Hi friends! So sorry it's been awhile since I told you about the latest on my medical carousel. I appreciate how many of you jumped in to offer support after my last colonoscopy when I didn't get the news I wanted.
I'll pick things up from here.
Hello, is control home?
Something happens to us when we're told we might die. We begin doing everything we can to save our lives.
We can't help it - our brain and bodies are pre-programmed to survive and thrive. I mean we bubble up and shed after a bad sunburn. Our skin regrows to continue protecting us. So, after I received encouragement to consider removing my remaining intestines and get an ileostomy, I did what anyone would do. I asked myself:
What can I do to save my body part?
I began exploring.
I'm not the healthiest eater in the world, but I'm not the worst either. I'd give myself a 7/10 most days of the week, except for when there's Oreos in my home.
Then, well, I don't quite deserve that 7.
But I evaluated my eating not because of my diet, but because of my portion sizes. I was eating larger portions when I got hungry. I'd sat in several webinars & edited multiple blogs by Fight CRC with nutritionists encouraging survivors to simply eat less at one time.
I wondered if cutting down my portion sizes would help me.
Long story short, it did.
I tried to force myself to eat less at one time, sometimes even half as much. I also tried to eat only if I felt hungry. I started to feel much better right away.
I thought God was playing a trick on me at first (and then remembered He's a lover, not a trickster). I always go into January with "one word" He puts on my heart to define my year. I usually sense the word shortly before New Years. This year, I had one. But I didn't want it.
"Seriously, God. Is this a joke?"
That's an expert from one of my prayer times. But it wasn't a joke, and God didn't care how much I disliked the word I sensed He suggested.
So I embraced it: SLOW.
I made a decision to not pack out my schedule, build in times for rest, budget for vacations and (try to) use a paper calendar that meant I sat down my high-tech phone. I soon began to experience benefits to this approach. I didn't feel so stressed all of the time.
So get this - I'm on this path to eat better and slow down, and my friend Andi is a mindfulness coach who needs copywriting help with her website. In the midst of helping her get a mindfulness coach business up and running, we set up a few sessions.
As I sat across the screen from her for an hour, we went through guided medication exercises. My thoughts were like ants after their farm got squished at first, but eventually they began to slow down. And I learned how to capture them.
Deep breathing. Self compassion.
These were new concepts to me, but they ended up making a big change and once again, I felt better mentally, emotionally and physically.
The only other thing I could do was pray. I could control how much I asked God HELP SAVE MY COLON. And I say pray separate from mindfulness work because there were times I had to simply approach God and say something like, "You're good, amazing and holy and no matter what happens - I will love and trust you. Help me hope again.
In prayer, I gave up my control. Colon or no colon, I surrendered to the resolve God is good. Not only did I pray, but I had an army of people praying for me. Surprisingly, this was hard. It was vulnerable to open up and blog about my disappointment last fall, but I knew I needed the support. And you guys were amazing.
Family, church friends, strangers who read my blog - you guys reached out in waves. I'm convinced your prayers and support made a difference.
So this is what I did during the six months between my colonoscopies. And long story short - it made a difference. I walked into the GI's office declaring I felt much better. From my quality of life alone - things greatly improved.
- I was relying on fewer anti-diarrheal pills each day.
- I didn't feel as tired all of the time.
- I had started to exercise with regularity (moderately).
- My bathroom and GI needs were becoming an afterthought, not a driving force.
I didn't panic during my colonoscopy prep night. Whatever happened, happened. During the procedure he removed two colon polyps, but reminded me I carry a genetic disorder of Lynch Syndrome that means to expect them.
He wasn't concerned. In the full report, I learned my colon wasn't as rigid nor did it appear as inflamed. And best news of all, he said, "See you in a year."
Yes! Yes! Yes!
I left the GI's office on cloud nine, thankful I held off on surgery. This may not always be the case or best option for me, but it was clear that day: surgery is not the right thing, right now. I write this carefully because my life isn't following a pre-planned formula to great health. Smaller portions, rest, mindfulness and prayer are not magic potions curing all of cancer and hard side effects.
Nor are these the steps to avoid an ileostomy. I very well may need one in the future. But for this season of my life, they were great tools I believe helped my situation improve. As patients, we're all incredibly unique and diverse. Our bodies work differently. We must work with doctors we trust who give individualized plans and care that best matches our values and needs.
For me, this meant wait and see because I wasn't facing a decision of urgency. It meant incorporating more wellness into my life. I write my story to give hope.
To someone who feels they have no option but surgery - always get a second opinion.
To anyone (cancer survivor or not) - slowing down, engaging in mindfulness and prayer can really help with energy levels and mental health.
And to all who've been following this rollercoaster - it's a joy to share good news with you.
I once asked you to pray for me, and now I ask - rejoice!