shocked look on Jelena's face

Welcome back to Life as a Cancer Survivor! Jelena here, and today I’m going to tell you about my diagnosis story. In case you missed my last video on all the symptoms I was experiencing leading up to this point, link is in the description below. Check that out so you’ve got a little insight on what got me to this point.

colonoscopy prep itemsSo, referencing the last video, May 19, 2016, is the date that I found out I wasn’t allergic to any kinds of foods and gluten-free diet didn’t work, didn’t alleviate the symptoms so I was referred to a colonoscopy. The turnaround was quick so the next day I was at the grocery store buying all the supplies that I needed for my prep…Bisacodyl, Magnesium Citrate, a 14-day supply of powdered laxative (also known as Miralax), and a 64oz. jug of Gatorade…my flavor of choice was lemon-lime.

I started the prep on a Sunday, and it turned out that it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. The worst part for me was being hungry and not being able to eat for the entire day before. That prep on Sunday started with me taking 2 tablets of Bisacodyl at noon. Then at 2pm I mixed the entire jug of powdered laxative in a pitcher with the entire 64 ounces of Gatorade, mixed it up, and put it in the refrigerator to cool so it would be more palatable when it was time for me to start drinking it for the prep.

At 6pm I had to drink 2 glasses of water, the entire 10-ounce bottle of Magnesium Citrate, and another 2 glasses of water. By the time I was done with that part I forgot completely about my hunger because I was up to my eyeballs in liquid!

At 5am on Monday is when the Gatorade/Miralax prep began. I had to drink an 8-ounce glass every 15 minutes until that 64 ounces was completely gone. At the beginning, I kind of had some cramping, probably because my system had no idea why I was taking a 14 day supply of laxative in 2 hours. But it eventually, the cramping, eased up and I finished the prep without too much difficulty.

My colonoscopy wasn’t until 1pm, so all morning I was starving. Starting at 9am I couldn’t glass of watereven drink water, which sucked because I was thirsty feeling of course once you know you can’t drink any more water, and you can’t even like drink a bunch to trick your stomach into thinking it was kind of full by being full of liquids. No, you’re just stuck being miserable.

My husband, John, took me into check-in at noon, and after filling out all of the paperwork we had like 45 minutes to burn before I was taken back. My daughter, Maelle, was finishing up her last week of preschool so my husband, John, had to leave go pick her up, and then come back to the colonoscopy facility to get me because you aren’t allowed to drive home after your colonoscopy, after getting anesthesia, you have to have somebody drive you back home.

Once my name was called and I went to the back, I got hooked up to an IV, and then the doctor that was going to be doing the colonoscopy came in to talk to me about what symptoms I was experiencing. She explained how the procedure would go and said that she would take samples from inside my colon during the procedure and that she would probably find out that I maybe had Crohn’s or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was put under for the procedure, so once I went to sleep I don’t remember anything about it until I woke back up.

John brought Maelle with him to come pick me up because we didn’t think anything serious was going to be happening. Boy were we wrong!

As I woke up from the colonoscopy, John and the doctor were in the little curtained off area where my bed was. I asked where Maelle was and John said that the doctor didn’t want her in that area and that she was just sitting right outside the curtain in a chair playing on her tablet.

That was when she gave us the news that she had found a mass in my rectum and that she was almost positive that it was cancer. She said she put a rush on the biopsy results so we would find out ASAP exactly what it was. But the fact that she put a rush on it and just the seriousness in her voice made us realize that this was probably something that was going to be really bad.

We were in shock, but we tried not to go down that what-if road because we didn’t know what we were dealing with yet.

For me though, it was pretty much impossible for me to keep from going down that road. My first worry was about my daughter, who was 5 at the time, growing up without a mother. My next concern was we were in the middle of building a new house. Should we even continue with building the house? It was just in the early stages so we could still get out of it and not lose too much money. But, we wouldn’t need this new house if I wasn’t going to be around anymore. But there was still a chance (although very small)that it wasn’t cancer, so I tried to stuff those what-ifs down and not think about them.

Two days later I got a call from the doctor’s office saying that my biopsy results were in and I needed to make an appointment to come in and find out my results. They had an opening at 12:30 and at 4:30. It was Maelle’s last day of school that day and at 11:45 was End of Year Circle time where the teachers were going to read a story all the students would get a certificate, then they’d go outside and have a picnic lunch with all of the parents, and then have ice cream to finish off the final day.

I didn’t want to ruin Maelle’s end of year celebration and knew there was no way I could do that and the 12:30 appointment, so I chose the 4:30 one so we would have one final day of normalcy before we find out what exactly is going on inside me. I’m not much of a crier, but I had to try SO hard to not bust out in tears when my daughter got her end of year certificate. A million things were racing through my mind, first and foremost, am I ever going to see her finish another year of school.

That afternoon we took her over to a friend’s house so that John and I could hear the results on our own. We didn’t disclose any information to Maelle yet, because she is a curious girl and she was going to have a million questions and we would have zero answers yet for her.

At the office, the doctor was in a really upbeat mood when she was walking us back to the room and she was asking us how our day had been, so I thought that the news couldn’t be that serious since she was in such a good mood. Well, the conversation quickly took a dark turn and she confirmed that the biopsy results showed that the mass was indeed cancer, and because of the location of it, it was considered Rectal Cancer. Because Rectal and Colon cancers have many features in common they get lumped together under the name, Colorectal Cancer.

After learning the news we all cried, but then the doctor just jumped right into explaining what the next steps were going to be. A CT scan and a rectal EUS (also known as a rectal ultrasound) would be the next 2 tests that I would undergo to help with figuring out the staging of my cancer to see how serious it was. I was so grateful that she knew exactly where I needed to go to get these tests done and that she was doing what she could to get me in ASAP because I would have had NO idea where to start. And as a patient calling in, I’m sure I would not have gotten in as fast as she could get me in to get these tests done.

Unfortunately, the next day I was scheduled to fly back to Ohio for my sister’s bridal shower. But the doctor assured me that I would be fine to go have fun because she probably wasn’t going to get me in in the next 2 days anyway and then the following Monday was Memorial Day. So she said go have fun. This will be waiting for you still when you get back, it’s not going to advance that far in these couple of days that it’s going to make a difference in your treatment.

So I flew home to Ohio with the knowledge that I had cancer but had no idea how serious it was. My parents and sister knew that I had cancer, but the rest of the family did not so I decided to wait until after my sister’s bridal shower to tell anyone else so that she could have her happy day and her day to shine.

Life was already changing into a whirlwind of appointments. As I was waiting for my flight, the imaging office called to schedule my CT scan, which I scheduled for Tuesday, May 31 at 9am. The soonest that I could get in.

The next day, my sister took me out for my birthday to our favorite amusement park, Cedar PointJelena and her sister with the Blue Streak rollercoaster in the background. We had tons of fun at the park, all while I was trying to push down those thoughts that this could be the last time I ever ride these roller coasters. In the middle of the day, while we were waiting in line for the coaster Valravyn, the Oncologist’s office called to schedule me for my appointment with them which would be the following Thursday which would give enough time for the CT scan that I would take on Tuesday to get to the office so that we could discuss my treatment plan. Thankfully that was the only interruption to our day, which didn’t end until all the lines were closed down and they were shooing us out of the park.

Tune in to my next video to hear about all the diagnostic tests that I underwent to stage my cancer and also to prepare for treatment. If you like what you heard in this video, hit the like button over here, and be sure to subscribe to my page so that you’ll be notified when all of my new videos are posted. Thank you for watching!

*This video was originally published on October 23, 2019

*Link to My Cancer Symptoms post


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