My Story Part 1: The Hen And My Cancer Diagnosis

The event leading up to my cancer diagnosis is actually a bit comical, but it saved my life.

One Wednesday in November of 2006 my wife went to the grocery store to pick up a chicken for dinner that night.  They didn’t have any large chickens so instead she bought a hen.  Little did she know that you’re not supposed to broil hens.  Hens are for soups we later found out.  Well, she broiled the hen, and we ate it, but it was very tough (this is the part about not eating hens).  Later that night, we both had abdominal pains.  Somehow we discovered the part about not eating hens and joked about how she tried to poison me.  The next day my wife’s abdominal pain resolved, but mine didn’t.  This happened to be the night I was going to the Toyota dealership to buy my new Camry, and we joked with them about how my wife tried to poison me.  Come Friday, my abdominal pain persisted.  I remember sitting in a conference room for my weekly project status meeting, and being in a lot of discomfort.  Someone sitting across from me asked if I was OK.  I said I wasn’t and decided to go home to lie down.  On the way home I bough some Gas-X and took a couple right away.  No relief.  By that evening I was doubled over in pain so I had my wife drive me to the emergency room.  I knew it wasn’t just upset stomach.  I had appendicitis in 1988 and this pain was very similar.  By this time I was in so much pain I couldn’t even talk to the triage nurse or admitting clerk.  My wife took care of it and I waited to go in.  After being called in, they performed an ultrasound which didn’t reveal anything.  Then they did a CT scan and noticed what they referred to as an inflamed area in my colon.  It was long and narrow.  I told them I had a colonoscopy six months prior, but after somehow checking, they said it was about 18 months prior.  Either way, cancer was the last thing on my mind since 18 months ago I was supposedly clean.  My family has a history of colon cancer so I made sure I got screened.  They indicated it could be colitis or diverticulitis.  Another doctor performed the obligatory “digital” exam.  She probably saw blood but I didn’t have to ask.  I could tell by the look in her face and tone of her voice that I was in trouble.  They wanted to admit me but I asked to be transferred to the hospital that my PCP is affiliated with.  They sent for an ambulance and off I went to start a journey that would change my life forever.  I would later find out that I had stage 3c colon cancer.  If it had gone unnoticed for much longer it surely would have traveled to other locations, the liver being the most likely.  Cancer was present in 11 of 17 lymph nodes.

Apparently the hen dinner, which included potatoes, carrots and a bunch of oil and fat had inflamed the tumor and caused the pain.  If I had to guess, it was most likely the abundance of oil and fat.  Would the tumor have gotten inflamed that night no matter what I ate?  I’ll never know, but as far as I’m concerned this hen dinner is the best worst meal I’ve ever eaten.  It literally saved my life.

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