Nov 15, 2021 Latest post:
Jan 22, 2023
I'm Chris Kelly, Alyssa's husband, and I'll try my best to tell her story.
After some years of dating, we married on September 14th, 2018. Within the same year, we adopted our dog(Peanut) and bought our first home. It was an exciting time. Fast forward a bit and Alyssa became pregnant right around New Years Eve 2020/2021. I didn’t believe her on the first 4 tests, but after the 5th one, I was convinced. Alyssa didn’t feel the best early on and we chalked it up as morning sickness. She has had “IBS” issues ever since I met her. Her doctor always said it was IBS and hemorrhoids.
We went to our first ultrasound as new parents with excitement and anxiousness. The ultrasound tech brought up baby Colin and then right away, said what is this? She asked if Alyssa was having digestive issues. Absolutely yes. They then made the presumption that it was a giant ovarian cyst and backed up bowels from stomach issues. In hindsight, it was a malignant tumor growing alongside our son.
The following ultrasounds continued to declare it’s an ovarian cyst. Alyssa started to experience pain in her abdomen during pregnancy. It was subtle at first and started to increase rapidly. It was very apparent by late March/early April that something was wrong. Her OB was incompetent and continued with the cyst story and that they would maybe remove it during birth. Alyssa was put on bed rest in early May. Alyssa’s abdomen pain started to become excruciating. Her OB was still just recommending OTC medications and it was obvious that was not going to cut it. We finally received a referral to go downtown and see a real doctor. He ordered an MRI because “we should make sure what this is”. Alyssa gets the scan and sure enough, we get the phone call that no one wants to get. Category T4b tumor. I knew nothing about cancer at that point. I remember googling it and just “you gotta be kidding me”. The doctor then said we will schedule something soon.
The next few days, Alyssa’s pain became unbearable and we could not wait around any longer. I remember the doctor calling me mid-day and telling me if I had to speed up the process, take her straight to Prentice Women’s Hospital triage. I will always remember the drive downtown. Alyssa’s pain was so bad, she was screaming in the car. I honestly didn’t think she was going to make it. Within a short time of arriving at the triage, Alyssa was given dilaudid and I finally saw her at peace after months of pain.
The next day, Alyssa had a colonoscopy that confirmed colon cancer. The tumor was causing a partial blockage and they were unable to get the scope past it. They were amazed she was still passing stool. The following days were met with worse news. They confirmed several tumors on her liver and spots on her lungs. (Lungs have since been cleared). I’ve never cried as much in my life as I did those 10 days in the hospital. I remember watching her as she slept in the hospital bed, she was growing another life inside her, as her own was being challenged. So here we are. Alyssa Kelly, a 38 year old mother, diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer while 26 weeks pregnant and now chemotherapy.
The first time on the chemo floor was a surreal experience. It’s a large waiting room with mostly older folk. I will always remember wheeling my pregnant(big ole belly now) wife through the waiting room and just thinking in my head “we don’t belong here”. They said chemo was safe while pregnant but I really don’t know how much I believe that.
Alyssa gave birth to Colin Hugh Kelly on 8/24/21. He went through opioid withdrawals the first week but after that, he’s doing just fine. (Alyssa was on morphine and oxycodone the last few months of pregnancy). Alyssa started chemo again 4 weeks after her c-section. I believe those first few chemo sessions were the hardest.
We had new scans done in October. She had progression since diagnosis and her chemo was not effective. We met with the Northwestern colon surgeon on November 1st. I will always remember that day. He told Alyssa she was inoperable and he didn’t know when she was going to die. Alyssa burst into tears and I almost assaulted that man. Of all the doctors I’ve met, those were the worst bedside manners I’ve seen.
One of the smartest things I ever did was join a colon cancer support group called “Colontown” right after diagnosis. I met so many people that were told no from their primary care and found solutions elsewhere. We received opinions from multiple other hospitals. The most aggressive hospital I found was called “City of Hope” in Duarte, CA. I know the name is cliche but it holds truth. We traveled there in November and to our dismay, they would not operate on Alyssa in her current state. We felt defeated.
Alyssa started her 2nd line chemo and the next few months knowing she was inoperable were numbing. She had new scans January 25th and we were both terrified of what they were going to say. Just when we felt so hopeless, they showed a remarkable response to treatment. I can’t even describe in words what it felt like to read those results.
We immediately sent her new results to all the other hospitals to see if she would be a surgical candidate. City of Hope was the first to call us back and tell us to fly back down. We met all the other surgeons there in March and left with an actual solution. University of Chicago was the only other one that would offer surgery. Alyssa was still inoperable from most other hospitals and she decided on the local option. A few days before her liver surgery in Chicago, we received some new information and are going to have surgery at City of Hope. We will stay in LA for at least a month. They will try to do colon and liver at the same time, with colon being the focus. Alyssa starts pre-op radiation now with surgery in a couple weeks.
I’ve been wanting to write this for sometime now. It’s was quite painful to relive, especially the first few months of before/after diagnosis.