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ASSessing the Situation

My name is Jennifer Taylor and I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer on June 1, 2017. I was 29 years old at the time and am a mother of two (my son was 7 and my daughter was 11 months old at the time). I currently live in La Grande, OR and have been receiving treatment in Walla Walla, WA.

I have been taking psychology classes online (up until my treatments began and I was in so much pain I couldn't keep up) and I took a course on the Sociology of Disability. I remember reading about people who had to have colostomy or ileostomy bags and I remember thinking to myself, "My God, I rather die." The bitter irony of that is that I will be needing a temporary ileostomy bag after my first surgery (due in March or April, date hasn't been set yet). I can honestly say that my biggest fear and worst nightmare is becoming a reality. I've also been angry, hurt, and humbled. 

Colorectal cancer is a tricky devil -- in the sense that it is all too embarrassing and humiliating. The last thing I wanted was for people to try and "brighten" my mood by making jokes. However, I have learned, graciously, that this wasn't my choice and it certainly wasn't my choice for our society to be so ashamed to talk about "butt health." I might as well look on the bright side and share in a laugh at my own expense. 

When I first started on chemo, I joked that it was a consolation prize that I had won.

"What do we have for today's lucky winner, Johnny?"

"Well, Chuck, today's winner goes home with a brand new, portable infusion pump, complete with 5fu's of chemo! And that's not all Chuck - today's winner will also receive five whole weeks of radiation!"

I have to travel a couple hours (across state lines) to get to the cancer center where I receive treatments -- so I use a medical taxi service. I had a fairly regular driver at one time who told me he takes a couple of other people, about twice my age, who are going through similar circumstances, who always complain. He told me he got so tired of it he told them he transports a "20 something mother of two who has cancer and she is always cheerful and can still laugh at life." It was a poignant moment & I felt very touched that someone sees me as inspiring.

My surgeon, Dr. Frankhouse, is amazing. When I first met him he told me he wanted to "save my ass" and although he'd have to, pardon his pun, "ASSess" the situation, he felt confident he could perform the sphincter sparing surgery I was hoping for.

He told me he gets asked a lot why he became a "butt doctor" and he said his response is always, "Do you have a butt? It comes in handy, doesn't it?" His humor definitely put me at ease. I recently saw him for a sigmoidoscopy and again, it was, "I don't want to make any "ASSumptions," but I still feel this is the right course to take..." 

I have learned that with rectal cancer, you can't avoid the jokes. You can be bitter, hurt, angry -- and while those feelings are valid, don't forget to be grateful and just laugh once in a while!

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