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At 45 years old, I had been experiencing some symptoms for about 6 months and finally decided I needed to see a Dr. I was told to have a colonoscopy. So March 23rd, 2016 I had the procedure and within an hour I was told I have Stage 3B Rectal Cancer, with at least 3 lymph nodes affected. Just days later, my husband and I were sitting in the surgeon's office talking about options. Was referred to my two oncologist's, Dr Ducker (chemo) and Dr. Palmer(radiation) at the St. Paul Cancer Center (MN Oncology).
The oncologists agreed that my treatment plan would be, phase one: full chemo (folfox) for 4 months (8 rounds), then phase two is Chemoradiation combo for 5 weeks everyday, and finally phase three is Surgery to remove the tumor and lymph nodes.
In order for chemo to start and not kill my veins, I opted for a Port to placed in my chest for easy access for all the blood draws and chemo treatments. Surgery on April 8th, 2016 to place port went well.
Chemo started on April 12th, 2016. The treatments consist of 2-3 hours in the chair at the clinic, and then a portable IV of chemo to go home with for the next 46 hours. Then back to the clinic to remove the IV. This was supposed to be the process every other week for the next 4 months. Until my blood counts started dropping. There were many delays between treatments to have my body recover and build up my platelets between treatments. Eventually, my platelets went too low to continue chemo. I got thru 5 of the 8 rounds. The following two months were used to recoup.
Radiation/chemo combo started on August 23, 2016. Radiation every day M-F for five weeks, and portable IV chemo for 7 days at a time. I was able to get thru two weeks of chemo, before my platelets, again, starting dropping. In order to continue radiation, the Dr's decided to stop the chemo part. I finished the five weeks of radiation on Sept 27th, 2016.
Surgery was Nov 9th, 2016 at St. Johns Hospital in Maplewood, MN. It was called an LAR with temporary ileostomy. The surgery was considered a success! Dr. Williams was the surgeon and he was able to remove the tumor with 'clean margins' and removed 12 lymph nodes. I was in the hospital for 10 days and home from work for 6 weeks. The pathology showed that there was still cancer in the tumor and lymph nodes(the radiation didn't kill it all) So therefore, more chemo was ordered. It's affectionately called clean-up chemo.
Clean-up chemo started Jan 10th, 2017. This time it was an injection(a bolus) shot of chemo (only 5FU, not the folfox). This treatment was supposed to be every week for 12 rounds. After only 4 rounds my liver decided to act up. Went to see a specialist, a hepatologist (many tests later) I was diagnosed with Gilbert's ((zheel-BAR) Syndrome. Which, I guess, is a completely harmless syndrome. Who knew?! The specialist cleared me to continue chemo. Started my last six treatments on March 7th, 2017 and hope to finish on April 11th, 2017. This is where I am as of today!