The Bag or The Box

I don’t think I cried immediately when the new doctors at Sloan told me my cancer was back less than a year after treatment; I suspect I already knew deep down. Despite the comforting words of my husband, friends and family, I had this nagging in the back of my head — and later in my actual lower back — that something wasn’t right.

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Getting ready to lose my guts in December 2015

I didn’t cry until, at 29 years old, with my mother and husband in the tiny consultation room, the impeccably dressed though weathered-faced surgeon, less than 10 years older than I said, “We’re going to have to take out your bladder. We’ll take your intestines, too.”

I thought, Would you like my dignity along with those?

“And you’ll wear an ostomy bag for the rest of your life, maybe two.”

Screeching halt.

What about chemo? More radiation? Trials? Immuno-therapy? These are the reasons you go to the best hospital. These are the reasons we packed up and drove to Manhattan. Surely, there was some other way?

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Celebrating my independence from radiation last summer

There wasn’t. And on the day before I turned 30, I endured a 14-hour procedure to cure reoccurring cervical cancer. While I grew to think my lapro-hysterectomy scars we’re “kinda cute” over the summer, these doctors gave me a mid-line incision from my breast bone to my pelvis, carefully outlining my belly button. They chose my stoma sight — I still cringe at the word STOMA — because they didn’t want to cover a tattoo on the other side. As if that even matters, now? As if that life would ever be mine again?

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