.” I guess that I can add to that to find a way to believe that you are not alone. There is one other thing that I take away from my trials: I saw not lights, nor did I see or hear angels, BUT deep inside I now know that it is alright to die. I don’t yet have the words to explain that feeling any better, but I just know that when the time comes, it won’t be “Uh-oh.”
Jack Houser was diagnosed with colon cancer. His is the fourth Survivor Story of the 2013 Relay Season.