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Reality Takes Hold

I’m sitting at home after having spent the last few days in the hospital following my bowel resection surgery. I think sleeping in my own bed last night was the best sleep I’ve ever had.

While I was in the hospital, mostly disconnected from the outside world and high on hydromorphone, the reality of my situation really set in: this is just the beginning⁠—or, at least, it could be.

Observing through a clouded widow

I had a few roommates over my three-night stay at the hospital.

One of them had been in the hospital for over six weeks. It would be easier to list the organs not failing. Probably mid- to late fifties if I had to hazard a guess. He could send text messages but couldn’t have a conversation without using speakerphone, if that helps the visualization.

Another, seventy-ish year-old was brought via ambulance from out of town. He was so disoriented and confused that he thought it was the year 2000. Lung cancer problems.

“You’ll be here for weeks, maybe longer, but certainly not days,” the staff informed him.

“Uh-huh,” he replied, passably feigning lucidity in his response.

Cancer brought the three of us together as roommates for a short time. It was a really sobering experience.

As I was drifting in and out of consciousness from the hydromorphone and anesthetic, I had a thought: How terrible for these men, weakened from disease, to find themselves in that room. What a horrible fate.

It was only after the cocktail of analgesics wore off that I realized that I was in the same boat.

Swimming toward the storm

As of writing this, I should make it clear that I no longer have a sneaking feeling of Imposter Syndrome. Spending five hours in the operating room and getting your guts cut out has a way of making everything seem real at once. And that’s kind of the problem: everything seems real.

I was never in denial about my diagnosis, but having surgery was sobering: The cancer is real and this might just be the beginning of treatment. I won’t know anything else for another month or so.

Emotionally, it feels like I’m caught in a whirlpool and being sucked into an endless ocean of possible outcomes. To swim away from the vortex and embrace only the known seems futile, and so I can’t help but swim toward the unknown.

If I only knew… as if it would give me any control over the situation anyways.

Each day is unique

I’ve been working on being more mindful and living in the present. This is hard for me.

I’m not the type of person to just not have a plan.

It’s been difficult to accept that planning just won’t be possible for a while.

A few things have been on my mind:

  • I’m happy to have had surgery. I’m terrified that I’ll need more.
  • I’m glad the cancer is gone. I’m worried that it’s just gone for now.
  • I’ve appreciated everyone who’s rallied to help. I’m afraid I won’t be able to return the favour.
  • I’m excited to get back to living my life. This is my life now and I don’t quite know what it looks like.

Some wins from today

I woke up and ate breakfast. This was really what I would consider my first true meal since surgery.

I woke up to my family supporting me. My dad and Shannon divided and conquered on some administrative stuff so that I could sit around and try to fart without shitting myself.

I’ve talked to quite a few friends and family members today. I’ve been enjoying living vicariously through others.

I’m going to cook dinner tonight (with some help, of course). This might seem like a small thing, but I really enjoy cooking and I’m glad it’s something I can still do. Except I can’t lift anything heavier than 10lbs for six weeks, so that cast iron is going to need some heaving.

I have bowel function. So, one of the worst side effects of bowel resection can be that it just stops working. I’m not in that boat, and as weird as it it, I’m pretty stoked that my plumbing works.

Thank you

So many people have taken the time to call, text, and write. I’ve appreciated hearing from people.

Thanks for reading this, too.


My name is Jason Manuge. I'm an early onset Stage IV colorectal cancer survivor. You can find me on social as CancerCanuck!

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