The Hall's Long Haul

Tamara & Shawn's RTW Adventure

Talk about the 11th hour.

On August 22, very early Tuesday morning, 3:00 a.m., we drove the car to our house (had been staying at friends’ across town), parked it, put our last ‘extra’ possessions in the shed, and set off walking to the bus depot.

We were taking the 3:50 a.m. bus to Saskatoon  (luckily there still was a Greyhound as our illustrious premier had cut the other bus system) so we could catch our 5:30 a.m. flight the next morning. The excitement had won over the fear, and we were ready to begin our adventure.

The bus ride was a little uncomfortable (unlike Shawn, who can sleep ANYWHERE, I had trouble napping), but uneventful, and we were met in Saskatoon by friends with whom we’d spend the night.  We are SO lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives!

At the end of a relaxing day, six of us were gathered at the dinner table – good food, good wine, great conversation.  My phone rang, interrupting the laughter and good cheer, and I answered it to find a doctor on the other end.

Because we were going on this long trip and would be out of the country for 6 – 10 months, Shawn and I decided we should each have a complete physical before we left.  Part of it included pulling out one of the many FIT tests that had been accumulating in our drawers for too many months.  The FIT test (Fecal Immunochemical Test) measures hidden blood in the lower intestine which can be an indication of colon cancer.

Well – wouldn’t you know it?  Mine showed a bit of blood – now, this is not unusual and can occur for many reasons, most of which are of very little concern.  But, it does mean that you should have a colonoscopy,  just to check it out.  So – that’s what I did.

Initially, it was scheduled for August 18, but seeing that was only a few days before our departure, I asked if I could maybe sneak in a little earlier.  The receptionist at the provincial FIT clinic was wonderful and found me a cancellation for just two days away.  Regina – here we come!

Shawn took a day off work, and we zipped into Regina for a fun-filled day (not!).  The procedure went fine, and I was even able to watch them snare a polyp and pull it out (cool, but not necessarily a great thing!). Dr. Ross was a kind and caring doctor who explained everything she was doing.  Polyps are not uncommon, and in most cases, are benign.  This one, like all, would be sent away for a biopsy. – a regular routine check.

Fast forward to the night of the call – eleven hours before our flight – ELEVEN HOURS!!!  It’s a bit of a blur right now, but I believe she told me that the polyp she’d removed contained CANCER.  Whaaaaat!???  

I can’t say I wasn’t warned a little bit.  On Monday, I had received a call from Dr. Ross’s office telling me that the doctor wanted to see me, and asked if I could come in for an appointment on Thursday, August 24.

“… Ahhhhh… no… I can’t,” I replied a little cheekily. “We’ll be in Glasgow, Scotland.”

“When will you be back?” she asked.

“Maybe February, but maybe not until May!” I retorted.   She didn’t sound happy and told me she’d try to get the doctor to phone me instead.  I warned her that we were supposed to cut our phones off the next day, but suddenly getting a bit of a shiver down my back (and realizing I shouldn’t have been so smart-alecky), I told her we’d keep our phones on until Wednesday.

Tuesday, all morning, I couldn’t get her call out of my head.  I soon worked myself up into a bit of a tizzy, realizing that if she just wanted to tell me that everything was fine, she wouldn’t have made it so important that she reach me.  By noon, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t wait and thought I’d phone our fantastic family doctor, Dr. VH, because he would have access to the same records, and HE would let me know what was up right away.

I talked to a very helpful receptionist whom I’ve known since high school, and she said she’d see what she could find out for me.  I didn’t hear back from her for awhile, and then when she did phone, her tone was quite different than our previous light banter.

Oh, oh…  She said the doctor wanted to see me. Could  I come in this afternoon?  “Uhhhh… no… I can’t.  We’re in Saskatoon.”

“When will you be back?”  (Deja Vu??)

“Anytime from February to May.” (Deja Vu again!!! CRAP!)

I asked if she couldn’t just tell me what was wrong, but when I was met by dead silence, I knew I was in trouble.  She told me Dr. VH would call me, and the waiting began.

So, as you see from above, Dr. Ross’s call came in first.  I was stunned enough to ask if we couldn’t still go on the trip and deal with this when we came home.  Her answer hit me like a punch to the throat.  “You’ve just been diagnosed with colon cancer.  You need to come back and see an oncologist.”  Whaaaatt!?

We called family, told the friends we were with and started canceling things.  (West Jet was SO great! They canceled our flight and put all the money into the West Jet bank without any charges at all.). We climbed back on that Greyhound the next morning and made our way back to Yorkton.



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