Initial Update from Hollie 11/13/2017. Thank you for visiting and welcome to our CaringBridge website. Your support and love has been overwhelming. Keeping everyone up to date is proving challenging, so we are using this site to keep family and friends updated in one place. We are so grateful for your support and words of hope and encouragement here, but please always feel free to reach out to Andy or me in person, too. We would love to hear from you or, even better, see you!
It has been whirlwind these past few weeks and yet we realize the journey has just begun. Andy was first diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer on Oct. 26 following a colonoscopy the day before. He knew that what he saw during the colonoscopy wasn't good, but I don't think one is ever prepared to be told they have the big C. Since then, he has been poked, prodded, and scanned every which way by more people than he can count on two hands. What we know now is that the cancer is stage 2 to 3. The PET scan showed negative activity in the lymph nodes, but the pelvic MRI diagnosed the nodes as "suspicious." The medical team is conservatively treating it as a stage 3. There was no indication the cancer had spread to other organs, praise God!
He started radiation treatment and chemotherapy this week and will continue this 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks. This initial phase of treatment is necessary to reduce the size of the tumor and allow the surgeon to remove all of the affected tissue. The tumor is very low in the rectum and has grown through the rectal wall and into supporting tissue in the pelvis. Chemo consists of oral pills twice a day. Andy is thankful he doesn't need to deal with more IV's or ports (at least not yet). The doctors tell us that the side effects of this particular treatment are relatively mild compared to others. We expect him to be tired and have some nausea and GI symptoms, but there are no restrictions on diet or exercise. He is free to do whatever activity he feels up to. Of course, everyone responds uniquely and we don't know how things will be in reality, be we are moving ahead with optimism that we can get through the holidays with some sense of normalcy. One of the biggest risks during this time will be infection as his immunity will be weakened by the chemo.
Following the initial phase of radiation and chemotherapy, he will have about an 8 week break. This allows the body to heal and the blood cell counts to resume to normal, all while the therapy continues to work to reduce the size of the tumor. If all goes well, he will have surgery at the end of February to remove the portion of the rectum that is affected by the tumor. Due to the location of the tumor, it is likely he will need a colostomy bag, which will obviously be an adjustment. Following surgery, there will be more chemotherapy due to the suspicious lymph nodes observed in the MRI.
This has been shocking and a lot to process in two and a half weeks. Obviously, some news has been bad, but we are finding silver linings in all of the bits of good news that come with it. This is a cancer that can be beat and Andy intends to kick its ass!
I know my technical writing style is quite bland, but I hope this at least helps folks stay informed. Andy is a far better and more interesting writer than me, so I'm hoping he will elaborate with his own posts to add some flair and humor that I assure you has not faded one bit! XOXO Hollie