• Colon Cancer


    On May 27, I went kicking and screaming to my very first colonoscopy.

    I don’t know why, but for some reason I got roped into my first physical in, er, MANY years. And woof, it was a doozie. The doc knew I’m a fairly bad patient and wouldn’t be back for at least a decade so he threw the book at me. I had every test known to human kind and to my delight, all the reports were coming back stellar.

    When he said I could do my colonoscopy now or wait. I said I’d wait. Then he said, “No problem. We’ll have to redo your physical again, but that won’t be a problem. I’m up for another round.” Then he added, “We need a physical before we can do the colonoscopy.”

    I felt hoodwinked. So, simply to avoid another useless physical, I consented to the procedure.

    Having passed every prior medical test, and exceedingly cranky from the colonoscopy “prep,” the last words I said to the doc before the procedure were, “This is a waste of time. Such bullsh*t.”

    When I awoke, I knew something was amiss. First, I had no orange juice. They promised me orange juice and I was beyond hungry. Worse yet, everyone looked at me odd. Finally the doc came out and informed me he found a large malignant mass. I was scheduled for immediate emergency surgery.

    Surgery didn’t go well and they wound up slicing a huge gash into my abdomen.

    The good news is all the pathology is in and tumor was literally within millimeters of breaching the large intestine and entering my abdomen. For the geeks out there, my tumor was a mild variety, stage two, “T3 N0 M0.” I will not need chemo or radiation.

    So… I spent the last few weeks hopped up on Vicodin and after three weeks am finally feeling somewhat “normal.” Yesterday, the surgeon removed all my staples and replaced them with some lovely strips.

    My belly looks like a war zone.

    My point? (I always have one.)

    I remember one evening in the hospital. I laid there listening to my husband snoring as he attempted to sleep on the plastic couch. My hands continually shook for no apparent reason as I pondered how the Hospitalist informed me that I’d likely experience premature menopause due to the tumor removal. Earlier that day, an infection blossomed in my wound causing continual drainage. I recently discovered I gained four pounds in 24 hours eating nothing but a couple saltines and one glass of apple juice. The words “ostomy bag” entered conversations far more often than I liked. I felt gross, imagining all the other inconveniences this new life episode would generate. Knowing I had two fewer feet of colon, I felt sorry for myself.

    Then the nurse entered my room to take vitals and said, “Do you realize how lucky you are?”

    I didn’t feel particularly lucky. She continued, “You knew you had cancer for less than 24 hours and you’re already considered in remission. They got it all. It didn’t spread.” As she changed my bandages, she continued, “Sure, you have a nasty incision. This infection is bad, too. But you were in pretty good shape before the surgery and are making remarkable progress. Also, can you imagine how bad you’d feel trying to recover while dealing with chemotherapy?”

    A tear dripped down my cheek.

    “And look at that man on the couch,” she continued, “He hasn’t left your side. You’ve got a mountain of flowers over there. You’ve got your health. You’ve got tremendous family support. You’re young. You’re the luckiest person here.”

    While I didn’t really appreciate her sentiments at that particular moment, I could hang on to her words long enough to get through the next day as well as the next.

    Which brings me to today.

    Bloggers write for various reasons. Some do it to make money. Some write for self expression. Some write for the glory (ha). Then there are people like me who write because they’re writers. Personally, I can’t do anything else. I write as easily as I breathe… and one thing I learned after this experience, breathing isn’t always easy.

    But I’ve discovered skeptic blogging is a completely different animal than writing for my regular audience. I spent yesterday catching up on the latest skeptic news and all I can say is “wow.”

    I found calls for boycotts. Another person had been asked to step down from his leadership role in the “movement” because his opinions don’t match those of those who oppose him. I listened to a podcast where a “leader” in the movement unleashed one profanity filled, condescending accusation after another… all recorded for posterity. Another organization is embroiled in a new lawsuit. Don’t get me started on the disrespectful Twitter conversations, false accusations, and name calling.

    It’s all perplexing to me, someone who in their “real” life deals with people on a professional level… a place where public “calling out” generally doesn’t happen; where differences of opinion are simply differences of opinion; where we usually don’t threaten a person’s livelihood because they don’t think the same way we do; where we can disagree without engaging in angry/frustrated, profanity laced, condescending interviews.

    It’s surreal.

    The docs said my tumor would have been inoperable in two years. I would have been dead in five. I had no idea I had this thing growing in me. No symptoms. No clues. Nothing.

    I may sound like a cliché here, but here’s my big point: None of us know how long we’ll walk this planet. In one instant, your life can change forever.

    In light of this realization, it would be wonderful if the skeptical community could find even a tiny bit of common ground. After all, aren’t we supposed to be the folks guided by rationality?

    But I know I’m asking too much. My rose colored glasses often get me into trouble.

    Me? I’m recovering. My priorities are more clear than they’ve ever been. However, I’m not sure what my public role, if any, will be in the skeptic community. Right now I’m a bit disheartened after watching three weeks worth of drama in one day.

    However, I suppose the gift of focus is one of the takeaways from this experience.

    Wishing you the very best,


    Category: My Opinion


    Article by: Beth Erickson

    I'm Beth Ann Erickson, a freelance writer, publisher, and skeptic. I live in Central Minnesota with my husband, son, and two rescue pups. Life is flippin' good. :)

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    1. First, I am very glad that you are better and the doctors are taking care of you. Second, this is something of a wake-up call for me. I need to do this as well.

      As far as the rest, it’s basically meaningless. All the drama has as much impact on skepticism and the rational community as a flea does on a blue whale. The real skeptics, the real rationalists and humanists see all this as what it is… drama. And while it would truly suck to be in the middle of this, those not embroiled in the front lines can see the self-defeating actions of the dramatists.

      Don’t let them determine how you think or feel about anything. Then, any stress caused by this, can go away, leaving you free to heal.

      1. Awww, thanks for your kind words. It was definitely a wake up call.

        As for the rest, I’m still slack jawed at all that’s happened in three weeks. It’s shake-my-head amazing. I’ve never met a bunch quite like that before. And I’ve been around the block a few times. Sheesh.

    2. Awfully sorry Beth. You have been through such an ordeal. And scare. And it’s not over. It is not easy to “look on the bright side” and take it all in stride. Get better soon. We are lucky we live at a time (and place, don’t forget that) that modern medicine can make an “early” (of a sort) diagnosis and save a life. This is more than most people in history could say, and many still can’t.

      1. Thanks for your comment. It is a rough recovery, but I’m exceedingly thankful they caught it. Hearing I had five years before I kicked the bucket is quite sobering. While my belly looks horrendous, the docs assure me it’s looking “marvelous.” Go figure. Knowing all this makes the Vicodin haze worth it. 🙂

    3. Wow, what a story – it really puts all the internet drama into perspective. I’m glad you came through ok. Best wishes for a full recovery!

    4. I’m a regular reader of your blog. I know I don’t comment much. (In fact, many don’t, but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading.)

      You were certainly missed by me. You hadn’t put up a new post for a while, so I was hoping that perhaps you were on a nice vacation with family or friends. I am so sorry to hear that you were coping with such a serious health issue, but I’m glad that the recovery process (no chemo or radiation – YAY!!!), and long term prognosis are good.

      I know what you mean about the drama of late. (IMO, it’s been going on much too long.) The drama is why I always paid attention to your blog. It was a breath of fresh air in the midst of a huge internet stink. You post things I can relate to, having grown up in a devoutly religious, down-right lunatic, household. And, they give me a sense of joy and relief that I grew up in a country where I had the choice to abandon this nonsense. They remind me that my life is so much better than those who do not have that choice.

      So, I’m posting to wish you a speedy and complete recovery but, most especially, to say thanks for this reminder of what is truly important!

      With my very best wishes and my gratitude,
      An Ardent Skeptic

      1. Thanks for your kind comment. After being told I’d be dead in five years, I have exactly zero time to spend on any of the petty drama. I mentioned it in this post and plan on moving on to my regular topics. We’ve got far bigger fish to fry. I’m very heartened by all the kind messages. Thanks again.

    5. Sorry to hear about what you went through but damn glad it turned out okay. It really does lend some perspective to what has been going on in the atheist/skeptic community. Life is too short to get bogged down in this for any longer than necessary.

      1. Thanks vjack! I’m thrilled you stopped by. I enjoy your blog a lot. Yours has been a voice of reason in the situation. I’ve always appreciated your posts.

    6. BethAnn, I was wondering where you’ve been and I’m sorry to hear about your problems but the prognosis sounds good. Take the summer off and live and have fun. As far as the
      discord and drama this has been building for quite a while and there is so much animosity out there it’s discouraging. They’re so busy fighting each other they’ve lost sight of the larger goal. For me, it’s got to the point where I hardly visit any other sites with a few exception and yours being one of them. When someone mentions the “secular/atheist community” the first word that comes to mind is dysfunctional. Anyway, I’m glad you’re still with us and I hope you have a speedy recovery.

      1. Thanks, Peter. I’ve always enjoyed your comments. (I TOTALLY could use that fruity beer about now.) Yeah, the whole thing shot out of the blue. One day I was healthy, the next I was a “cancer survivor. Crazy stuff. Every day is getting better. All I have to do is get off that final Vicodin before bed time and I can DRIVE!~!

        1. Yeah, BethAnn I was going to say if I lived closer I’d bring you a case of good Canadian beer, once you’re off the pain meds, that is. Oh well, someday perhaps you’re not that far away. Wouldn’t that be fun. Still haven’t found the fruity beer but I keep trying. lol. Hang in there, my friend.

          1. Hey Peter,

            Yes, all is well. I’ve been drowning in doc appointments. Saw an oncologist, the surgeon, and GP again. Everything’s moving along. I’m off all pain meds, don’t need to see the surgeon again (yay!), oncologist will monitor me for new tumor growth for four years, and the GP says I’m free to go back to work, no restrictions. Yay!

            Slowly but surely life is going back to normal… whatever that is.

            Thanks for your kind comments,

            Beth 🙂

    7. Glad to hear you came through it OK, and I trust a full recovery is in store. I hope to see many more of your posts here. I haven’t had a checkup for 17 years now. I think it’s time.

      1. Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate your stopping by. Don’t feel bad, I hadn’t had a check up for 20 years. I aced every test… except one. Dang. I’m sure you’ll hit 100 percent. 🙂

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