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Rectum, Darn Near Killed ‘Em

Mom and Dad drive-dialed me last night on their trip to Des Moines to purchase more supplies for dad’s rewiring job at the local dentist’s office. Positioning the cell phone in the middle of the truck seat and placing me on speaker phone has become my parents’ preferred method of communication, which leaves my mother sounding like she’s yelling into an empty corn can and my father emoting like a malfunctioning cyborg.

It’s one of the many quirks that have emerged in adulthood that makes my love for my parents snowball from year to year.

Manuela's awesome bunnyAfter a brief introduction in which I proselytized about the overpriced stuffed animal I purchased for baby Aliyah (cute, no?), Mom’s corn-can voice engaged a somber timbre and, as the great Carol King coined, I felt the earth move under my feet – even before the negative news was revealed.

“Well, I didn’t want to tell you until I had more information, but we found out that Aunt Dee has colon cancer.”

Moved to the cusp of speechlessness, an “Oh, no,” was all I could muster, followed by an immediate, interminable silence. Aunt Dee was one of the major guiding influences in my childhood. My parents both worked, and during the summer and after school I spent my hours in her care. She always had black cherry Kool-Aid chilled and ready because she knew it was my favorite, and what I admired most was how she never pandered to my childishness. We discussed relationships, family and movies.

Random snippets of a life I never realized I revered are emerging, and every single moment appears insignificant on the surface, but every single one feels like a defibrillator applied to an otherwise healthy heart. The first time Aunt Dee introduced me to rhubarb cobbler. The time we cataloged her entire movie collection so I could use her in place of the video store that didn’t exist. The time she came with me to the doctor and I gave my first urine sample – I filled the cup to the top not knowing that what they needed was indeed a “sample.” That same doctor visit, where I put my feet in the stirrups and acted out an All My Children childbirth.

From sipping Orange Crush on the drive home from town to playing Pretty Pretty Princess (a board game) with her and my cousin, Amber, to watching Donahue and criticizing the crazies, my mother’s words sent me on a trip through territory I’ve always known existed, but much like my vacation to Disney Land, I never expected to return.

Aunt Dee’s cancer is somewhat advanced, but has not spread to other organs. She was having some pain in the region, but rationalized it as worsening of the daily pain she’s had since breaking her tail bone giving birth to my cousin, Cody.

The only reason she scheduled a colonoscopy was because my mom had one and her doctors found two non-cancerous polyps. Constance’s mom underwent the same colon cancer scare when her sister had a negative colonoscopy, and had to have multiple surgeries to remove the invading tissue.

But Aunt Dee has a large mass of cancerous tissue, and it’s not something they can fix by removing a small piece of the puzzle. I’m terrified that so many women in my life are being terrorized by this silent, lethal illness. Modern day colons are rising up to fight the foods we ingest, and we all need to be better about the substances that pass our lips - less preservatives, chemicals and hormones.

Today, I just need to take a note from the Sopranos finale and fade to black. I can’t write an ending to something that’s just beginning.

But if I could, it would be a happy one.

20 Responses to “Rectum, Darn Near Killed ‘Em”

  1. My aunt was diagnosed with colon cancer and is now cancer free. She battled it for a year and we were all very worried. I am so sorry to hear about your aunt and I hope they are able to bring her the same result that we had.

  2. My aunt is currently battling both breast cancer and colon cancer. I hope we both end up with the happy endings these wonderful ladies so deserve.

  3. I am sorry to hear this news… and I am hoping that your Aunt Dee fights her cancer successfully.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your Aunt Dee and sending lots of good thoughts and wishes to your family.

  5. You are in my thoughts…

  6. Oh, dear. I’m sending both you and your aunt good thoughts.

    And please, please don’t let my parents think up a similar way of communicating with me. I shudder to think.

  7. I’m so sorry. And yes - it is something difficult to detect and more prevalent than expected (than I expect). Worth doing what we can to reduce our risk.

    Whatever the best case scenario is for Aunty Dee, I hope she reaches it smoothly.


  8. I am really sorry to hear about the situation with your aunt, and will be wishing for that happy ending to the story with you.

  9. I’m so sorry. Thinking of you and your family…

  10. I’m sorry to “hear” that. I hope things work out ok.

  11. So sorry to hear about your aunt. She sounds like a wonderful and vivacious person.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. She sounds like such a wonderful, real and vibrant person. Please let us (me) know if there is anything we (I) can do.

    Sending strong healthy vibes your way to try to get the best recovery possible for the whole family.

  13. I’m sorry about your aunt. Colon cancer is terrifying; several of my friends’ moms were diagnosed with it in the late 90s.

    Any woman who stocks black cherry Koolaid automatically rates highly on my list. I hope your aunt’s prognosis is the best.

  14. I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. I’m sending her and the rest of your family my best wishes.

  15. I’m so sorry.

    My grandmother had colon cancer. It was a tough time but she lived for many years afterwards.

    Thinking about you and your family.

  16. Best wishes to your Aunt Dee, and to your family, having to deal with this.

  17. Hey Matthew, what a time of fear and anxiety for your whole family. I hope you all weather the storm, especially Aunt Dee. My favorite cousin had colon cancer at age 32 but has now been cancer-free for over a year. I remember what a scary time it was, and even now still is. I hope your aunt will have excellent medical care and obviously has the loving support from all of you.

  18. I’m so sorry, Matthew. No wants to hear that news.

    (I have to say that I laughed so hard at the description of your parents on the phone…)

  19. the phone conversations ….. you described my parents to the T .. so sorry about the sad news about your aunt

  20. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article aby, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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