June 29 2020 last year that I underwent major abdominal surgery for 7 hours to remove some parts, re-attach some parts and install a new part - my Ileostomy. Earlier that same month I was diagnosed with an early stage rectal cancer after my first screening colonoscopy. The recommended age for colonoscopies went down from 50 to 45 and that is why I went - doing a routine screening - I wasn't expecting anything abnormal at all.
In choosing my surgical treatment, doing the most I could to prepare/train for it, and learning about the ileostomy until the next surgery in September to remove it, I chose to became an active participant in my cancer journey. It helped me to understand and cope better than if I had done nothing at all. That's my personality - dive in and get it done. It allowed me to work with and move past the diagnosis to a recurrence prevention mindset. This involved me doing a lot more research into this type of cancer, who else in our extended family (none reported) may have it and if it was genetic (no, it wasn't), and what can be done to stop any future re-growth. To explain from a Naturopathic Oncology view: I see the human body growing cancer like a garden with weeds - the conventional cancer treatment will remove the weed (the cancer) and now the work was needed to amend the soil of the garden (the terrain/ tumor microenvironment of the body) to prevent it from coming back. My job every day with my patients became the job for myself as well.
So my work this past year has involved the same work I do with my patients: A focus on that terrain based on the bloodwork and specialised test results completed before surgery, before ileostomy reversal, and a year after diagnosis at annual CT and colonoscopy screens. I won't list them for you but it was a lot. Most importantly, I had developed insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol, elevated fasting glucose, and dysbiosis that caused me fatigue and a lot of brain fog. My first GIMap test was completed after the ileostomy was reversed and, (no surprise), the low residue diet needed for the ileostomy fostered a very high yeast overgrowth and a lot of dysbiosis. I completed a 3-weeks on, 2-weeks off, repeat-as-long-as-needed candida removal program in addition to re-inoculating with healthy bacteria.
I reduced my fasting glusose and resolved the insulin resistance at the same time by eliminating all sugar and dairy, eating only complex carbohydrates at lunch or breakfast, walking after every meal by myself or with family for at least 20 minutes, and increasing movement time overall to at least an hour a day doing something I liked. Sometimes I danced, walked, did yoga, cycled, ran, etc. It was never the same each day. We adopted a dog in December and I started running again. I completed a half marathon (with a few bathroom breaks along the way) in January 2021. This personally marked for me the start of my true recovery back to my old self, minus those parts removed at surgery of course.
I repeated my bloodwork before my annual follow up screening and the results were very much improved. And I lost 6 pounds which doesn't seem like much but it has helped me in a number of ways that help me run more efficiently. The hard work over the last 9 months made that improvement. I was able to right this metabolically listing ship and bring my blood biomarker values way back down to the normal and low normal ranges for recurrence prevention. This is NOT the same as the normal ranges listed in the lab results section. Recurrence prevention is much more targeted at the metabolism of cancer. Its about changing the soil so it doesn't foster any more weed growth. It's about work and remembering the 'why' behind what goes on my fork and what I am doing each day.
I have had a few un-intended issues arise from the most recent testing having to do with an allergic reaction to CT contrast, low iron/ferritin level and the IGF-1 is still elevated. Mostly that has to do with a combination of prolonged chronic inflammation related to cancer. So I continue to work on those. I will repeat my specialised lab tests again next year, making changes as needed to keep recurrence at bay.
It has been a year eh? A year of a lot of emotions. I can say I am thankful for this experience and want to simply share it with everyone who will read or listen that early cancer detection can save your life as it did mine. Get yourself tested and screened. It could save your life too.