I had cancer… wait… what?

Wow… what a start to 2016!

West Lincoln Memorial HospitalOver the last weekend in January, I fainted three times at home. It freaked my wife out (she found me all three times), and it freaked me out too. Over the course of that weekend, I felt increasingly sluggish, tired and in need of sleep. Things finally came to a head on Monday January 25 when my wife called an ambulance to take me to our local hospital (West Lincoln Memorial Hospital).

The doctors identified an internal GI bleed as the cause. I spent 3 days in ICU that week and received 2 units of blood (I lost almost half my blood volume during this time). They were unable to find the source of the bleed during my hospital stay (they did a scope in my stomach while I was in the hospital), but they felt confident that the bleed had stopped and that I could go home to recover.

I had a colonoscopy at West Lincoln Hospital in late February to see if it could uncover the source of my GI bleed. No luck. The doctor was unable to find a source of my bleed via colonoscopy.

By the last week of February, my blood level recovered sufficiently for me to return to work. So, I went back to work for 1 week (4 hours per day).

Juravinski HospitalOn the weekend following my colonoscopy (Feb 28), I had some new bleeding. This time, we went to Juravinski Hospital on the Hamilton mountain (my family doctor recommended I go here as I had exhausted the tests that West Lincoln was capable of performing). We spent the day in emergency, arguing with the ER doctor and the GI specialist about running further tests on me. They didn’t feel that I was “emergent” enough to be treated and they wanted to send me home. Julie and I were persistent enough for them to agree to admit me overnight and monitor my blood levels. If my blood level dropped overnight, they would admit me the next day and run additional tests. The next morning, my blood had dropped significantly again, and they admitted me and conducted a more in-depth scope of my stomach and small intestine. They did see some fresh bleeding in my small intestine, but their scope was unable to reach deep enough to find the source. A follow up CT scan identified the source of the bleed: a tumour in my small intestine.

They operated on me on Tues Mar 1 and took out a small tumour (approx 2 cm in size). The doctor told me that there was only one small tumour and no other signs of tumour growth in my intestines. They sent the tumour off to be tested for cancer (yep, that freaked me out!). They said results would be available within a few weeks.

I went home from the hospital on Fri Mar 4. I was sore and tired, but was looking forward to recovering at home. Over the course of the weekend, I kept getting bloated and feeling more uncomfortable as gas built up in my stomach.

I went back into the hospital on Monday morning (Mar 7) after some severe vomiting. I spent the week in the hospital being hydrated and undergoing some additional tests. The doctors determined that I had a condition called ilieus, which is an obstruction of the intestine. Rest, fluid intake and time cleared the obstruction. I returned home on Friday afternoon (Fri Mar 11) to rest and recover.

While I was in the hospital, I received the results of the biopsy that was done on the tumour that was removed from my intestine a couple of weeks prior: the tumour was cancerous. The official term for my tumour is a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, or GIST. Luckily, the doctors were able to remove the entire tumour and no cancer cells were left behind in my body. This result is freaky to me. I’m still a bit stunned that I had an operation to remove cancer from my body. But, the doctors said that I do not require any further treatment and they say that I have a low likelihood of a recurrence of this issue in the future.

I have been at home resting and am now well enough to return to work. I am hopeful that this is the end of my hospital visits for the foreseeable future (apart from checkups with my family doctor and the specialists). My next step is to continue to rest and build up my strength again so that I can get back to normal as soon as possible.

So yeah… it’s a been a brutal couple of months. But, I think that this is finally wrapping up and that I am getting better.

So yeah… that’s the story. Cancer. At 41. Crazy.

Have you dealt with cancer? What’s your story? Please share in the comments below.



By Todd Dow

Author, Geek, CF fundraiser & Cancer Survivor. My family, baseball, infosec, privacy & devops are a few of my favorite things.

6 replies on “I had cancer… wait… what?”

I was diagnosed out of the blue with colon cancer on September 17th, 2015. No symptoms, I am a fitness professional with over 20 years experience. Blindsided. I had a resection two months later….because, well…Canada. Stage two, no lymph node involvement, no distant disease. My surgeon told me that while being fit did not stop me from getting cancer, it sure as hell made it much easier for me to recover.

So, my future holds CT scans, MRI’s and yearly colonoscopies. That;s OK. Better that, than dying of cancer, non?

When I was ten years old
My little sister was born.
My dad didn’t come home that night, but when he eventually did, he shared the news that our new baby sister was very sick.
I cried myself to sleep that night and so began a long and tearfilled journey.
Early on, these tears accompanied my prayers for God to please help my baby sister and also our entire family as we travelled down this pain filled road to the unknown.
My little sister Jackie spent most of her first 3 years in the hospital.
My parents took shifts being at her bedside and my brothers and sisters and I learned to navigate the TTC downtown to have dinner in the hospital cafeteria.
At first the doctors had no clue what was the matter. Eventually, they discovered a Tumour in the back of Jackie’s head.
They informed my parents that there was little hope of her survival and that a choice needed to be made. Let her go peacefully or her only other Hope was to see what experimental options might be available to battle her cancer.
My parents decided to fight. Princess Margaret hospital became our new home.
There the battle was fought.
I would see my baby sister return totally drained from raidiation treatment following the removal of her tumour.
Exhausted but with this incredible smile.
She very quickly became my Hero, and to this day is my biggest inspiration. I’ve had some tough days,
But none compare to what she endured. Yet her smile is etched in my memory forever. There were many things the doctors said Jackie might never be able to do, yet she went on and proved otherwise. Eventually, Jackie was released and well enough to come home.

I learned very early in life, that everyday is a precious gift. I witnessed my parent age dramatically in a very short period of time from all the worrying and stress.
Yet, this major episode in our life brought our family closer together.

My prayers are with you and your entire family
Breathe deeply, and stay Present so as to fully enjoy your loved ones.

You’ve always been a fighter, and I wait in your corner praying and cheering you on.

With love in friendship,

Sensei Omar

Sensei Omar, thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. Very moving. I find it quite moving that our toughest challenges are the ones that motivate us the most. Relationships are such an important part of our lives, and nothing highlights this more than illness. Thank you so much for your story and the lesson about the value of life that it provides.

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