Four years ago, about this time of year, I began to notice more abdominal problems than I had before. I put it to the back of my mind, and continued on, with work and family and friends. I had no idea that a little time bomb was causing this. I thought that maybe I overdid on eating more things that irritated my stomach. Especially this time of year.
But, at the end of January, after another special meal for my daughter's birthday, the pain became more persistent. Still, I carried on for a few days, thinking it would pass. Finally, it was to the point that I could no longer avoid it. My little time bomb had exploded. My appendix had ruptured. And, so, my saga as a patient had begun.
Still, I thought, a couple weeks and I'll be back to normal. No, the little time bomb wasn't going to let my life return to normal. I had a drainage procedure and antibiotics to quiet down the ruptured appendix. Then, an appendectomy. This was even an option, as sometimes, appendectomy is not done after quieting down appendicitis with antibiotics. I decided that I wanted it out. I remembered a similar, far less severe episode years earlier. So that was scheduled. But, after things had been quieted with antibiotics. Only then did the little time bomb reveal its true nature. It wasn't simply appendicitis. It was cancer.
Even appendicitis isn't simple, though most of us in the developed world now regard it as a simple, treatable disease. When my symptoms began, I was only one year shy of the age of my grandmother's death from appendicitis. Hers had also ruptured. But, she wasn't so lucky. There weren't many antibiotics in her day. She became septic and died due to the infection. Now, that is less common. Antibiotics can treat many diseases that used to be fatal. But, the bugs are getting smart. We may again be at risk, or have to tolerate increased side effects from the drugs we use to treat infections.
But, back to me. After my appendix was removed, I had to undergo a bigger surgery, and then chemotherapy, because there was evidence of spread at that time. But, January will mark three years since the end of chemotherapy. I remain disease free. And, that is definitely something that I am thankful for today. I am also thankful for family and friends who supported me through this ordeal. And, thankful for a job that I could come back to when I was able. And lastly, I am thankful for the advances in medicine that allowed me to survive something worse than what took my grandmother's life.