Exactly one year ago today, my husband, Toby underwent surgery to remove cancer from his body. It was hands down, the scariest day of our lives. Looking back on it now, and how it all unfolded–I don’t think I’d change a thing. It truly brought us closer together.
The old saying, “You can’t control what happens to you, but you CAN control how you react to it,” definitely is applicable in these type of life situations. How we respond in the face of an unpleasant or tenuous situation speaks volumes about us. It’s incredibly hard to make a conscious effort to always put your best foot forward, but it’s worthwhile to try. You don’t want to ruin your reputation with a childish outburst triggered by an emotionally charged situation.
While he rarely, if ever, has a childish outburst, my husband IS a child trapped in a man’s body.
“You’ll want to empty your pockets of any valuables, Mr. Nuttleman, and let your wife hold them,” said the nurse who was about to take my husband for his colonoscopy.
Toby obliged by stuffing his thick mitts into his jeans, then handing me a large stack of shock absorber packers and a little shock tool. I married a motorhead, what can I say?
Admittedly, it wasn’t so much what he handed me that struck me, as it was the look in his eyes. I saw fear in his gaze, as he gave me a quick peck on the lips and shuffled off behind the nurse. I wasn’t accustomed to seeing that in his steely blue peepers. My heart sank and I prayed that he would be one of the many patients that wake up from the procedure with no recollection of anything–except having to drink that God-awful gallon of GoLytely that I mixed with Crystal Light Lemonade.
I waited. And waited, listening half-heartedly to the conversations of others who had loved ones there for the same screening. Suprisingly, it wasn’t all just “older” folks who were in for the “backend-look-see.” The ages varied and they weren’t all men either.
About an hour later, the same nurse appeared and smiled sweetly as she called my name to come back with her. I was led to a little rooom, where Toby was laying on his side, wrapped up in a blanket, with an IV plugged into his hand. There were monitoring wires hooked up to him as well; very reminiscent of the emergency room heart scare we had experienced just a month earlier.
He appeared to be sleeping, but assured me that he was “just resting his eyes.” The nurse giggled and told him that he could get dressed now, if he wanted to, and informed us that it’s recommended that he pass some gas before leaving after this procedure.
Toby’s eyes fluttered open upon that directive and immediately, he released another one of his epic bursts of flatulence. His eyes were twinkling and the corners of his mouth turned upward with delight. Some things never get old for him. The nurse cheered for his musical abilities. I buried my face in my hands in utter embarrassment.
It wasn’t much longer and the doctor came into the room, closing the door behind him. He informed us that he had found two polyps and removed them, which is fairly commonplace during a colonoscopy. I was both surprised and pleased that Toby only had two. But it was the doctor’s next sentence that sent my mind reeling.
“We also found a tumor.”
What?! I looked over at Toby, who was nodding his head with his eyes closed, like he was jamming out to a song. Was he still THAT drugged up and not hearing what I thought I heard? I whipped my head back over to the doctor and frowned. He repeated the words again, as it was painfully obvious that I was in denial and perhaps Toby was too.
“We found a tumor. It’s about an inch in size.”
A ringing started in my ears, as the doctor continued to fill us in on the nature of the tumor. In his experience, and based upon the appearance of it, he believed it was malignant. They planned to perform a biopsy, which would give us a definitive answer. By the next day, we would know if we were about to embark on a new journey–battling cancer.
Waiting for the phone to ring with news from a doctor is grueling torture. It is astounding the crazy scenarious that a worried mind can concoct. The call finally came late that next afternoon. The tumor was malignant. Toby had cancer.
After all of the follow up exams and tests, we discovered that the cancer was not anywhere else in Toby’s body. We had what seemed to be the best-case scenario for the outlook to eradicate the cancer, as the words, “very curable” passed the doctor’s lips during the conversation. It was another reason to breathe easier.
It was also another reason to continue to beat the drum of early detection through colonoscopy exams. I cannot stress enough to everyone reading this just how important that particular check-up is. Toby may not say it, but he knows damn well that if I hadn’t forced him to go to the doctor for the exam, he would likely be battling for his life in a matter of a few years.
Now more than ever, given the string of health concerns he’s experienced, Toby knows the value and importance of listening to his body and his wife. (He won’t admit to that last one, if you ask him.) Think about it–would you rather avoid what you perceive to be embarrassing, or have your life cut short because you can’t get past the awkward thought of the exam? Be brave. Male or female–this exam is important. You can’t control what happens to you, but you CAN control how you react to it. And sometimes, being PROACTIVE instead of reactive is the best medicine–literally.