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CANCER: An Uncensored Journey

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 7:48 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
I have considered for some weeks now not whether to begin this journal, or why, but how, in what manner, and where.

This is about cancer. Having it, coping with it, dealing with the medical system which will treat it and perhaps cure it or not.

There are many good reasons to keep it private, I suppose, although it has never really occurred to me to do so. There is one good reason to make the situation public: you.

Cancer of this type is preventable - it does not have to happen. It does not have to happen to you. The prevention is simple, painless and, under many of our union contracts, it costs us little or nothing.

On the other hand, as these pages will indicate, the cost of doing nothing, of failing to utilize prevention, is high. My own failure to exercise prevention will cost me time, money, the endurance of discomfort and pain, along with a potentially uncertain outcome.

I have been diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer.

I will explain just what this means further along, but before proceeding, I feel compelled to issue a "Reader Beware" admonition:

It is my intention to inform you in no uncertain terms just what the truth of the matter is. The narrative is going to be blunt and honestly descriptive; the vocabulary may be graphic and make you uncomfortable.

Tough shit.

I intend to speak in the exact fashion that we night crew people speak to each other - in a "no bullshit" format in which night crew humor is likely to rear its head.

If you don't like it, then do something to make damn sure it doesn't happen to you - get a colonoscopy.

Make the appointment now. Today.

You will be a damn sight more uncomfortable going through what I anticipate going through than merely reading about it.

Knowledge is power - equally, in this case, knowledge is the future, your future. And the cost of ignorance is high, it seems.

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skywalker
Post Posted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:24 pm

Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Posts: 592
Location: California
Thanks for sharing your story Bill.

It is real good advice and I hope every male UFCW Union member between the age of 40-50 years old gets and should get this exam done.

For those thousands of UFCW union members that are currently working and paying dues to the UFCW but get no insurance coverage you need to speak to your personal doctor or local medical clinic and explain the situation and I am certain that they will perform the exam at a much reduced cost to you.

Bottom Line....Bill is right....get that exam done!

Bill,I wish you the very best and again thanks for showing some real courage in sharing this personal story with us here on this web site.

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atuuschaaw
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:06 am

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 781
Location: an ahwangan
Bill, talking about it is actually part of how one deals with it I'm thinking. It has worked for me at least. Last April while in the middle of moving my dear old 96 year old Mother closer to her children, I became very ill, and after my normal three day wait I decided it wasn't going away and I hit the emergency room. I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis and rushed straight to the operating room. That was on a Wednesday and by Thursday I was doing my daily hall walking exercises and other than the usual discomforts of surgery, I was feeling pretty good.

Saturday however, the doctor came in and told me the results came back from the lab and it showed two types of cancer cells...adenocarcinoma and also sarcomatoid carcinoma. So I'm thinking at this time...Oh Shit, here we go! The news caught me off guard and was the last thing I expected to hear. The doc told me it was highly unusual to see the two types of cells together, and he mentioned that he had never seen it before. This was not so reassuring but he told me how he felt sure he could get it all, seeing how it had been discovered early. The appendicitis was a blessing in disguise...if it hadn't been localised in that area, it could have been a long time before it showed up...because I never was one to have check ups or physicals either. I only went to the doctor when it was an emergency.

I was allowed to come home and recuperate until the end of June. I then went back in for a colon resection. I had about one foot (30.48 centimeters) removed and he also removed all the lymph nodes in the surrounding area as a precaution. I now go back every six months for blood and urine screening just to keep an eye on the tumor markers and on liver enzymes. I'm told if the cancer shows up again, it will more than likely be in my liver. So the sixth month screenings continue and once every year they do a colonoscopy. My diet has had to change dramatically...the worst part! Being from the south we don't know how to cook anything unless it begins with the word "fried". That has been the most difficult change for me...going from bacon, steak, and gravy to cottage cheese, yogurt, and soup and crackers! Wink

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SharynS
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 2:34 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3625
Location: the 'puter
Crackers are soul food AT.

Thanks Wj, you get a sticky thread just for sharing.

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:48 am

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Thanks for sharing folks...not an easy thing for many to do.

"Bottom line..." now that's the sort of night crew humor I'm talking about. Very Happy ...and worse.

Atuuschaaw, my apologies for cultural differences but, in San Francisco, yoghurt is soul food...I draw the line at cottage cheese, though. I reckon that you and I are going to have some interesting war stories to exchange.

Sharyn, bless you and thank you, as always...but what exactly is a "sticky"?? You are dealing with a Neander-tech here.
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SharynS
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:07 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3625
Location: the 'puter
A sticky (big green circle) just means the thread is permanently stuck at the top of whatever section the topic is posted in. In this case "An Uncensored Journey" is the first topic in the Union section and - unless you do something to piss off uncharted moderators - it will remain there. Mr. Green

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:47 am

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Basic message: get a 'scope - do not delay - do it now.

Here is why.

First and foremost, all of my doctors (and they are numerous at this point) agree that I am in disgustingly good health, an evil life and bad habits notwithstanding. The CT scan proved it. I eat reasonably, drink only moderately, exercise considerably and longevity with extraordinary good health runs in the family. I had a "flexible sigmoidoscopy" five or six years ago which indicated nothing amiss.

What's not to like?

It is unanimous: I am in good health, except for the Stage 3 rectal cancer, what the docs call a "lesion" and what used to be called a "tumour" (unless there is a difference which remains unexplained to me at this point).

"Good health" evidently does not exclude the possibility of acquiring cancer. As I have discovered since, each of us, all of us, have cancer cells within, at least a few or perhaps a few more. We also have natural defenses against the proliferation of these cells and their growth. Genetics play some role in the risk of cancer (about 15.%); the other 85.% of this risk is attributed to everything else.

I "felt good" - hell, I still feel good, which seems to baffle the doctors and everyone else. Confuses the devil out of me, too. I felt fine the evening of January 13 until the point when, while I was at work stocking shelves, I began what seemed to be a major rectal bleeding (in fact, I probably lost a quarter-to-half pint of fresh blood, so little that it didn't even register at the ER and hospital - probably I lose as much in a week at work via cuts, scrapes, etc.)

Walked to the restroom under my own power, cleaned up, thought about calling an ambulance, said screw it and caught a ride to the nearest ER (California Pacific Medical Center) from the closing PIC (thanks, Jon...glad I didn't mess up the leather on your new car!), then waited around a couple of hours before I got examined and admitted to the ER.

Note: never go to an ER when there is a full moon - the same folks who show up in the stores in the middle of the full-moon nights also go to ER's. Be advised.

Spent several hours in the ER doing pretty much nothing except for getting a CT scan before being admitted to the hospital.

Spent the next two days in the hospital doing pretty much nothing except "cleansing" my colon with 4 liters of a stale-cat-piss-and-salt-tasting liquid called "Go-Litely" (which, if there was truth in advertising, should be called "Go-as-if-there-is-no-tomorrow" and to which, I found out later but was not informed by hospital staff, you can add Diet Crystal Light Lemonade to make more palatable)in preparation for the colonoscopy that I should have had at least a year or two before.

The 'scope was actually the high point of the stay. The docs give you a light sedative; you feel nothing, know nothing. In fifteen or twenty minutes they are done,the whole colon, bottom to top; you are awakened, Voila!! c'est fini.
I got the 'scope at 3:30 PM and was released to go home at 6:30 PM.

I'll get into more detail regarding the colonoscopy next time but the point is: I felt fine, I feel fine, and had it not been for the happenstance of bleeding, I never would have known. The cancer would likely have continued into a Stage 4 without me knowing. Stage 4 is a different and much more serious kettle of fish - I got lucky, luck which I honestly did not deserve.
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Scott Schroeder
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:51 am

Joined: 20 Dec 2007
Posts: 1253
Location: Some where on the mountain
Bill Sable wrote:

I intend to speak in the exact fashion that we night crew people speak to each other - in a "no bullshit" format in which night crew humor is likely to rear its head.


Man thatís a relief! For a minute Bill I thought you were going to use all that fancy college lingo! Night crew lingo now thatís something I understand! Mr. Green

Might want to mention to the gang Bill about asking for that Teflon ass%#@

On the serious side Bill you are an incredible human being and I couldnít be prouder to call you my brother. Where many people with your situation would possibly become self absorbed you take your experience and turn it into a opportunity to reach out and help others! You are all class my night-crew-knuckle-dragging brother.

Make sure you share with everyone what a fantastically united and giving crew you work with. We all could be so lucky to work with a crew like yours! Thank you Bill for sharing your life and experience.

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Pearson
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 5:20 am

Joined: 03 Feb 2006
Posts: 1421
Location: Sun City AZ
Way cool brother bill to be able to deal with this openly and in a way that is straight up and laced with some humor.

Years back i had a second man in produce who was the most negative human being i ever met. The thing was they found cancer and he wasn't expected to make it. Oddly he lightened up, laughed at it and made life or what was left of it to be enjoyable. When i left Minnesota 5 years ago he was some 15 years clean of it and kicking up a storm.

The docs told him what made it work was his positive attitude and not getting down about it. Moral is, with your attitude, this should be a cakewalk.

Thanks for sharing B.

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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:16 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Thanks to all you folks - Scott, Bill, Sharyn (and, yes, I will try not to piss you off, Oh Moderator!).

Sympathy, empathy, and just plain old-fashioned hardheaded advice go a long way in this particular fight. At least it seems so to me.

One of the reasons it seems so is the response that I have received not just from you all but from the crew at my store. Absolutely incredible.

Now, I have learned recently that colon/rectal cancer is called "the cancer of shame" or somesuch.
People don't like to talk about it, even try to hide it, say it is something else, avoid it.

Screw that.

I have always been straight-up with my crew. So, when I received the diagnosis, I called a night crew meeting and let them know what was going on, what was going to happen with me, and what they could do to avoid the same outcome for themselves and their families, i.e. get the 'scope. I asked them to tell everybody in the store and in their lives outside the store in specific and no uncertain terms what had happened, what is going to happen, and what they can do to avoid it themselves.
Everything and in detail

This has had several results.

I found that at least half the crew members in the appropriate age-group had never had a colonoscopy, a screening that can actually prevent colon and rectal cancer from developing. These folks I have promised to ride like the proverbial cheap horse until they do get 'scoped, up to and including puking on their workboots when the chemo-induced nausea kicks in. At least one crew-member has had a 'scope since; the rest have taken a serious interest in the subject.

I also found that many more than I expected had direct if second-hand experience with family members who had cancer of various types. All of these people, apparently, have survived and are flourishing.

The third result was a literal deluge, night after night, of theraputic foods cooked and brought in by members of my crew, even on their nights off of work.
Seriously. Every night.
I am talking about ginseng tea, ginseng soup, a beautiful restaurant-quality pork-and-mushroom soup that took 5 hours to make (and was delivered on the member's night off), boxes of ginseng tea to make at home, dried mushrooms to use, several half-gallon jars of soup made from a particular mushroom ("ganoderma lucidum" is the Latin name), red-bean-and-water-chestnut pudding, blueberry muffins, noodles with chicken and mushrooms, catfish with tofu...the list goes on.
Now, not only is this great food (from an eating standpoint) but it is theraputic, revolving around ginseng and that particular fungus ("ganoderma").
I did some research on the subject - and checked with my oncologist who gave a thumbs-up - these items apparently, if nothing else, do act to boost or improve the immune system that gets hammered during radiation/chemo.

Apart from the fact that this is food, and helpful food at that, I have simply been overwhelmed by the fact these people with whom I work have taken the time from their lives, with families and often two jobs, to purchase, prepare and deliver these gifts.

Honestly, I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve all of this - what I do know is that I will never be able to thank them all enough. The crew is, literally, lending me their lives, sharing themselves in what I can only describe as an incredibly human fashion.

So much for the theory that night crews are merely a bunch of knuckle-dragging misanthropes.

Go figure.
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skywalker
Post Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:21 pm

Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Posts: 592
Location: California
Bill Sable wrote:
So much for the theory that night crews are merely a bunch of knuckle-dragging misanthropes.

Well Bill, folks that promote this theory aren't worth a nickle and are certainly not even worth a mention.

I do honestly believe that you will beat this thing because of the courage that you have shown by talking openly about it.

The advise that you are giving the readers of this forum is spot on and hopefully everyone will heed this advise!

Continue to stay positive.....and keep on laughing.

The old saying was that

"Laughter is the best medicine" well it is!

BTW-Bill-

are you the same Bill Sable that was actively involved with the Local 588 2004 rank and file food contract negotiating team?

Thanks to the site moderators for keeping this topic and Bill's personal story on the front pages of UNCHARTED.

This is another real service to the members.....beyond the obvious of promoting workers rights.

Thanks Guys and thank you Bill for boldly stepping forward! Know that your strength gives us all hope with our own personal trials which often times pale next to what you are going through at this time in your life.

I wish you well and continued progress toward a better and one day soon a cancer free life.

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SFClipper
Post Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:03 am

Joined: 31 Jan 2008
Posts: 10
Location: San Francisco
Bill, Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and message for all of your union brothers and sisters-active & retired.(Maybe it's time to bring up the 'scope with the Doc!) A former co-worker at 592 is a colon cancer survivor. His colon cancer was discovered by accident. He's now active with a cancer survivor's group. We're all your supporters. Keep the positive attitude. -Bill

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wm pasz
Post Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:36 pm

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 1219
Location: Toronto
I think it's really great that you're sharing this experience Bill. Helpful for everyone. We're all rootin' for you. Keep us posted and best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

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Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else. - Malcolm X
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:32 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
Thanks, folks, for the feedback...and the wishes.

I honestly hope that this outreach does, in fact, alert others to get the preventative screening ["the 'scope"] that I should have taken the time to get myself. By all means, pass the word about this very simple, painless and inexpensive prodcedure and, if you like, about this thread.

Funny thing is, I should know better. I've been racing sailboats for more than twenty years and there is a bottom-line axiom: "one hand for the boat, one hand for yourself".

It is a pretty clear way of saying that if you go overboard, you are not going to be sailing anywhere.

I forgot...so now I swim... Embarassed

Skywalker, I had the honor to represent Local 648 during the five months of the 2004/05 grocery contract negotiations, one among several other extraordinary members of the Local and along with the dedicated members of the other Bay Area UFCW Locals.
A fascinating experience which I highly recommend to any and all rank-and-file UFCW members.

An aside: actually SW, the most vociferous proponents of the view that night crews are Neanderthals are night crews themselves (including Scott and myself Wink )...it keeps managers away. Cool
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Bill Sable
Post Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:23 pm

Joined: 14 Feb 2009
Posts: 272
To continue...

As I mentioned originally,the basic message here is that colon/rectal cancer can be prevented.

By you.

> You get a colonoscopy which takes about 15-20 minutes plus the "prep time" the evening before.
> It is painless - you can be under an anesthetic.
> It may not even cost you a dime under the Health/Welfare coverage included in our contracts.

The 'scope may reveal polyps which are promptly (and painlessly) "zapped" with a tissue sample taken for a biopsy. My 'scope (postponed too long) revealed a couple of other polyps which proved to be benign along with the cancerous lesion. These were "zapped" -problem solved.

Here is the alternative: the "Another Day, Another Finger" World Tour

1. A trip to the ER...a two-hour wait for admission
2. An ER CT-scan along with various and sundry IV's and the first of many digital rectal examinations.
3. A couple of days in the hospital after admission
4. "Prep time" for a colonscopy involving a shared bathroom and the IV rack waltz back and forth.
5. The colonscopy itself...fast and painless.
6. One really, really bad meal.
7. A digital rectal examination by a specialist surgeon who then informs you that you have a Stage 3 cancer (adenocarcinoma).
8. An ultrasound examination (an entirely different date, time and place) which begins with two (2) more digital rectal examinations ( Exclamation Exclamation ) in addition to the "placement" of an instrument apparently also used to artifically inseminate 50,000-lb. cattle.
9. Consultation with an oncologist.
10. Consultation with a radiation oncologist who performs a digital rectal examination (query: is KY really that expensive Question )
11. A "planning session" with the radiation oncologist who wields a dye catheter in the "affected locale".

All of this is to be followed by:

12. Six weeks of "radiation therapy" timed to synchronize with three weeks of chemo-therapy.
13. Several weeks of "recovery:
14. Surgery to remove whatever remains of the hopefully diminished tumor. This will involve a temporary iliostomy (which means that anyone who calls me a "lying sack of sh_t" will have visible proof of that proposition).
15, Recovery and healing.
16. Surgery to reverse the first surgery; I intend to propose a replacement part constructed of either titanium,teflon or unused shield from a Space Shuttle.
17. Recovery and healing.
18. The distinct possiblity of another go-round with chemo-therapy.

This is just the "bare-bones" of my personal schedule for the next several months.

I propose to you the quaint notion that getting a preventative colonscopy is considerably less intrusive of time, honor, and fortune.

I further propose that, in the event that you do not get the preventative screening, you find doctors with really small hands. Rolling Eyes

More soon...
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