I started this web journal to keep everyone updated about the recent and dramatic turn of events in my life. As most of my loved ones know by now I was diagnosed with a very serious cancer on February 19.
I have been experiencing some digestive troubles for the last month that progressed to some other symptoms that finally drove me to seek help from the clinic. They initially thought I was suffering from gallstones and there was a possible obstruction so I was sent to a hospital for an ultrasound (Wednesday, Feb 18).
It has been a whirlwind ever since.
They discovered a tumor where the bile duct leading into the gallbladder connects with the liver. I underwent a series of other tests and the diagnosis has continued to worsen. It appears that I have cancer of the bile duct that has metastisized (spread) well into my liver, possibly to other sites as well. It appears to be a stage IV cancer which is the worst.
Gall bladder cancer is quite rare in this country and is completely symptom free until it actually obstructs the bile duct, so it is generally not discovered until it is well progressed, as in my case. The outlook is pretty much 100% fatal, prognosis at Stage IV is generally 2-6 months, although there are a few people who beat the odds and make it a year or two.
I am going in for a procedure tomorrow in which they will try to place a stent to allow my congested liver to drain, and I will also undergo more testing and consultations, and hopefully obtain a more definitive diagnosis and prognosis for my particular case.
I am taking it surprisingly well so far, although I feel like I am in a movie and it probably hasn't fully hit me yet. Right now I am learning as much as I can about it and using intensive nutritional support to keep myself as healthy as possible while I am dealing with this. I have no pain whatsoever other than an occasional "stitch" in my side, and discomfort when I can't digest certain foods. I have lost nearly 15 pounds in the last month and am rather jaundiced and experience horrible itching at night. This should be relieved by the stent tomorrow.
I have an incredibly supportive community where I live and feel well prayed for and carried right now by so many people's loving concern and kindnesses. I have a very loving companion, Dwight, who I mentioned in my Christmas letter, who has been right there for me through this thing so far, and my family has rallied around me as well. Tammie has already made one trip from Minneapolis, and will be at the hospital tomorrow for the procedure, and Beckie is flying up from Arkansas tomorrow night for a few days. Mom and Dad are also helping as much as they can, although there's not a heck of a lot to do at this point.
It is a very profound experience to come face to face with your mortality in this way, and I have had many, many holy moments so far, life seems very vivid right now and I have an inexpressible gratitude for every little thing each day. I also feel the Lord's presence in a very special way that is an enormous comfort to me. I am sure I will get even more religious than I already am in response to all this. I was given an Annointing of the Sick by a priest soon after I found out about this that was very comforting as well.
I have lived a very rich and full life, more so than most people have ever dreamed of. Even so I am not giving up hope and will do everything I can to heal from this or buy more time to be with my loved ones.
I am most concerned for Sophie, as she is only 9 years old and will be most affected by this. I have many decisions to make and am grateful that I will at least have time to take care of unfinished business in my life and make my wishes known.
I covet all of your prayers as I get ready for this first major procedure tomorrow and prepare to hear more from the doctors about the state of my cancer.