I felt like any 30 year old would, invincible with my whole life in front of me. I was married, had a career, a house, and was very athletic. I loved playing softball with my friends, football, and going to gym. I took pride in all of those things. I felt like I was going in a great direction and couldn’t wait to see where life was taking me.
I had started to have issues with constipation and diarrhea at the age 29. I just thought that maybe something I had been eating wasn’t agreeing with me. As the symptoms got worse, I was persistent on getting checked so I could fix what was wrong and go about living my life. After getting numerous tests done, I was in shock to find out that I had a 3 inch tumor in my colon. On December 8, 2008, I was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer. From that day on my life changed forever.
On December 29, 2008 I started chemo and radiation. During this time I went through many different struggles. I was afraid of eating because of the pain I was having. Every morning I walked into radiation at 10 a.m. knowing the pain and burning I was going to endure the rest of the day. By 5 p.m. everyday for 6 weeks I was in tears. My bathroom issues continued to go on for months. The physical and mental pain I went through at that time was draining, but I managed to finish the treatments.
In the middle of all of this craziness, I found out the cancer had spread to my liver. I felt like the cancer was spreading all over my body and doing its best to try and kill me. In the meantime, it was time to get my bowel obstruction surgery done. I was told I would get an ileostomy bag put on for 3 weeks to 3 months. During my follow up session, I had a lot of questions about my ileostomy bag. That was until my colorectal surgeon broke the news to me that my diagnosis was worse than previously diagnosed. The cancer was in my blood and lymph nodes, and I had to go in for 6 months of aggressive chemo.
During this rough treatment, I also had to have surgery on my liver to remove the tumor. After liver surgery, I finished my chemotherapy and found out I was cancer free. It was time to get my ileostomy reversed. I couldn’t wait to get my life back and heal from all the pain and trauma I went through in the last year.
While healing from my ileostomy reversal, I felt like something was not right. I was concerned and contacted my doctor. He thought that it was just my body healing and that everything was going to be OK. Five months later I was still having the sweats, pain, and sickness. I found out that I had an abscessed infection at my bowel resection site that had been caused by the radiation.
The only way my doctor knew how to heal the infection was putting a colostomy bag on me. As if it was not hard enough to get a bag put back on after everything I went through, I found out that my infection was in my blood and I was sent to an infectious disease doctor to help it heal. The infection healed after 3 weeks, and I finally felt healthy. I was stuck with my colostomy bag and wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to get it reversed again.
I am still going through struggles as we speak, even though I am over 5 years in remission. My CEA levels continue to stay high and my doctors don’t have an explanation for it. I just try and stay as positive as I can, and hope that I continue to remain in remission.
I wish that my physicians or the professionals that I was surrounded by could have given me some insight on what resources are out there for colon cancer or ostomy patients, and how important it is to get involved. Just remember every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
Ed Yakacki, Stage IV Colorectal Cancer Survivor
Editor’s Note: Ed is a tireless advocate for colorectal cancer patients. He does everything he can to spread the word about the importance of colon cancer screening, raise money for various colorectal cancer organizations, and help raise the profile of young people being diagnosed with this disease. You can follow him on his website: www.fightin4blue.org or on his Facebook page.