One year ago today, I underwent a 5 1/2-hour, life-saving, life-changing surgery to remove a Stage 3 colorectal cancer tumor.

Life-saving: The surgeon was quick to tell me that he got it all, and I was cured with less than a 7 percent chance of recurrence. The oncologist told me he would considered me cured after 5 years of no recurrence. As my sweet husband posted today, 1 year down, and many more to go!

Life-changing: Because of where the tumor was located, the surgeon couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Subsequently, I have a permanent colostomy. When I was told by the oncologist during our first visit that this was a possibility and later by him and the surgeon that this was going to be my new reality, I couldn’t hide my tears and disappointment.

But more than anything I wanted to live. Now when well-meaning friends express sympathy for what I call “my hardware,” I tell them I’m not sorry about it. I am truly happy to be here.

Having survived what I call my “inconvenience,” I’m finally feeling my old energy returning and then some. I’m continuing efforts to pay it forward:

  • I am beyond excited to announce the beginning of an ostomy support group in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve received some interest from those who have recent ostomies, which is when support is most needed. If you or someone close to you in the Middle Tennessee area could benefit from an ostomy support group, please feel free to contact me. Stay tuned for details on our first meeting.
  • I’m drafting a non-fiction book proposal for “Inconvenience Journal,” the story of my experience, with tips and resources for those going through similar experiences. The proposal will include affiliated items, such as hard-copy Inconvenience Journals, an app, and Thank-You Notes. The goal is to get published and put half of any profit from sales into a fund that will help bridge the financial gap for those needing cancer treatments, scans, ostomy supplies, etc.
  • I’ve purchased the domain names for inconveniencejournal.com and .net and will launch the Inconvenience Journal website soon. The website will feature progress on the Inconvenience Journal project, as well as resources, recommended reading,  opportunities to share experiences, and more.

Talking about colonoscopies, colorectal cancer, and colostomies is uncomfortable, but it is so necessary. Millennials (ages 23-38) are experiencing a high uptick in colorectal cancer rates. The recommended age for a first colonoscopy is 50, which is when I had mine and when the tumor was discovered. A year and a half prior, I was told by a doctor to wait until I was 50 to get this colonoscopy, after disclosing that I was having issues.

My key focus has shifted over the last year from staying alive to sharing the importance of advocating for your health and getting necessary screenings, whether at the recommended age or earlier if needed. Because being treated for colorectal cancer is a lot more uncomfortable than talking about it and hopefully preventing it or catching it before it’s too late.

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