" Melanoma. That's not a good one to have."
I think I may have repeated this 3 or 4 times while the doctor, a gastroenterologist, was explaining the diagnosis from a biopsy taken during a colonoscopy he performed two weeks earlier. I'm really not sure what he was saying since, as I mentioned in my first post, he was babbling incoherently. Oh wait...no, that was I whose brain momentarily was shocked into not able to process sound into language
Anorectal melanoma, he said, accounts for only 0.5 to 1 % of all rectal cancers, and with the little “hemorrhoidal lump” he found, I was only supposed to have a 1% chance of it being cancer in the first place; in total, a 1 in 10,000 chance of this diagnosis.
I have never in my life bought a lottery ticket; perhaps now I should, considering my "luck " with beating the odds.
This doctor took time to explain the disease and the course of action he wanted to take as far as scans and referrals to other specialists. But many of the details of the “cancer” did not sink in at that time.
After I left his office, one of the first things to come to mind was quite humorous.
I thought to myself, “since melanoma is generally a skin cancer associated with over exposure to the sun, it just goes to prove that the sun really does shine out me arse!”
I don't intend to be offensive, just honest. And this is honestly what came to mind.
I have discovered through this ordeal that the use of humour is not a means to deny the seriousness of the situation, but rather it helps me to cope without becoming overwhelmed.
For the first few days after the diagnosis, I could not bring myself to do any research on my type of cancer. But once I mustered up the courage to look, I found several articles and cancer sites online. The following is a collection of information from different sites including the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, the MacMillan Cancer Support and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Melanoma is a cancer that develops from cells called melanocytes. These are cells that produce melanin or pigment, which are responsible for the colour of our skin. Melanoma can occur anywhere in the body that produces pigment. Anorectal melanoma is a mucosal melanoma affecting the anus and or rectum. It can occur in several areas including the rectum, the anal canal and the anus. Ease of diagnosis and treatment depend on location.
There are no obvious risk factors for anorectal melanoma including family history. For this reason and because it is so rare most cases are quite advanced once diagnosed and therefore has a poor prognosis.
I am very lucky that mine was located at the end of the rectum partially on the anal sphincter allowing for noticeable symptoms fairly early before any metastases had occurred.
(That's enough medical talk for one post. I will write about treatment next time.)
I was advised that urgent surgery was necessary. There were a few nights filled with interrupted sleep between diagnosis and the procedure, but worry and fear did not fill my every thought and action. I was too busy and involved with life to be consumed by darkness. Part of it may have been a little bit of shock and a big part of it was suddenly being thrown into a flurry of tests and scans and appointments. I didn’t have time for too much introspection.
Most of it though, I know for certain, was the grace of God through the Holy Spirit that filled me with that peace that passes all understanding. Did I or do I know that He would heal my cancer? No. But I did and do have a sense of His presence with me and that no matter what my outcome, I will be always surrounded by Grace.
“1/ 10,000” chance reminds me of a beautiful song called 'Ten Thousand Reasons (Bless The Lord)' by Matt Redman. I'm not trying to make any significant spiritual connection between the cancer and the song.... it simply reminded me of the song which talks about worshipping God whose goodness overwhelms the darker moments of life.
I will leave you today with an audio recording of my 2 yr 9mo old grandson singing the chorus and first verse. He forgets the words to the 3rd line of the verse but adds the drum beat with a firm BOOM BOOM. Listening to him sing is one of the joys I’ve experienced this summer. A moment of grace thru the dark.
"10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)"
by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin
by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul, Worship His holy name
Sing like never before, o My soul.
I'll worship Your holy name
vs1. The sun comes up, its a new day dawning.
Its time to sing your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
vs2 You're rich in love and you're slow to anger
Your name is grew, and Your heart is kind.
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing.
The thousand reasons for my heart to find.
vs3. And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come,
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending.
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.