Monday, July 23, 2012

Departure Part #2

#1 Primary Battle: Colon Cancer (continued...)
(Today's graphic is a Port-A-Cath: totally implantable venous access system (TIVAS) which I have embedded in my upper right chest.  The clear bottom part is in my chest and has a plastic tube-not shown-which enters my right jugular vein and feeds down to the superior vena cava terminating just anterior to the right atrium of my heart.  The needle just snaps on whenever I need intervenous meds administered.)

Friday June 8, 2012, approximately 9:30 am.  I finally get to sit down with the oncologist I randomly selected from my insurance company web page. Yes, my oncologist is female.   I prefer female doctors for most things (though perhaps not my choice for urologist since the sensitive nature of much of that treatment), I just seem to connect better and don't feel like they are as condescending as most of the male doctors I have had.  Personal choice.

Dr. C. let me know that the CT scan did confirm the ER scan I had, and the liver biopsy was positive for malignant cancer; however, it was not liver cancer.  The cancer cells in my liver were metastasized colon cancer cells.  That was both good and bad news.  Good because liver cancer is really nasty and could require a transplant.  Bad because it means the colon cancer is in a pretty late stage which precludes the opportunity for surgical intervention.  Dr. C. set me up with an appointment for the following week for an endoscopy/colonoscopy  which would provide a bit more information on what we were dealing with concerning the primary issue.

June 15, colonoscopy. Not a pleasant thing, but mostly because of the prep work one needs to do the evening prior. Basically, you get a prescription for a one gallon jug which contains a combination of salts. You take it home and add water. Shake until the salts dissolve, and "enjoy" an 8 ounce glass every ten minutes until you have consumed the entire gallon. By then, the salts will have forced the contents of your digestive system out the path it was meant to travel. Of course, you could also just be like me and after about half the damnable concoction I experienced a severe "reversal of fortune" and was vomiting for the rest of the evening. I, at that point, called it enough. The doctor running the scope would just have to deal with it; that was the best I could do.

Colonoscopy confirmed colon cancer by showing a tumorous mass approximately 50cm up from the start (or, I rather should say, end) of my colon. Additionally, 3 little cancerous polyps were removed. [From the imaging report, the liver has a 5 cm tumor in the left lobe and an 8 cm tumor in the right lobe. So imagine a lime and a lemon sized tumor in those locations, as well as "innumerable" smaller spots.] It was official. I have colon cancer!

Oncologist Dr. C, set me up while I was still in town and "officially" diagnosed with an appointment for the installation of my Portcath (pictured and explained slightly above near opening graphic). With that installed, I could begin chemotherapy.

On June 20th, I began my first (of 12) chemotherapy treatments in this cycle. After the 12th treatment, I will have about 6 months off then repeat the cycle again. According to Dr. C., since there isn't much else that can be done for me medically, I will be undergoing chemo for the rest of my life. When she said her goal was to make these 2-3 years the best they could be, I was taken somewhat aback. Perhaps I misinterpreted her. But, alas, no. According to her and the "studies", the 5-year survivability rate for stage IV colon cancer with which I have been diagnosed is 6-8%.

I may be a bit naive, but I am pretty sure I can do better than 6-8%! I have never scored that low on a test in my life! And this test matters A LOT!

So that's where we are today. I have just completed my third round of chemotherapy, with the inclusion of a new drug which is more aggressive in attacking cancer by shrinking the blood vessels which feed the tumors. I have experienced none of the side effects I have been warned about from the beginning. (Only one, which is not that bad: cold intolerance. I can't drink anything cooler than room temperature or it feels like my throat has needles stuck in it.)

The nurses and Dr. C. seem pretty impressed that I am tolerating the treatments so well. Not trying to be a hero, but I do not feel sick nor will I allow my attitude or countenance to become down. I am confident that however this plays out, God has a plan in it. I am holding to complete healing, growth through this process, and testimony to others. Agree with me in prayer on that!

This has been a large learning experience and has been the impetus for my attitude of gratitude, desire to write, and new lease on a future which I should have never let go.

Tomorrow: #2...what will it be? Some of you could probably figure it out easy...but keep it to yourself for the time being. LOL!

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