Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We've created it to keep family & friends updated about Chuck. Get started by reading the introduction to our website, My Story.
Visit often to read the latest journal entries, visit the photo gallery & write us a note in our guestbook.
Chuck was diagnosed w-oral cancer in July 2008. He went through chemo, radiation & 3 major surgeries-including the removal/reconstruction of his lower jaw in July 2009. In July 2010 he had been cancer free for a year. On April 22, 2011, he was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.
I was born in Phoenix AZ in 1952. I am a Vietnam vet ['71-'72 US Army] & worked in the industrial bakeries for 20 years before "retiring" to play music full-time. I currently work for United Blood Services of Arizona. September 04, 2011 will complete my 10th year at UBS.
I quit smoking in 2001 & never chewed tobacco. In July 2008 I was diagnosed w-squamous cell cancer of the oral cavity (fancy words for mouth cancer). I had surgery. It came back. I had another surgery. It came back. I went through 7 weeks of chemo & radiation & in June of 2009 the cancer was back! I decided to seek a 2nd opinion & went to Mayo. The Mayo docs determined that the cancer was "angry & aggressive" & now in my jaw bone. The "remedy" was the removal & reconstruction of my lower jaw & floor of my mouth. I had the surgery on July 28, 2009..it was a 10 1/2 hour procedure.
To say the least, recovery was incredibly difficult. I endured multiple rounds of infections & "extraordinary" lymphedema in my head & neck. At one time it was estimated that I was carrying around the weight of a couple of 2 litre bottles of fluid in my face & neck. Finally, in the Spring 2010, I turned the corner from recovery to rehabilitation. I had to learn to swallow & talk with my "new normal" mouth. On June 1, 2010, I was able to return to work full-time with no restrictions. I continued speech & swallow therapy. In July 2010, my Mayo team determined that I had been cancer free for a year-the longest period of time since I was first diagnosed. In the Fall of 2010 my feeding tube was removed as I was able to swallow well enough to take all my (liquid) nutrition orally.
In late November 2010, I began experiencing abdominal discomfort & pain. My blood pressure medication had recently been changed & the medication had the side-effect of constipation. When I visited my PCP, he believed I was having constipation (even though I was "regular") & recommended over-the-counter remedies. My symptoms did not improve & I went to my PCP again. This time he prescribed a prescription strength laxative & that really made things worse. I was miserable over Christmas & stopped the prescription. My PCP continued to believe I was experiencing constipation. The symptoms grew steadily worse. In March 2011, I finally called the Mayo GI Dept & they suggested I go to the ER. I went to Mayo ER & the ER doc told me the same thing my PCP had & sent me home w/discharge orders: follow up w/Mayo GI doc w-in the next week. On the discharge orders, there were 5 symptoms listed that if you had them, you were supposed to see a doctor. I had been experiencing 4 of the 5 since November! But I was feeling a bit better & decided to bypass the follow up. In early April, after experiencing worsening symptoms again for a few weeks, I made an appt w/a Mayo GI doc. When I reported my history & the 5 months of symptoms, he immediately ordered lab work & said "something has changed." He ordered more lab tests & various imaging procedures, including an abdominal CT that showed 3 lesions on the liver & a pancreas that "didn't look right". My doc ordered still more labs, a liver biopsy & scheduled an oncology consult all within the same week.
On Friday, April 22, 2011, (just 18 days from first appt w/the Mayo GI doc) I met with the oncologist. He diagnosed me with Stage IV pancreatic cancer & reported it had spread to my liver. The doc said the cancer was not rare, but "very aggressive" (I'd heard that before). He informed me that because the cancer had already spread, chemo was the course of treatment & the new drugs had expanded life expectancy from the previously understood 3-6 months to now being 1.5-2 years.