Colorectal cancer is when cancer cells begin to grow in the colon or rectum, parts of the digestive system. The colon takes in water and nutrients from the food we eat and then passes the waste to the rectum (and voila -- poop). Because of its location in the body, colorectal cancer is an oft-shied away from topic.
I have treated patients with breast cancer for more than 30 years as a medical oncologist. And I have found that most of the women in my practice are desperately looking for things they can do beyond standard treatment to increase their chance of cure. Unfortunately, many fall prey to false claims they read over the Internet or hear from well-meaning friends and relatives. They adhere to extremely strict diets -- no meat, no dairy, no sugar -- or turn to various "supplements" with unproven effectiveness and often even unproven safety.
Looking back on my life, I never would have guessed how important my everyday joys and routines were to me. Now that my husband and I have experienced life without them, I understand the significance of cherishing life and what you have; living in the moment. This was especially clear to me when I was diagnosed with cancer.
Until about ten years ago, the only weapons we had against this internal enemy were surgery, chemicals and radiation. But around that time, researchers began a quest to use more natural means to identify these antagonistic agents and rid them. Two very different strategies were initiated in the process. One relied on repurposing an already known enemy while the other utilized our own internal defense forces.
Two months short of two years after her initial cancer diagnosis I watched my wife Linnea, my love, take her last breath. I held her in my arms and I wept, and I told her that it was OK to let go. To please let go. The room filled with unimaginable wails and I was only scarcely aware that they were coming from me.
I have enjoyed living and working in Toronto for the past 35 years, calling Blue Jays games across our great country. But I have also enjoyed just as much sharing my story during the month of Movember in hopes of helping other men realize how valuable early detection is in fighting prostate cancer at the most treatable stages.
I am consoled by having the ability to share my story in the hopes that it can help others. Whether or not a fellow melanoma warrior speaks openly about their own diagnosis, I can give my perspective, and my new-found optimism, to those who may feel as isolated as I did when I found out I have stage 3b skin cancer.
Little by little, I was feeling better, more able to get out of bed, more in control of my own emotions. I was, quite literally, drawing myself out of depression -- the deepest depression I've ever known. With these drawings, I was trying to make sense of how to live with cancer, but I was also trying to work out how to go on living with joy, wonder, and especially hope.