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Bruce’s Story

Welcome to our CaringBridge site. It has been created to keep friends and family updated about Bruce and his battle with malignant cholangiocarsinoma

Be sure to read the journal, view the photo gallery and drop us a line in the guestbook.

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Carol Alfrey, Conley Outreach Community Services

As I write this, I am just five days away from surgery that should give me the best chance at beating my cancer. That surgery will take place at Mayo Clinic, the Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester MN. I feel very fortunate to have a chance at this fairly new surgery and hope they will learn things to help others even if everything we hope for is not possible.

If all goes well, I should be there only about a week; home and healing for about six weeks and my liver should regenerate in about 4 to 6 months. What makes this surgery special is that the larger of the two tumors has been growing around my inferior vena cava (IVC, one of the largest veins in the body, just below the heart). In order to remove that tumor, they must rebuild at least a portion of the IVC. Consequently, the surgery requires the united efforts of a vascular and cancer surgeon.

It sounds simple enough and logical enough but until we found the surgeons at Mayo Clinid, there was no hope of surgery and my prognosis was anywhere from six months to two years maximum.

Among many blessings thus far, the greatest was the first. Suspicion of my troubles were discovered by two doctors in Everett Washington who were looking for a pulmonary embolism that might have given me the terrific pain that looked and felt like a heart attack. It was about 3am on a very busy night at the hospital where my daughter Sarah took my wife and I when I began complaining of pain in my chest and left shoulder. I had many of the symptoms of a heart attack but they couldn't find any evidence that I was having or had recently experienced a heart attack. I will forever be indebted to the ER doctor and the radiologist who, even though the night was long and busy, decided to run that one more test - a CAT scan. When the radiologist looked at it, my lungs were clear -and I had no heart attack - but my future could have slipped through their hands that day if the radiologist had not noticed the spots on my liver. The doctor was not alarming but told me I should get checked out when I got home. We were on vacation visiting our daughter, Sarah, and once they decided my problem was really one of several herniated discs in my neck, we got some medicine and finished our vacation before returning home for a check up. The check up didn't reveal anything alarming at first - in fact every other test run, was normal. My local doctors, however, were concerned and got me into Northwestern Medical Center as soon as possible. Still the initial guestimate was that the spots were benign. Within a few weeks, however, they proved to be malignant. The doctors there apologized genuinely and explained that the tumors were inoperable. My best shot was some experimental radiation trials. While waiting to hear about my opportunities there, I decided to try to find some other opportunities myself. A number of good friends were surfing the net and checking with friends and family and soon a number of possibilities seemed to pour in. None, however, offered the hope of surgery, due to the complication with my inferior vena cava. Then we discovered what looked hopeful on the Mayo Clinic website. January was largely taken up with two trips to Mayo and a process of tests that determined I could be a candidate for this surgery.

Meanwhile, I felt fine and the whole experience was surreal. Equally "surreal" and totally amazing was the outpouring of prayer and support from the community and friends far and wide across the country. It was and still is, profoundly encouraging and humbling.

If you have come to visit the site in search of information please know that I appreciate your prayers and concerns. Also, please accept my apology for doing such a poor job so far, of acknowledging all the cards, calls and visits I've received. Thanks to Carol Alfrey and Tom Fink for creating this dual-purpose web connection between Caringbridge and LotsaHelpingHands. I will do my best to keep this updated as we go along. My thanks too all my family at the funeral home. Jan has kept many of you up to date by phone and e-mail and Tigger and the staff have been regular cheer leaders! With my son, Ben "at the wheel" and all of my family on-board, everything is in good hands at the funeral home and I am in good hands at Mayo. Monday, Feb. 9, my daughter Sarah is flying home to drive up with Kris and I and keep things "entertaining" during my stay! Thanks again for visiting and praying for me, for my family and for the doctors and specialists at Mayo.