One of my brothers has had colon cancer multiple times, and it was aggressive and very genetic.  So all of us rushed to our gastrointerologists to get on the every-5-year treadmill for screening c-scopes.  I had had two by now.  We were living in Kuna, ID at the time and we were getting ready for another permanent change of station (PCS).  I was about a year overdue as it was, so I figured I’d better just go ahead and get it over with before we moved.  This wasn’t my first time at the party and I was feeling fine. After all, my dog and I had just become North American Champions a mere six months prior … I had no discomfort or anything.  Just routine.  My biggest concern was getting the right cocktail for the procedure because I have been awake for them before, due to doctors not believing me when I told them morphine doesn’t work for me.

Well, the cocktail was perfect that day.  I was thrilled.  But not for long.  The doctor had taken multiple biopsies of something he knew wasn’t a polyp, but he also knew it was almost obstructing my ascending colon.  Now, typically breast cancer has an affection for livers, lungs, bones, and brains.  But colons?  As a matter of fact, I had read of a woman’s cancer, just a matter of weeks prior, that had metastacized to her gut.  That was the first I’d heard of a breast cancer migrating into abdominal organs besides the liver. Evidently, lobular carcinoma, the kind that accounts for a mere 10% of breast cancers, the sneaky kind that doesn’t show up on scans and mammograms, the kind I had has all sorts of little party tricks. Spiritual clue.  Didn’t know it could happen … and only a month after finding out it was even possible, it had happened to me.  God kind of has a way of giving me transition sentences.  Like right before I was first diagnosed, I complimented a woman in my office on her beautiful hair.  She told me it was a wig and that she was in treatment for breast cancer.  I had never known anyone doing cancer treatment before. And i had my first appointment with my surgeon that very afternoon.  God hooked me up with a built-in support group right there in my office. So here was a similar thing.  I had just heard lobular carcinoma could to go the belly and yes, that big whopper in my colon was a breast tumor.

First I was scared shitless!  Remember, I honestly believed I was done with cancer forever.  And now, without any warning, I was suddenly Stage IV.  Those words no cancer patient ever wants to hear.  “Terminally ill,” “incurable,” and not just any kind of terminal.  No offense to others with bone mets (I have them now too), but we all know that’s the best news you could hear, metastatically, is that it’s in your bones … not liver, lungs, or brain.  Now it was in my colon and I had to have a resection quickly before I obstructed completely.  So I went, in the course of five minutes, from being ecstatically retired, healed, seeing my oncologist every 6 months as a formality, to being considered terminally ill and never being without him for more than a month ever again.  The conventional method of handling cancer is to use surgery, chemo, and radiation.  Some cancers have the option of hormonal therapy and other cancers have the option of targeted therapy.  But that’s it.  And once your cancer has shown the wherewithal to move from its original location, and set up house in a whole different part of your body, it is smart.  It mutates.  Anything you throw at it, at first it might cringe.  But then it figures out how to work around that drug and gets meaner every time.  Until you run out of options and you’re gone.

Me in City of Hope's Rose Garden

I just couldn’t even bear the thought of living a life … ending a life … like that.  So I went back to LEF and resurrected my protocol while I waited for surgery.  I pounded the curcumin, modified citrus pectin, green tea, conjugated linoleic acid, melatonin,  and CoQ10 hoping that perhaps that whopper might be much smaller by the time they got in there.  Also, I didn’t want that unusual surgery taking place in Boise, ID. I wanted a major cancer center to do this because it was so unusual. I had no idea what else might be lurking because I had read that colon mets were rarely alone.  So I wanted someone who could deal with whatever and not just stand there with his finger up his nose when he got in there.  I settled on City of (No) Hope in California.  Let me tell you what a goat rope it was trying to get insurance to buy off on that one:

“OK, Mrs Buhmeyer, you have breast cancer?”
“Yes.”
“So you need a breast surgeon?”
“No, I need a gastro surgeon.”
“You have colon cancer?”
“No I have breast cancer.”
“So you need a breast surgeon?  Let’s see, I have this one in Boise ….”
“No, I need a GASTRO surgeon in California!”
AAAAARGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  

Honestly, I had meltdown after meltdown on the phone.  Let me say that wrapping your brain around cancer, especially a terminal diagnosis, can certainly cause its share of PTSD and if there any folks reading this, involved in any way with health care, please realize this.  Any number of reactions should be expected from a patient dealing with such a thing with no advocate to do it for her.  We’re trying to process the fact that we’re dying, we’re not ready, we don’t want to … and the whole system makes it even worse by telling you “no” every chance they get.  I thought, right then and there, that there should be a job field for people to advocate for terminal folks.  Someone who could be the liaison between the patient and the insurance company, physicians, etc.  Of course, it would require powers of attorney and such like that, but what a wonderful thing that would be!  Hell, I would try to do it if I weren’t sick myself. So instead, I’ll just bitch about it and write.  I can do that sitting on my ass. Maybe one of y’all will take the ball and run with it!

So finally, after much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, the plans were all worked out and the route was planned.  We set out to move to California for a few weeks to lose some colon … and hopefully that would be all.

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Comments
  1. Leslie says:

    Sis, I am so glad you are doing this blog! Not only because you have a wealth of information and experience to share with and help others, but you are also a great writer, you obviously write from your heart and soul – I feel every bit of anguish as well as your humor in retelling this long and frustrating trial.

    • Thanks Les! Now see if you can convince your husband to read it too! LOL

      • Carolann says:

        You are like a drug Melissa…one cannot get enough of you & your downhome way of expressing yourself. Your energy comes through & I’m trying like hell to soak it up, you crazy bitch (& I mean that in a good way!) . Thanks for all the advice you gave me before my trip to Hawaii. I got the crystal & followed your advice but didn’t get to have the massage…I contacted your masseuse & spoke with her twice, but her bookings & my free time didn’t jive. My trip ended poorly….my husband & I will never travel with family again…I swear!!! I could write a blog on that part of my life alone, let alone my highs & lows with this damn breast cancer. I do look forward to reading you again, and again. Stay well, Carol from PA

      • OMG, how sweet is THAT? And how sorry I am to hear of the family drama in Hawaii … that is NOT the place for drama! 😦 As for writing a blog, DO IT! I never thought I had anything to say that anyone in their right minds would want to read, but people like you are egging me on. Better watch out. Little do y’all know that I’ve written four more posts just waiting for when I don’t have the time to do it. LOL

  2. Carolann says:

    I absolutely love your sense of humor!! “I did have an incredible expeience on Christmas Day in Kauai that makes up for some of the s__t that happened. We were having brunch when a lovely Hawaiian woman, who was strolling around entertaining people with her ukelele & wonderful island songs, stopped at our table. My daughter mentioned it was also my birthday so she said she was going to sing a special song for me that was her Mother’s favorite. Soon, I was tearing up & then crying by the end of this beautiful melody. I didn’t know what the words meant, but figured it had to do with love…and maybe loss. She saw my tears & came over to put her arms around me. We embraced & I whispered in her ear, “I have cancer.” She said “I do too.” We bonded in that moment. As it turned out, she also has breast cancer, although its not Stage IV, she said hers is very aggressive & her onc must watch her closely. We have kept in touch via e-mail since then. She is very spiritual & prays for me. I feel truly blessed to have met her. Its funny how BC creates a sisterhood.
    Love & Peace,
    Carol

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