What is life?

Having been bit by the monster, the cancer monster, the mind races to answer a bunch of questions and find a good or reasonable solution. 

First, I have come to understand and accept that life is not forever, and even more, that my life may be shorter than everybody else’s. How much shorter? No idea, but my feeling is that while it’s possible that I can live to be eighty or more, it is also possible that I could depart any day. Dehydration scared me crazy in February, and while I have learnt a lot and I know how to deal with it, I was surprised by how quick was the onset and how helpless I was, and hadn’t I happened to be with a good friend of mine, I have no idea if I would be writing now. Blockages can also happen and then the intestines can twist around making a wild knot, and so many stupid things that don’t happen to normal people, I can somehow experience them. My guess is that I will live less, but I still have a reasonable amount of time left, enough to be concerned about retirement, for example. 

So, back to my thoughts: what is life? My question is not about the deeper thinking of philosophy, my concern is, how to use my time in the best fashion given that my life can be shorter, it can be significantly shorter. People do weird things: those that parachute from a plane, those that jump from the bungee, and so on. I’m not jumping from a plane. I don’t think I’m missing anything important. I can die without it. The bungee? That’s probably worse. I don’t feel like shaking up my already messy insides. At best, I would throw up. Diving? It is really interesting, but I don’t feel my guts are stable enough to handle something like that, and besides, I wouldn’t be able to go deep if I always need to be close to a toilet. 

I would be happy to run and swim. I wish I could run 5 km again. I don’t think I will run the marathon again, but that’s ok. If I can run 5 or ten km, I will be more than happy. If I were able to run 2 km in eight minutes again, I would be very happy and I would show off. If I were able to swim for an hour in an Olympic pool, I would be happy, and given that two weeks ago, while on vacation, I was able to swim a lap properly, I believe this could happen. 

But life is more than that. Since I was a kid I was seen as someone intelligent. I believe that I was very smart until I was about 12, and then I was also smart but not as when I was a kid. But I like science, engineering, technology and such, and I despise alternate medicine, religion, superstition and some silly tales that are just too silly to be a good tale. 

What can I do? I want to entertain myself programming. I want to learn one or two programming languages. I want to learn some programming techniques. Should I structure my study? Should I just go all out programming whatever I find interesting? There are some awesome courses for free in the Internet! But should I try to dive in the theory? Or is it too much, why bother and better learn the basics? How much time should I invest? Time is a scarce resource. I spend a long time lying around waiting to feel better, I can’t just use it all up to learn an obscure chapter about math. Maybe it would be better if I can use it to learn less and program more. But learning is the only thing that we make ours; that’s the true richness of the soul. There’s nothing we take with us when we pass, I have been into deep anesthesia sleep and I felt it. I was completely gone. Passing must be the same, but worse. But if you buy a private jet, it will definitely stay here when you are gone, and your knowledge and your experience, those are completely yours. So I favor knowledge and richness of the soul, but I also like my toys, I won’t deny it. 

What would I like to do? I would like to learn to play the electric guitar, I would like to learn to program, I would like to understand object oriented programming, I would like to understand more about computer science, I would like to program my micro controllers and achieve fun projects, I would like to make my own fun circuits, I would like to read more science fiction, I would like to play more harmonica (and do it better!) and I would like to build and design cool toys and my furniture at home. 

What do I do with the books about numbers and math that I bought at the beginning of the year? Read them? Keep them until I read them? What books should I get? Theoretical stuff, like the books about numbers, won’t be as much fun. 

I think for now I should keep learning Python, building my circuits, programming them, buy the books that support this activity, read science fiction, and dive deeper into computer science as time becomes available. 

As for activities that waste my time, I already took the steps to lose contact with that Christian girl that published tons of stupidity in Facebook, and I also got rid of that other girl that published against vaccines and about chakras and acupuncture and homeopathy, and some other idiocy. I have no time for that. I will get rid of anything that doesn’t amuse me, entertain me, makes me grow, makes me smile or give me some benefit. 

Meanwhile, I think I will order a couple of books to support my programming, a few components for my circuits and I will try to start running again as soon as I feel fit enough. I have been improving a lot, but I still need my tummy to behave better. 

I hope I can beat cancer, I hope my modified body works reasonably well, I hope I can keep working and I hope I can keep very close my dearest people. 

Now it’s time to stop writing, I gotta go pick up my wife. I don’t know how I was able to find such a beautiful person in this world, she fills up my life with sunshine: warmth and bright light. Add my fun, programming and circuits, and what more could I ask for?

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Long recovery

This was to be posted yesterday, Sunday. 

I stopped writing sometime in late October last year, I believe. 
This became so difficult and time consuming that I forgot to write… There’s been good days and I’m alive, but quite uncomfortable. I’m improving and I’m better, but I still complain all the time and sometimes I feel bad like today. 

At the beginning of November I had a blockage. I tried to stay home for two days, but when I was puking, I understood I needed an NG tube. My girlfriend was there and I had her pack quick. I barked items and she did her best to find them and put them in my bag quick. I had called a cab. Those days before Uber… I was staying at my dad’s, and then his wife arrived. I called the cab and told him a nice lie to avoid hurting his cabbie feelings and we left on my dad’s wife’s car. 

I was admitted to the ER. It was night time and since my stoma filled a bag while they were checking on me, the doctors decided I was ok but I should stay for the night just in case. It was a very happy thing to hear. I was left alone by my family and they expected me around noon the next day. At night, they brought me apple juice, the real one, cold, delicious. I drank it and that’s when I started puking. 

I will try to make this short because it’s been so long and I want to get to today, which wasn’t pretty either. I spent about a week without eating nor improving. Then my surgeon took me to X-rays to test my pouch for leaks. The test is awesome: they insert a thin line in your butt, and they pump  contrast in. Then they take picture after picture in different positions, and after that I still had to drink a nasty contrast for whatever else, and all the while I was pooping the butt contrast while dealing with a headache and feeling nasty. Results were good and my surgeon said that he’d go in, find out why I was blocked so bad, fix it and reconnect me to my pouch. It sounded like a great deal to get rid of the bag and go home. 

My doctor found all the intestines tangled, arranged the spaghetti properly and reconnected me. After surgery we waited another week without food, until it was obvious it wasn’t working. I went to another surgery again. My surgeon rejoined my intestine in a better way, preventing what had gone wrong, and then I was out for recovery. This time it worked. I spent a week progressing to solid food and I only left until I proved I could drink the liquid my body needed. 

Recovery was slow, bad and painful. I used to sit under the sun, not wanting to move at all. If I felt ok, I didn’t want to move and feel bad. If I felt bad, I didn’t want to make it worse. My dad would carry breakfast and a night meal up to my room in his house. I ate simple. I craved food. I suffered the pain. I began losing weight. I was so weak that going up the stairs was tough. My weight dropped and dropped and I wasn’t moving much. 

One day I started walking and a few days later I realized driving wasn’t going to be difficult, and that changed my life those days. I was able to drive to my house, to the supermarket, everywhere. Then one weekend my girlfriend and I stayed at my home and then I never went back to my dad’s. 

I was still too weak and had lost 20 pounds. My girlfriend and I were already planning our wedding. We got married at the end of April. 

Two weeks ago we finally flew away to our honeymoon. I have gained almost all my weight back. I’m still weak and I don’t feel awesome, but I am stable. 

Today we went to celebrate her birthday with her family, but I started to feel my hands tingling, got pretty scared and decided to leave. Walking to the car my hands were cramping closed. I kept drinking my electrolytes. I asked my beloved wife to drive. She had never driven my car. She took me home. She did an awesome job. As soon as we were inside I hugged her hard, cried a bit and ran to the bathroom. Then I lied on bed on my right side, allowing gas to leave. I feel much better now. I hate we had to leave the celebration. I’m kind of hungry now and my tummy doesn’t feel healthy or awesome…

Almost done, first half

I saw my oncologist on Monday. I was expecting just one more day under those extra poisonous Xeloda pills. He said I had a full week to go “just like radiation”. I said that I had already had 125 pills and I had two weeks of radiation to go. Clearly the result was that my count was bad, he was right and he triumphantly said “you owe me a coke!” as we walked back from radiology to the examination room.
So up to this point I needed one week of poison and one of radiation. I was happy I’d be done much sooner than I expected!

I was running out of those expensive pills. My girlfriend had got a set for two days from a colleague. One of the awesome lot reasons to have a biologist girlfriend that works doing research in the national university here. She sent me a message she was to arrive at my home while I drive back from the hospital. I stopped to buy a 1300 USD box of pills. The bank rejected the transaction saying it was suspicious. Quite suspicious, I’d say! I went home. I called the bank and they removed the hold. My girlfriend arrived. She was very tired. I drove off with her, stopped for gas, stopped for pills and had a good meal. I ate like crazy. She ate most of hers and I finished what she left. Then I took her home. I always carry a pillow for her. She fell asleep and I drove carefully to avoid waking her up. Dropped her off and drove back. I was very tired and it was very late, but we had eaten well and she had had a good and comfortable ride back home.

My next radiation day, my radiologist showed up to see me and follow up, and she said that instead of 30 sessions, we’d have 28, as the dose was heavier. I was very happy! She said we’d be done on Monday, one day before I calculated! Then I counted fingers and realized that couldn’t be. I was to finish before Monday. It would be Saturday.

Last night I was feeling bad. My tummy felt just like when the guts are coming to a complete, painful and miserable stop. I had nothing for dinner. Some tea, just that. I went to bed early. All night my guts worked and I emptied my ileostomy bag three times. Some pain was there, but not like when I landed in the ER. Way far from that. Today I ate little, mostly liquids and the softest stuff. I feel it is improving. I will lose weight, but as long as I stay away from the ER, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
Weekend is coming. I will get to spend time with my loving girlfriend and it will be a good reward after a difficult week.
Everybody stay healthy and feel good!

A good first week!

Last Monday I was very nervous. I started radiation and chemo pills. I felt the side effects before starting, and that told me that I was going crazy, that I should judge well things and avoid thinking silly weird thoughts. Radiation hasn’t been bad, and they say it’s until the second week that it starts to feel. The pills have been mild so far. I suppose the effects add up and I will eventually feel something, but not now.
This morning I went for blood tests, and I am very happy. This is the first time in about seven years that I don’t fail hemoglobin! I scored a normal value! Iron and ferritin look good as well.
I took my radiation dose and I am glad that the weekend is here. No radiation or pills, just time with my girlfriend, a 5km jog, time on my own and some rest. I am not anemic anymore!!

I am happy!

Hello, Xeloda!

Today was my first day with radiation and chemotherapy. Half an hour after breakfast I took the three pills of pure poison and began consciously checking how I was feeling until I forgot. Then, a few hours later, I left with my dad on a taxi to get the radiation. It turned out simple as they had told me. They had said, you won’t feel a thing the first day, and it was true. In the afternoon I went to the supermarket to buy sandals, baking soda, a scale and supplies to take care of my chemoed body and my nutrition. I ate enthusiastically today. It’s just the first day, but a good start and I am wishing the whole treatment could be like today!

The time has come

After weeks waiting for those idiots approving medical procedures in MetLife, they have finally decided the paperwork is complete and good, and I have the ok to start chemotherapy and radiation for whatever cells dared to remain in my body after my colon was removed in July. I feel somewhat relieved that everything is ready, and I also feel nervous about what I am going to live over the next six months. I feel good. If I were in bad shape, medical stuff can take place without a lot of complaints, but I feel ok now. I try to see it as an investment in my future. Radiation will burn and cook my ass for a month, and the chemicals will be killing cells for half a year.

I say, radiation + strong toxic chemicals will make a superhero out of me. Watch for justice being made and a better world over the next few weeks. Villains will be beaten, punished and jailed. Be it common crooks or your nasty politicians. Families will have a break. Streets will be safe for the common citizen. We will all live in peace and happiness.

Said that, my secret plans are to keep learning to write programs, make a few cool machines like a simple robot arm, play my harmonica, keep working from home, keep reading, keep eating (man, I need to gain weight!!), keep jogging and prepare to go back to my house.

I also plan to keep being the biggest smile in the oncology unit.

😉

Third visit

Today it’s been two weeks. My dad and I finished our night meal (a lot of countries have their main dishes around five PM, but here, the main dish is around 2 or 3 PM, and we take a light meal around 8 or 9 PM) and spent a while talking. It’s always good, sometimes if I am in a nasty mood it isn’t, but it’s usually very good. We understand each other well and laugh at our own nonsense and discuss the things that really matter and complain about the ridiculous things that are wrong in this country and this world. Today we were talking about the Scottish and the Catalan and how in our country poor people stand no chance and in other countries poor people can live a reasonable life, and the new fence we are building… So it got late enough and I went as always to wash the dishes. I didn’t look forward to it because his wife, and let’s mention here that I am living with them during my recovery and treatments, she had left a bunch of dishes and a pan! Wow! Doing dishes isn’t my favorite hobby, but pans… I have been hoping for disposable ones for half my life! So I got to it. My dad said that sometimes it’s more work but we can’t just wash our own dishes. He was right. I was washing. It wasn’t so much. I was thinking, two weeks ago, that Thursday night, I went to wash the dishes. As I began I felt a little pain in my belly. It grew as I worked and I finished in a big hurry, resting my elbows in the sink at times. I said good night and left quickly to my room! Today I was doing fine. I took my time. I washed the sink carefully. I thought this was a ton better than two weeks ago and I felt grateful for feeling good while doing that small amount of work.

Two weeks ago I rushed to my room thinking it was going to be a bad night and I’d be ok in the morning. Beginning August 22nd I had been getting pains in my stomach. On August 25th my loving girlfriend earned her master’s degree and had her lab colleagues in our house. My house, because we don’t live together yet, unfortunately, but we will. I drove her and one of her sisters to their house, and got the pains on the way. Driving back I stopped for medicine, almost puked and went to my house to sleep the night.

So finally, two weeks ago I prepared for a bad night to wake up feeling well in the morning, but that didn’t happen. Around five I realized I hadn’t slept much, I had thrown up and felt bad. I emailed a clumsy message to my managers at work saying I wouldn’t help that day. I emailed a clumsy message to my surgeon, my gastroengineerologist and my oncologist saying I was doing bad. The oncologist was the first to answer and said I should go to the hospital. I took a long shower and we all went there. Every bump on the road hurt. I knew the way and knew when to lift my butt to save me! It was a quick ride to the emergency ramp. As we pulled over, a guy was already rushing outside with a wheelchair asking if I was the patient. I said I was, sat there, and was wheeled in. I had a knot… Not a knot! I had a watermelon in my throat! My intestines had halted to a complete stop. They were swollen and nothing was moving. I knew they would put the ng tube in me. It wasn’t later than noon that they told me and brought the infamous hose. They started to push it in my right nostril. As the body made a curve downward it felt scratchingly painful while turning, and reaching the throat they said to swallow when I felt it. I did my best. I felt it bent somewhere inside my chest or lower chest. It was so bad! My dad held my hand while they processed me. I held him hard. He is a great hero of mine! They brought an X-ray machine painted to resemble a giraffe. They said the tip was in the proper spot. My left arm had an IV and my dad filled all the papers that had to be filled. I spent Friday in pain and late that day my girlfriend arrived. She said she’d stay with me. She is awesome! She is another great hero of mine! I had three or four tomographies, last one was Saturday during the night. Lots of throwing up. The contrast was a disaster in me. My belly hurt horribly. Friday night a colorectal surgeon from this hospital came to say that if this didn’t improve he’d have to open me up and fix the sewage piping. My girlfriend and I didn’t like it the least little bit. She is awesome, I’m not sure I said it, and she called my surgeon, the man that removed my colon without leaving any track at all. He is yet another hero of mine. I have several. He was furious! He said to go to his hospital immediately.

I called him after we discussed the idea and we agreed to go Saturday morning. Eventually, around five in the morning, the local surgeon said I was improving and I would not need any surgery.

I was certainly improving. I woke up wet on my right side. My ileostomy bag had gotten so full that it burst and some of the stuff spilled. I took a shower and a nurse changed my bag and barrier, the stuff that makes a cyborg out of this awesome guy I am. That Saturday I began eating. Just liquid. It felt great. Sunday morning I was given an omelette made of egg whites, a boiled apple and tea, and I was released after processing that food safely.

I learned a painful lesson. I don’t know exactly why this happened to me or how to avoid it, but these past two weeks I have been eating carefully. I also eat a lot, because if I was already skinnier than the skinny I’ve always been, now this made it worse. So my ileostomy patient diet is now two eggs sunny side up with two slices of bacon for breakfast. Chicken breast for lunch and one scrambled egg with ham at night, and I eat cookies and (hey, I learned this word in Colombia!) pound cake, because it was just my dad’s birthday. I also drink yoghurts and eat whatever seems reasonable. I have stopped eating chocolate and craisins and nuts and tortillas and tortilla chips and a few other things.

I sometimes become scared. I don’t know if I have cancer, if I don’t have it, if I have a lot of it or a little bit. I don’t know what will be of me. If in five years I write about how I celebrated my 42nd birthday I will be cleared of the main problem. If I never write about it… Hopefully I will have given up writing!

Meanwhile I spend my days working in my room, fixing computers remotely in all the American continent, and when my shift ends I open iTunes U to take a programming class. I am learning to code in Python. I am also devising to build a small robot arm that should be a cool project. Writing the code that transforms Cartesian coordinates into the angles of the links of the arm will be fun. I am also rereading king solomon’s mines and I am playing my harmonica. I don’t have time to do it all every day, but I do as much as I can. Saturdays I go out with my loving girlfriend. We eat out and spend time in my house. Sundays I go running and I spend time in my house. The time should come for me to be able to care for myself again and live in my house. That girlfriend of mine will have to move in with me, and I will be happy to marry her. I have been trying very hard to seduce her: I have cooked her many meals! I always tell her I am trying to convince her and laughs saying that she’s already convinced.

Today I am happy. It’s been two weeks without the slightest pain or discomfort. Only my own demons, my fears, have played hard on me once or twice. It’s ridiculous but sometimes not knowing how my health will behave makes me go crazy. Rainy days make it worse. Cold days too. Today it was sunny and hot, and I feel happy.

Becoming fit

I did some research and found articles where researchers report better outcomes for people that work out and those who have higher levels of vitamin D. My gastro already put me on vitamin D. A pill a day. I asked for iron and he let me take it, so I am on iron too, building the hemoglobin level that the evil and treacherous colon dropped along those years. I already saw improvements after the colectomy, and I wasn’t taking extra iron yet. Now, I am pretty curious about my next blood test. Be careful nurses, your needles will bend and break! Please keep your magnets away from me! I think I will be pretty close to normal levels already!

I am curious about those studies dealing with vitamin D. What did they mean? Did they mean that bringing up levels of vitamin D is directly related to a better outcome? Or did they mean that those patients that had higher levels before treatment had a better chance to become healthy? I believe it was the second case, but I take my pills every day, because I think our researchers have not fully studied the situation. It may just be that I don’t know.

As for workouts, I believe that being fit is always a benefit (and it sounds pretty cool being phrased like this!) running or jogging improve the way lungs perform, and being in hospitals, better oxygen use is always an advantage when the body is having a difficult time. It is my belief, because I haven’t proved it, that recovery is a lot better the fitter we are.

After surgery I started walking in the hospital and after I went home, I started working out every Sunday. I first went walking and I did 2 km, stopping in the middle to rest and drink water. Next week I walked the same without stopping. I kept asking my surgeon if I could run, and the last time he allowed me to jog.
I started going to a local trail/track. It’s not a track because it’s hilly and irregular, and it’s not a trail because it was built. It’s full of people because it’s the city, and in this poor country facilities are not awesome, but I live very close to the spot and I don’t want to sink in the traffic to go somewhere else.
I have been slowly building distance and speed (from snail to turtle is how I would best describe my improvements, just in case you wanted to be impressed and become a fan!), and my last run this past Sunday was 5 km in 38 minutes on the hilly course, and I did take a bigger hill during the last lap.
I used to run very often when I was in the sprint kayaking team in my late teens. I used to think anybody should be able to run 5 km any day of their life, and we used to tease a girl that ran the 5 km in 35 minutes. These days I have found out that 5 km can be beyond my possibilities and that those slow runs, while my goal is to improve them, are making me very proud.
I run with a bottle of electrolytes that I don’t touch until I finish my run, my iPhone recording time, distance and elevation (logging the data is very important!), my car key tucked in a small pocket and my big awestomy bag, hopefully pretty much empty. Sometimes the awestomy behaves, sometimes it’s in a bad mood. Last Sunday my belly was disturbed, let’s say. It didn’t feel nice, it wasn’t in pain. Disturbed is the right term. But it’s nothing to worry about. It’s just the way it is sometimes. I really believe I will start treatment next week, so this weekend is my last weekend running “normal”. I will soon start radiation and chemotherapy. I am pretty sure I will become a superhero. Everybody knows they get their super powers while subjected to extreme conditions and radiation plus toxic chemicals make a very promising mixture for the transformation.
My plan is to keep working out through chemo, even if it’s only walking, I will do what I can. The body must be as strong as possible to improve my recovery.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, before a blocked intestine landed me in the ER for a painful and boring weekend. It’s been two weeks since I left the hospital. I have gone running twice. Last week I ran only 3 km, which is about two miles for those that speak miles. I felt a bit weird, and in normal health I would have pushed my run to complete 5 km, but having an ileostomy and being somewhat prone to dehydration, I preferred to be cautious and stop. I didn’t like stopping. I came back in a terrible mood that was worsened by a rain that went from a few drops to a huge shower in the three minutes it took me to park the car. I had my big Colombian umbrella and I didn’t get wet, but still, I didn’t like it that it rained on me as if it was a fun prank or whatever. Silly weather.
The rest of the week has been sunny and I have been very happy. I wouldn’t be able to live in places like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, for example. Maine is beautiful, but I only know summer there. Even Bogotá is too cold for me. Sunny days have made me happy this week.

Today I went running. It’s a hilly course. Like a half mile track on the side of a hill. Going uphill I felt pain in my abdomen, on the right side, close to my ileostomy. I stopped after two laps, rested it out, and continued. Felt the pain again and decided to stop. The lungs were doing fine and my skinny legs were also good, but that pain didn’t let me continue and I again preferred to stop. Hopefully it was only something meaningless like swallowed air.

I promise I will do better next week. I may go to a level course in the university. I want to run the five km in less than 25 minutes. I want to be able to run 2 km in eight minutes even if my tongue ends up tangling in my feet. Those things used to make me feel good about half my life ago. For now, improving my distance and time are good ways to become healthy and in better shape to recover from whatever may come. Do you have cancer? Run with me! You don’t have cancer? Run with me! It’s good for our bodies.

My failed run today finished with a smile. An old man passed me twice on the track. I was happy to see him doing better than this 37 year old!

Background

When I was twenty five I found a girlfriend that I really liked and a few months later plain luck (and I am not saying if good or bad) sent us to live together. Sometime in November my grandpa died. He was beyond 90 and it was expected, but it was sad. I had thought about it way before, and dedicated time to spend with him, make him feel good about the grandchild he had and at some point he was very happy with me and offered me a gift. I still have the bike tool se the have me and I used it countless times to put apart my bicycles and clean them and oil them. We will go into detail some other day about my trips on a bike and my living off a bike, maybe not related to what I am experiencing now, but very, very cool. So grandpa died, grandma was not allowed to live alone much longer, she was taken to live with my aunt and my grandparents house remained empty. During those days my then girlfriend picked up a fight with her dad. Both are stubborn and have their own ideas, and her dad has a blunt way to say things. She had little patience and said she was leaving. She told me what had just happened in the phone, while she was riding a bus from her house to mine. She was about to arrive. I lived with my dad then, and I told him briefly what was going on, left, and went to the bus stop somewhat nervous and wondering what would happen next. My dad, being the coolest dad in the world took us in, but soon pointed out that we were too tight in my room, that my grandparents house was empty and needed to be taken care of, and that we should move there. We did. We didn’t plan anything about this, but it was funny that we moved there on a February 14th. I never believed in those dates, but I always laugh to myself when I remember this. We lived together about five years. A lot of things happened. I finished the university, found my first job, traveled a lot servicing space age medical equipment, got tired of being poorly paid and moved on to my second job. It originally dealt with robotics, but the stupid company didn’t sell equipment, so I spent my time reading the newspaper online and cleaning minor lab equipment. Nothing gets closer to washing dishes, and this young engineer got tired and depressed. I would come home in the afternoons with less and less energy. I just wanted to lie on my bed with a magazine, and probably a glass of coke with ice. Girlfriend wanted to go out and have fun, but I didn’t feel like it. Resting reading magazines was good enough for me, and I didn’t want to do anything else first. She sometimes wanted to talk when I arrived, and I listened and we talked about whatever for a little while until I excused myself to the bathroom. It became so frequent. She was upset about it, but I needed to go sit on the toilet. Time passed like this until one day we all were summoned to an office at work, and the warehouse keeper, nervous, his voice breaking, asked us if we could go and donate blood for his young child, that was having open heart surgery. Chilling! I had given blood to my cousin, so why not his kid, and donors are hard to find. I went to the hospital, I think it’s the one I hate the most because the area is very dirty and unfriendly, and got ready for the show in this government hospital. They had a ton of people in a well organized workflow, we went from one line to a waiting area, filled the questionnaire, waited to be called and had a sample taken for the first tests, went back to waiting, then approval… And that’s as far as I got. The lady told me I was anemic, gave my a big box of iron pills told me in a rush how to take them, and said that after that I needed to find out why I was anemic.

I left, took the pills for a few weeks and after a month forgot. Forgot the pills, but I was well aware of my anemia, but I didn’t know if I was too anemic, a little anemic, if anemia was measured in meters, liters, volts or hertz…

This sets up the background. I should add that I had already noticed that my stools were soft and I was always believing it must have been those dirty tacos we had the other day, and I shouldn’t eat in the streets, wash my hands, bacteria, blahblahblah. My relationship broke after some five years, and I was left alone. In those last days my dad had moved in with us along with grandma. My aunt had already had enough and it was dad’s turn. My girlfriend left and I was living again with my dad. After a few weeks I couldn’t stand the house no more, so I moved to the apartment, that had been left empty. I felt better there.

Time passed, two years, and my dad moved back in with me. It was a very nice season we lived together. We knew it was the last time we’d live together. I had changed jobs and the new company had given me a car. I took my dad to his office every morning and we listened to blues, country and bluegrass podcasts on the way. My dad started building a house, a year or two passed and it was finished. I had had a great time living with him, but I had a few issues, I sometimes didn’t feel quite right and my stools kept softening. I was scared and fear isn’t slow, and I reacted like ostriches: upon sight of a lion, they put their head in a hole and they don’t see the lion anymore. So I did nothing. I still worried, hushed my worries, imagined my last, very sick days, started to become cleaner, washing hands like Jack Nicholson, way too often…

My dad finished his house and moved there. I stayed in the apartment. In 2010 I felt I was traveling too much at work, one trip within the country every two weeks and then the trip wouldn’t usually last longer than a day or two. I found a job offer that featured work within the area I lived. I prepared my paperwork for the online application, updated my profile, and when I was ready to submit it, I found out it was no longer available. I was upset and forgot about it. Then, a couple of weeks later I got a call. I was offered a job that featured way more travel, a salary that doubled the one I had, and no office in my country. I took it! Oh, yes, I took it! It was October. In November I went to Israel for training. My health seemed good, but I had diarrhea all the time. I was trained and later next year I started to travel internationally on my own. I went to most Latin American countries, I went to lots of places in the US and I also worked with customers in Mexico. I traveled most weeks. I usually left in Monday and flew back on Friday. I had the idea to step in every country in the continent. I’ve been on this job ever since, and I only stopped traveling just before my arrival to Santa Fe.

The scope

It was more than enough to have diarrhea. I also knew I was anemic and it seemed the hemoglobin was decaying very, very slowly. I still worked, travelled, lifted machinery and everything. I had been concerned for a good while now, but fear is very strong, and I wanted to become healthy out of adjusting my diet, taking probiotics, reducing stress and eating clean. None of these measures helped the least little bit, but I wanted to feel I was doing something.

I was assigned two trips: one to freezing Wisconsin, for two weeks, and after one weekend at home, three weeks in cold Bogotá. I went to Wisconsin. The trip wasn’t easy, but I got there, as always. My stay was very difficult. I was having a hard time going to the bathroom. Pooping was very difficult. Something was obstructing the exit. I wanted to give it time to heal and clear, but I spent my nights running to the bathroom. Two weeks passed. I finished work and flew back home. Spent the weekend in my city, went out with my girlfriend, had a good time, worried and hoped. Monday morning I was on a plane on my way to Colombia. I love the place, but this was my worst visit. I travelled with a new colleague that I hates after the first exchange of words. The idiot behaved like fellows that sell in local markets. The insecure bastard had to show brands in his clothing to make his person valuable. It was bad and I ended avoiding him outside work and avoiding any talk unrelated to work. Outside work, the weather was cold and rainy, and guess what kind of weather I don’t like? The stupid hotel had a shower that delivered cold water and colder water. My problems were still there and I still spent nights in the bathroom. Of course I should’ve healed by now, but fear makes you stubborn. I spent the three weeks working, walking the neighborhood, I saw a friend I have in Colombia and she showed me a cool place to eat nearby, I got my girlfriend a very beautiful gift that screamed “Colombia!”, the most expensive gift I’ve given her. I discovered mulled wine in a coffee shop close to the hotel… It wasn’t that bad of a stay, but it was certainly difficult. I finished work well ahead of time and the last week I was assigned something else on my own. I was happy and relieved. When the time came, I flew back home and I was already assigned to two more weeks of local work. I did it, but I asked my managers from the start to give me a day to go see the doctor. They have me a Friday.

I woke up early and went to the hospital to get a fresh blood test. Around noon I drove to the other hospital to see the doctor. The results had been delivered via email and I had a printout. The doctor was a nice, calm man that looked very wise and I felt I could trust him. He asked questions, took notes and eventually the time came for me to be examined. It was the first time I had somebody put a finger in my ass, nothing nice, but the doctor said he believed I had polyps and he had to do a colonoscopy. Right then an email came with a ticket to Maryland. I told the doctor I had work and I could schedule… “No, he interrupted me, I want you to be admitted in the hospital tomorrow morning, if possible”. He made me call my manager to cancel my flight. My manager understood and didn’t require a long talk. A few minutes later I saw the emails canceling the flight. I thought I would spend the weekend with my girlfriend and my family, as always, before taking the plunge on Monday. Monday came and my doctor scheduled me for Wednesday. I prepared and Wednesday morning I rode a taxi with my dad and my girlfriend to the hospital. I signed papers , handed a credit card… It felt unreal. I was taken to a hospital bed and changed into a hospital gown. A nurse put an IV, drew blood, routine for her, new stuff for me. They wheeled my bed into the procedure room. The anesthesiologist put something in my IV and then I woke up with my girlfriend and my dad by my side. The doctor came in and said I had thousands of polyps. The colon had to be surgically removed. I didn’t know how to believe and understand that. The following days I was given packs of blood and also one of iron. They were preparing me for immediate surgery, but at some point my doctor and my surgeon decided to schedule that for later. Saturday came and I was released. I paid the hospital and I paid the doctors. I asked for a taxi and rode to my dad’s house, happy to be free, smiling I had been allowed to spend some time out to digest this information. I could not believe I had to have any surgery at all! I mean, I understood, but how could this ever happened to me? How could I have a genetic error that made my colon a time bomb that would explode with cancer before being 40? Those things happen, but they happen to other people! What if I died during surgery? What was life going to be? Would I be able to work after surgery? Would my girlfriend stay with me? Would I be left useless? Would I have control of my sphincters? Would I poop out my ass? Would I live long? How long would I live? Would I be financially safe? How hard was to deal with all those questions! How hard was to realize I would probably live less than most people! Sometimes my thoughts brought a few tears out. Sometimes I felt I had a watermelon in my throat. How should I have prepared for something like this? I never felt I had moved from childhood to adulthood. Cut my abdomen? Remove a huge intestine? Connect a bag to my belly? Would I break down and cry when I saw a bag on my belly? Would I die during surgery? Would I die? So soon? Me? Die? And I could also be hit by lightning and run over and a thousand possibilities… My mind raced.