The Blue Ribbon I Never Wanted to Win

Submitted 8 months ago
Created by
Kerry Krieger Clifford

“Tell me what’s going on.”

I rolled my eyes and repeated my symptoms to what seemed like the hundredth person in the ER that day.

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I wish someone would tell ME what was going on. It was all just too much to process.

I looked to my left, and there was Brad, sitting awkwardly at my bedside, doodling in his sketchbook and, I’m sure, wishing he were anywhere else.

It was the summer of 2016. I had been dating Brad for a couple of months now. Single for ten years, I had really been trying to convince myself that he was The One. There was no reason for him not to be The One – except that he wasn’t, which I had only just figured out. So when he had invited me to visit him in Providence at the end of July, I said yes.

The night before the trip, I had begun having stomach pains. Gas? Pulled muscle? Nerves? I wasn’t sure. But I couldn’t cancel now. Wherever this relationship was going, I thought, it needed to move there in person. So I chose to ignore the pain and I drove the 3 hours to Rhode Island.

We checked into our bed and breakfast and headed to town for dinner. As the night wore on, I was reminded that, although we checked a lot of each other’s boxes, in some very important ways, we just didn’t fit. We were on different planes, and we needed to face it. I was pretty uncomfortable for the rest of the evening until we talked it out. We agreed that we had been pushing the river. We needed to break up.

It was when Brad leaned in to hug me and I winced that he realized that I was in a great deal of physical pain. I told him what had been going on with my right side. He insisted that I would need to get it checked out before heading home the next day, reminding me that the right side of the abdomen is home to the appendix, and driving with appendicitis is generally frowned upon. Checking in with my primary care physician by phone the next morning forced me to concede that Brad was right. We headed over to the emergency room at the local hospital.

And here we still were. I couldn’t believe that he was staying by my side after everything, but there he was.

As I lay there, praying that I wasn’t taking all of this time and money just to find out that I really needed to poop, the ultrasound technician was discovering lumps. I needn’t have worried about making much ado about nothing. What was going on was far from nothing.

The ER doc told me that there were masses on my liver. While I wasn’t in immediate danger, they were cause for concern and would require follow up once I got home. He sent me on my way with some paperwork and a smile.

Brad and I headed out the door and said our good-byes in the parking lot. I remember the fear and uncertainty of that moment like it was yesterday. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing by breaking up with him. I didn’t know if I’d ever meet anyone else. I didn’t know what the hell was happening with my liver.

When I got into my car, I looked more closely at the discharge summary I had been given and I saw these words:

“masses on the liver suspicious for cancer”

Friends, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, which is why I’ve chosen this time to tell the story of the moment I started to become AWARE. The weeks following my visit to that Providence Emergency Room included many tests, scans, -opsies and -oscopies. And a diagnosis. I have Stage IV Colon Cancer with metastasis to the liver. At first, the hope was to remove all of the cancer, but it is more aggressive than we had expected. I continue the battle, but know that I most likely won’t beat this disease.

While I fight, I cling to a strong sense of place, embracing the love of my small town and finding new ways to be blessed and inspired by the residents of Windsor on a daily basis. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about them and about my disease in this blog so that you, too, can know the gifts I’ve come to discover throughout this sucky, stupid, horrible ordeal.

While you await my next post, do me a favor and go get screened!

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