Total pelvic exenteration survivor: ‘Life is precious. Don’t waste it.’

I’m very seldom sick, so being diagnosed with colorectal cancer and ultimately needing a total pelvic exenteration at age 48 took me by surprise. I started having problems going to the bathroom in the fall of 2015. The constipation went on for two or three weeks, so I did the home remedy thing. But one day, I literally doubled over with stomach pain so bad that I had to leave work and go to an urgent care clinic. The doctor performed a rectal exam and said, “Listen, I hate to give you the bad news, but you’ve got cancer.” My colorectal cancer diagnosis I’ve always been a realist. I believe you have to deal with the facts that are in front of you. So when I was diagnosed with cancer, I just thought, “OK. What’s next? What can be done?” The urgent care doctor told me the tumor was the size of softball, and I needed a colostomy as soon as possible. The tumor could rupture at any time, and if that happened, I could die within a few hours. So I saw a local surgeon, and he performed the procedure on Sept. 19, 2015. I live in northeastern Indiana, and we have a lot of good hospitals fairly close. But my cancer was so advanced and growing so rapidly that even my surgeon wouldn’t remove it. He said it was way above his skill level. He gave me two choices: go to a hospital in New York City or to MD Anderson in Houston. I’m not a city boy, so I said, “Send me to Texas.” Why I...