Guest Blog by Karey Spransy
It’s January 6, 2017, and I’m in the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. The doctors can’t make sense of the scans, so they need to go in laparoscopically and see what’s going on. They say it will last an hour or less and leave me with just a few small incisions.
I wake up five hours later with staples from my navel to my pubic bone and a colostomy bag. To say it was shocking would be an understatement. I lost my mind.
I named my stoma Stu. I don’t know why really, other than it felt like a “he,” and he definitely had a personality all his own. Stu and I never really got along. I was in a constant state of either constipation or diarrhea. Stu was like a lava lamp. Some days, he was the typical beefsteak tomato; other days, he was like a proboscis monkey’s nose, completely filling the bag. It felt like I was unraveling from the inside out.
It’s April 2017, and I’m anxiously waiting for the doctor, excited to hear when I can get rid of Stu and get back to feeling normal. The doc comes in and says that a take-down is not possible. The colon cancer has metastasized on my left ovary and grown a tumor the size of a cantaloupe. It is pushing against my spine, femoral artery, kidney and ureter, and it’s pinching off my intestines, hence Stu’s behavior. I must undergo 25 rounds of radiation to try and shrink the tumor so they can remove it.
It’s now June 2017, I’m done with radiation and anxiously waiting for the doctor again.
“Hi doc, was radiation successful?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “It did not shrink the tumor in the direction we had hoped; it grew to the size of a large watermelon. There is nothing more we can do other than surgically remove it. This surgery is life-threatening due to its size and location.
Also, colon cancer is ‘sticky,’ which means it likes to attach itself to surrounding tissue & organs. We won’t know the extent to which that has happened until we get inside.
Lastly, we don’t know to what extent radiation has damaged your rectum and intestines. We may not be able to reconnect you. If we can, you’ll have an ileostomy for the remainder of your chemotherapy treatments then we’ll reassess.
I recommend you get your affairs in order in case the worst should happen. We’ll do everything we can to prevent that and leave you with as few bags as possible, but we can’t promise anything.”
I was shell shocked. Are you serious? I’m 41 years old. Is this all the time I get? ARGH! It’s not enough time. This is not how life was supposed to be.
As surgery day approached, I wrote letters to all my friends, telling them what they meant to me. I apologized to my ex-husband for the pain I had caused him, thanked him for being in my life, and wished him love, light, and happiness. I spent every moment I could with my family and my son. If I was on my way out, I wanted to leave with no regrets and the people in my life knowing what they meant to me.
Looking at my family as they wheeled me away, not knowing if I would ever see them again, is a pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
A few days before the surgery, I dreamt that when the doctors cut me open, a yellow balloon (the tumor) simply floated out of my belly. The evening before the surgery, my friends threw a dinner party for me. I brought a yellow balloon for each of us and told them about my dream. We stood out on the terrace, said a prayer together that the surgery would go well, and released the balloons.
When I awake from the operation, my family is there laughing and crying.
“The doctor said it was a miracle!” my son says. “They opened you up, and the tumor just popped out. It wasn’t attached to anything, and they simply lifted it out. You’ll have the ileostomy until you’re done with chemo then you can be put back together. Everything is fine. You are fine.”
Yellow is the color of Joy.
Cancer taught me to find joy in everything. Chemo shifted from a terrible way to spend four hours to a super special one-on-one date with a loved one. Difficult conversations turned into tender moments of speaking from the heart. Forgiveness, compassion, generosity, and abundance were now my mantras.
Before cancer, I was a FOMO junkie, saying yes to everything and burning my candle at both ends. I am now three years in remission, bag free, and a JOMO junkie. Not because I’ve found the joy of missing out. No, that wasn’t for me.
I’ve found the Joy Of Moving On; that’s my JOMO.
If you’ve lost your JOMO or perhaps never found it, give these a try:
1. Compassion - We never know what someone is going through. I can’t count the times I shared my story with clients I had worked with for years only to learn that they or someone they loved had a similar experience.
The next time the cashier is a little short, look them in the eye, smile, say “Thank You,” and wish them a wonderful day. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, say a prayer or make a wish that everything in their life is OK. Stand in their shoes for a moment and offer your compassion. I can only imagine how my family drove when they heard my news.
2. Forgiveness - I believe that we are all doing the best we can with the tools and information we have. When I got sick, one of my best friends fell off the planet. Yes, I was disappointed, but focusing on that feeling was not helpful to my recovery and only caused suffering. We each have our own ways of dealing with scary situations. Remembering this, and forgiving my friend, allowed me not to be mad and just love him when he chose to come back. Sure, it changed our friendship a bit, but that’s OK too.
Filling your heart and mind with compassion and forgiveness is the best medicine you can take. When you find the Joy Of Moving On, when you live with JOMO, you are able to see the magic in the mess, laugh instead of cry, and savor every moment.
Karey Spransy is a wife, mother, grandmother, resiliency coach, and stage-IV colon cancer survivor. She knows what it’s like when life hits the fan. JOMO (the Joy Of Moving On) is how she turns setbacks into springboards and failures into the fuel to be stronger, not despite of, but because of what she’s been through. You can connect with Karey and learn more about JOMO by visiting http://www.kareyoncoaching.com/ or on Instagram and Facebook.
Don't miss another story!
Subscribe to our newsletter.