Tim’s Anal Cancer Story

My crazy story starts at the beginning of April 2019 when I went in for hemorrhoid surgery.
I had been dealing with pains on and off for a year, and my doctor was treating me for hemorrhoids with sitz baths and over-the-counter creams. A month before April 2019, I started missing work because I was in so much pain when I walked. I was a saw operator, very physical work, so it was really hard to keep working. And when I walked, it felt like I had paper cuts in my anus. It was so painful, I literally cried with every step I took.
I called every doctor I felt would deal with my problem, and, finally, a doctor agreed to see me the very next day. I took off work and went.
The doctor asked me to get up on the table and lie on my side, but even trying to step up to the table was so painful it made me cry. So, my doctor told me to just stand for the exam. When he looked at my anus, he did not even touch anything. Then he asked me if I could go to Toledo Hospital in 3 hours. I said “yes!” When I got to the hospital, I got surgery for what I thought were hemorrhoids and was told to come back the next week for a follow up.
While I waited for the doctor, I saw medical things written on a white board in the room and thought to myself that someone must have a very serious illness. When the doctor walked in looking troubled, I thought to myself, “he must be having problems in his life.” Then the doctor asked me if I remembered him talking to me right after the surgery? I told him “No.” That’s when he stared into my eyes and said those three words no one wants to hear. “You have cancer.”
When I heard the word cancer, it was like everything went numb. Emotions started flowing out of my eyes. My eyes teared up so badly, I couldn’t see my doctor for five minutes until I calmed the tears a little.
So, I left the doctor’s office with a list of things I needed to do now to beat the cancer. I was so freaked out and didn’t know how to talk to my mom and dad and tell them I have cancer. My family doesn’t talk much about medical things, so that was really tough.
By the time I had my port put in, I was starting to heal from the surgery and feeling no pain. For the first week of chemo and radiation, I was feeling like this was going to be easy. But in my second week, I started to feel sick to my stomach whenever I would eat or drink anything. I also started to have bad diarrhea and that felt like razor blades were cutting me when I went to the bathroom. I’ve never screamed harder or cried so hard ever in my life. Those were the radiation burns, but at the same time, I started to get mouth sores. The mouths sores burned the way hot sauce does or the way it burns when you bite into a slice of pizza that too hot. It was terrible. I even had mouth sores near my throat that were making me gag. I tried everything to calm the burning, but they would just get worse.

The mouth sores got so bad, under the tongue and in the throat, that I could hardly talk or eat. My doctors gave me some magic mouthwash and said that if the sores didn’t get better, I’d need a feeding tube. But I lucked out, the magic mouth wash worked, and the mouth sores calmed down; I was able to eat and drink.
Then, I started getting really bad cramps in my stomach and groin. I was even hospitalized and had to take a few days off from radiation. I almost gave up on treatment, but my team at Flower Hospital were so supportive, and they helped me push through the last couple of weeks.
During treatment, I also had to quit my job, lost my apartment, and had to move in with my parents. I didn’t even have a cell phone, so it was hard to apply for Medicaid and benefits. But my hospital helped me with all this. They were great.
After finishing treatment, I fell into a depression because I was no longer able to go to work. I was hardly able to walk or even do yard work without being in pain. I had pain in my stomach and groin area if I walked a little too much, or uphill, or upstairs. Every time I thought I was better; it would get worse again the following day. I even had to wait six months for physical therapy because it was too painful. Still to this day, I have a lot of weakness in my legs around the hip area; it’s like a burning feeling and when that happens, I have to sit down. I also had incontinence for three months after treatment and had to wear diapers.
I also have lower back problems now. Sometimes I’m not able to sleep because of the pains I get at night trying to lay down.
Things are better now, but I still have some pain need to sit down and rest a lot. I can do some work in the yard. I am even trying to work a few days a week and hope I can go back to work. It feels so good to go out and work. I hope I can do that again.
It’s been a tough journey. But I wrote on my hat “keep pushing limits” and I did. I pushed through treatment. I survived.