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Sara’s Story

I was recently diagnosed with appendiceal cancer. The cancer was unexpectedly found on August 11, 2009 when I went in to have a routine surgery to remove a large cyst from my right ovary. I will be traveling to CUMC in Omaha to have surgery and receive treatment.

Latest Journal Update

Updates- kind of a long one

Hello again all! I hope this finds you all well.
I have waited to update for a while as there has been quite a bit going on. I will try to remember everything and bring you all up to speed :D
So the last time I wrote, I was just finishing round #4 of chemo. Since then I have completed rounds 5 and 6. However, during round 5 I had some bad pains in my lower right abdomen that I needed morphine for and then during round 6, my blood pressure shot way up (at one time it was 190/145). The doctors attributed the pain to either tumor pain or gas pain as it would stay away for long periods of time following a dose or two of morphine. They attributed the high blood pressure to one of the chemo drugs that I am on, Avastin, and started me on blood pressure medication. After a week an a half on the blood pressure meds, my numbers were still quite high, but the doctor wanted to give it a full 2 weeks to really see how the meds would affect it. Well, I didn't quite make it two weeks.
I was supposed to have my 3 month scans last Monday, but last Sunday my dad had to take me to the ER for horrible pains in my lower right side. The ER doctor talked to Dr. Dib and decided to go ahead and do all of my 3 month scans with tumor markers on Sunday instead of Monday. The ER doctor said the scans actually looked good and that he thought the tumors might actually be shrinking. They gave me some more morphine and sent me home.
On the following Tuesday, when I was supposed to go in for round 7 of chemo, I had an appointment with Dr. Dib to discuss the findings on the scans and to discuss tumor markers. Dr. Dib was very positive about the size of the tumors and told me that the tumors were shrinking and that there were no new tumors that they could see!!! PRAISE THE LORD! I had been so nervous and anxious that I immediately started to cry at this glorious news. Dr. Dib looked a bit baffled and asked, "These are happy tears, right?" They definitely were. 
On the downside, the scans did show that I had some hydronephrosis on my right side (basically meaning that my right kidney and ureter were inflamed and swollen). The right ureter appeared to be so swollen that it was collapsed and urine was backing up into my kidney rather than going into my bladder, thus the horrible pains I had been having the previous weeks. Dr. Dib wanted to get this taken care of immediately as something like this can cause serious damage to the kidneys. He decided to give me two weeks off of chemo- as a "congratulations present"- and scheduled an appointment with a urology specialist the next day. I met with Dr. Witte (the urologist) and set up a procedure to place a stent (a small tube that keeps ducts/arteries/veins open) in the right ureter. I had the procedure on Thursday of last week and everything went very well. When I woke up, I noticed an immediate difference and the pain was way down. I was so thankful!
That night, I noticed some very bad swelling in my lower legs and both legs were incredibly hot to the touch. I immediately called the doctor on call, but he was not concerned as it was in both legs. I proceeded to call the oncologist on call, who suggested going in the next morning to have my blood pressure taken before I took my blood pressure meds. Sure enough, my blood pressure was back to normal without the meds. This suggested that the high blood pressure was not, in fact, due to the chemotherapy but that it was due to the kidney problems. When I continued to take the blood pressure meds, they figure my blood pressure may have dropped to a point that my body couldn't effectively circulate my blood, especially when I was standing up. So, blood pressure meds were stopped immediately and pressures continue to remain in the normal range. It was nice to be able to stop a medication for once rather than add another one :D
So, now that the procedure was over, I was definitely looking forward to just enjoying what was left of my break. Not exactly what I had planned. Yesterday I was very tired all day and just didn't feel right. About 9pm last night I started to have a bad pain under the right side of my ribs that would not go away. I tried to handle the pain, hoping it was just muscles or gas, and finally took some pain meds about eleven and slept till about 3am. At that time, the pain was so severe that it woke me up from my sleep. I tried to take some more pain meds to hopefully fall back asleep but the pain continued to increase in intensity. I finally woke up my sister (praise God I live with her and she is willing to get up at 4 am!) and had her take me to the ER where my mother (bless her heart) was waiting for me. They immediately got some morphine going- it took 3 doses before it finally took effect- and started running tests. The ER doctor was thinking it was gall bladder but the ultra sound of the gall bladder looked normal. However, she was still convinced it was gall bladder and ordered a special test called a "hexascan". This scan involves injecting some special dye into the blood stream and then watching how the gall bladder and intestines absorb and push the dye through. The scan showed that the gall bladder was basically not functioning appropriately as it did not show up at all on the scan. This, I later found out, is what was causing me to have a "gall bladder attack". These attacks, I learned, can last from 15 minutes to 15 hours! Thank goodness the doctor in the ER took that extra step to find out what was wrong.
Typically, at this point, most doctors would suggest having the gall bladder removed as quickly as possible. However, because of my complex history and the chemotherapy I am on, it was not that simple for me. The one drug, Avastin, stops the regeneration and formation of blood vessels in hopes of cutting off blood supply to tumors. However, it also means that your body cannot heal with this drug in its system. Therefor, what would typically be a simple gall bladder removal surgery would be very serious and complicated in my state. So, once again I was sent home with some pain meds and was give pretty strict dietary guidelines to hopefully prevent another attack before we can figure out a solution.
I meet with a surgeon at Sanford tomorrow to discuss my options and immediately after that, my mom and I will drive to Omaha for my appointment with Dr. Loggie on Wednesday morning. As of right now, I have no idea what the next steps will be, but I will do my best to keep you all updated. Needless to say, it has been quite a frustrating couple of weeks. However, the great news of the tumors shrinking reinforces the fact that God is continuing to carry me through and that He is not done with me yet :D
I ask for your prayers for answers in the next few days about what can be done to prevent further problems. Also that the gall bladder attacks will remain at bay until something can be done to fix it.
I also ask for prayers of praise and thanksgiving that the chemotherapy is working! I often forget to praise God for the positives, but this is one that I will never forget!
Please continue to pray for my uncle Larry who continues to battle throat cancer, my sister-in-law's uncle Ricky who is battling pancreatic cancer, and my brother, Travis, who is currently healing from a very major shoulder surgery. He will spend at least 4 more weeks in a brace at the nursing home in Lennox.
I can't thank you all enough for everything! My friends, my family, and my faith continue to be the stronghold in my life and they continue to carry me when i am too weary to travel this journey alone.