I believe it has been almost 5 years since my last business trip. If I had to guess, the last was a trip to beautiful Vancouver in 2012, except that it rained the whole time and I spent most of the trip in the convention center. But, since my battle with the “c” disease began in 2013, there have been no business trips. I attempted one back in 2015, when I was supposed to attend a conference in Berlin, Germany. Kim was coming along with me. She had bought the Fodor’s book, researched the castles and other sights that we would enjoy around my attendance at the conference. But, unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Rather than boarding a plane for Berlin, I wound up on a plane to Houston for emergency surgery due to a bowel blockage.
Our flight was scheduled to depart for Berlin on a Tuesday. But, leading up to that trip, I was experiencing severe abdominal pain and other not-so-pleasant symptoms. It got so bad that Kim had to take me to the emergency room. A CT scan at the hospital wasn’t definitive for a blockage, though they clearly saw a mass and thought emergency colon resection was the appropriate course of action. As we were already aware of the mass in that area and were under the care of a surgical team at MD Anderson that was monitoring my disease, it was decided that I should instead get a colonoscopy to further diagnose the problem, so the E.R. doctor scheduled it for the following Tuesday, the day we were supposed to fly to Berlin. We moved the flight to Thursday, still hoping we could go, because my doctors believed it unlikely that I was in a life-threatening situation.
Sadly, it was determined that my colon was about 98% blocked by the tumor in my gut, which had grown into and through my colon. I’m still unclear as to why this growth wasn’t evident from the CT scans I had been getting up until that time, but, regardless, I had to immediately fly to Houston. So, on the Thursday of our second-chance flight to Berlin, I had surgery at MD Anderson to place a diverting ileostomy on the right side of my belly and was subsequently trained on stoma care and the changing of ostomy bags. I remember well that it was then, while working with the nurse, that I named my new body feature “Vesuvius” because of its penchant for random, loud eruptions.
I’ll share one recent story that typifies life with a stoma. A couple of months ago, my daughter, Caroline, and I went to the local Verizon store to replace the screen cover on her phone. We were the only customers in the store, and we were being assisted by a young woman. Suddenly, as she stood behind the counter, working up the order on her computer, my unruly friend made a sound like “ptttttthhhhhh-bletha-bletha-bletha-bletha-dadada.”
Ya see, Vesuvius can make some strange noises. Embarrassing noises. Noises similar to but shockingly different from those of the bodily efflux of gas with which we’re familiar and would suffer almost any pain to avoid emitting in public. At that moment, I probably should have owned it and said, “excuse me!” Another option would have been for me to high tail it out of there altogether. Instead, I turned to my daughter and said emphatically (though lightheartedly), “Caroline!” and turned back to take in the response of the employee helping us. To her credit, the young woman continued typing as if nothing unusual had happened. My daughter, on the other hand, did an about-face and pursed her lips tightly to stifle her laugh. Her face quivered and tears filled her eyes. I wanted to burst out laughing to relieve the tension. I was mortified, but it was funny. I suspect the employees enjoyed a good laugh at my expense when we were gone.
I bring all of this up because, unless something crazy happens in the next 24 hours, I’ll be traveling to Indianapolis this weekend to attend a one-day workshop, and I’m a bit nervous about it. There is no way to predict or prevent the eruptions of Vesuvius, and the noises it makes are definitely not what you want emanating from yourself in a room full of strangers at a workshop on software development. Does this sound boring? Perhaps. But I certainly don’t want my stoma creating any excitement. I’m hoping and praying that I can survive the workshop without much personal interruption (pun intended).
I’ll mention briefly that I return from Indy on Sunday and immediately head to Nashville. I’m getting a CT scan on Monday morning, followed by the usual treatment, presumably. I confess I’m nervous about this too. We hope the trial drugs have continued to be effective against my disease.
We are so thankful for all our friends and family who continue to join us on this journey, in thought, word and deed, particularly the prayers. To those who have shared with me their own hardships, know that we’re praying for you too. We’re in this together.
Note: the featured image is a clip from Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.