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When Cancer Made My Butt ‘Public Property’

When did my butt become public property? The very sphincter that controls what comes out. The one they are trying to save. It began the moment the doctor’s words, “Squamous cell carcinoma,” ripped the “Before” away from the “After.” I was left in a place between the two. The fragments of the mosaic of what I knew to be my life swirled all around, and the wet kindness of the doctor’s eyes was all that held me in the molded plastic chair.

Or perhaps it began when I was suspended in my nervous mother’s amniotic fluids as my body built its first defenses: an immune system that erupted into ulcerative colitis when I was 10 years old. It has been a journey of probing and hospitalizations, and pain and humiliation as I was unable to count on the basic stability of managing my own poop. It has now been 55 years of my bowel running front line defense and mistakenly attacking itself. An inflammation history that heightens the risk factors for having a difficult time and permanent after-effects from the treatment that now lies before me.

But colitis has also been my tour guide for finding my way through fear and anxiety, to restoring wellness and healing trauma. I’ve done it well. Well enough to hold the hands of others and help them to their healing. The journey through fear and terror into love and aliveness requires navigational skills it has been my privilege — and my job — to share. Skills I now have to apply to myself. Once again. Apparently the lifetime of colitis wasn’t enough.

I’ve found that the journey to well-being is largely about discovering the ways in which it’s already here. As I take my first steps in this new direction, healing is showing up in a deepening connection with others who are able to meet me in this new and vulnerable place: this now. In feeling the doctor’s love as he put his awkward hand on my shoulder. In my husband Ron’s unwavering presence beside me as he makes this our journey: “We’re in this together. We’ll get through this.”

I’ll be able to leave the allure of the terrifying future and scramble my way back to the present if I allow myself to be held in the arms of support from every resource I can access, within and without. One of my resources is writing. So that’s what makes my anus public. If I can dredge up, summon, discover some compassion for this body part that is used as an insult. As in, “You asshole Nicola, why did you skip last year’s colonoscopy?” Then I will be in better shape to show up for all the shit coming my way.

Follow this journey on Nicola Ranson’s blog.

This story originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Photo via Nicola Ranson.

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