It all started with my wife Wang Li having infrequent episodes of tummy pain. A trip to the local emergency clinic led to a CT scan, a diagnosis of possible colitis and a referral for a colonoscopy.
Being 2020 and under the influence of COVID-19 protocols, all such tests were delayed, and the result was that several months passed from emergency visit to colonoscopy. The colonoscopy procedure was not successful and tissue samples were taken for biopsy. The colon cancer diagnosis was a wrenching blow to our family, to our whole being. My wife hardly ever ate meat, her diet was fruit and veggie heavy, she took long walks and had a busy work schedule at her restaurant. This couldn’t be happening!
Well, it was happening, and the surgeon, Dr. McWilliams, moved quickly to book Wang Li in for surgery to remove the tumour. Five days after the colon cancer diagnosis, Wang Li underwent bowel resection surgery and a T4 tumour was removed.
Thus started the journey to beat cancer. The primary tumour was gone; however, the cancer had spread, and numerous small tumours were identified in both lungs. A second operation, namely lung resection surgery, was performed to remove one of the lung tumours, a biopsy was conducted, and the lung tumors were confirmed as metastatic colon cancer. The prognosis was bad, and our options were limited; the outlook, however, is we are determined to beat this.
As interactions with medical team members progressed, our sense of helplessness grew. There was a combination of: disbelief that this could be happening to us; varied information on current research and treatments; our love for each other and desire to grow old together; the reality of chemotherapy; and that unimaginable prognosis.
Chemotherapy treatment started in September 2021, and through the good and kind graces of caring medical staff and pre-treatment procedures, Wang Li experienced minimal side effects from the chemo drugs. However, she was extremely fatigued. After one course of treatments, a chemo-vacation was encouraged.
It was during this “chemo-vacation” that we read an article on a Toronto news site about a young lady in Toronto who had a colon cancer-related abdominal resection surgery cancelled due to COVID-19 and how a person with CCRAN (a colon cancer advocacy group) had become involved to assist with rescheduling the surgery with the loss of just several days.
CCRAN – Colorectal Cancer Resource & Action Network – I Googled the name, and it was the best “Google” I ever performed. I sent off a brief description of Wang Li’s condition to the CCRAN web page, and within minutes I received an invitation for us to join a monthly Zoom call happening that Sunday afternoon with CCRAN organizers and cancer survivors. Wang Li and I did join that call, and clarity ensued. We were introduced to an amazing group of individuals dealing with life challenges for which none of us have prepared. Resilience, knowledge, respect, love and trust were in abundance.
Since that Sunday in January 2022, the support from CCRAN’s people has been constant. Chemotherapy treatments have been resumed and Filomena Servidio, President of CCRAN, has participated in meetings with Wang Li’s oncologist to assist in clarifying cancer treatment program and formulating a forward plan. Sheila Verhage-Brown, M.D, CCRAN program coordinator, has kept us informed of events and progress updates on cancer treatment options. And, most important of all, the life goal path has changed from “we will get through this” to “this is how we will beat this.”
CCRAN’s mission is to promote awareness by public campaigning for regular colorectal cancer screening and providing education, support and resources to individuals and families dealing with the disease. Colorectal cancer is highly treatable and curable if identified at an early stage, and that’s the kicker – colorectal cancer has no obvious symptoms in the early stages; you must take a screening test.
If we had been aware of the increasing prevalence of colorectal cancer in Canada and had the available screening on a regular basis, treatment could have been as simple as snipping off a polyp in conjunction with a colonoscopy instead of multiple surgeries and repeated rounds of chemotherapy. Please join me in supporting this organization whose only mission is to help.
Charitable Registration Number 776821936RR0001