I was invited to speak at the Iowa affiliate of the national WOCN association at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines a couple of weeks ago. The last time I was in Iowa was in the 70’s, calling on Collins Radio. They are still there, it’s now Rockwell/Collins. It was the first time I was being featured as the “keynote” speaker and I was told I had an hour in front of up to 100 fellow ostomates and medical professionals. I practiced and practiced my speech, but the more I practiced and polished my speech, the more I realized that wasn’t what was wanted by this audience of experienced colon cancer survivor, bowel disease survivors and ostomates. I needed to share my story and connect with them in a way that would be helpful, hopeful and friendly. One ostomate to another. No BS!
So I set aside the speech script and played the video that my wife, Trish and I made about our family’s battle to beat cancer. It’s just two minutes long, but on three big screens and with big sound in the hospitals auditorium, it landed. I talked about the fear and anger at the time of initial diagnosis. The confusion of choosing among multiple treatment options. The chaos of surgery and the pain of recovery. After the doctors told me it was a miracle I was still alive, what was I going to do then? I had to find a NEW NORMAL. A way to get along well with the cloud of cancer’s possible return over our lives, rearranged plumbing with a pouch on my belly, and cooked intestines from radiation treatments, and ED was visiting the house. Yup, Erectile Disfunction. They called it being impotent back in the day. So I got a “stick in my dick” and we kept going forward. 2 years, 5 years, 10 years…now what. Was there a purpose for God keeping me alive. I kept asking Him, “Why me, Lord” but he never answered me directly. I began reaching out to other newly diagnosed colon cancer patients to share with them my story and pass along some hope that if I had survived, they could too. After 20 years and still cancer free, I gathered together with others for a common cause…prevent the disease in others, promote healthy survival skills for improved outcomes and FIND A CURE. I’m at 26 years now and still fighting….Will you join me?
26 year rectal cancer survivor and ostomate