Apr 17, 2019 Latest post:
Dec 26, 2019
On November 30, 2018, a 7.1 earthquake hit the area around Anchorage, Alaska. My little world was also shaken with the death of my father just a few hours after the large tremor. Many (1,600+) aftershocks continued, and still continued, on the days and weeks that followed. When I returned home, the effects from the earthquake, the stress of attempting to handle my deceased father’s estate, and facing the massive clean-up and restoration of my father’s condominium took its toll on my body.
By February 1, 2019, I was experiencing an immense amount of epigastric and lower back spasms/pain. A trip to the medical clinic and an initial CT scan revealed that two of my abdominal lymph nodes were not normal. Mid-February an endoscopy showed I had gastritis. Five trips to various emergency rooms between March 11 and 29 produced a temporarily deadening of the pain and decreased the strength of the muscle spasms. During this two-month time period, I would find myself at home cycling between various beds, couches, and the bath tub seeking relief. Strong pain relievers and large doses of muscle relaxants brought only temporary relief.
Finally, after several days of laying in limbo in a Dallas emergency room hospital bed, after asking for pain management and being told internal medicine doctors were not returning their phone calls, two nurse practitioners announced to me that there was really nothing more they could do for me. They basically were telling me that my current state was mainly psychological – similar to what some Anchorage residents were suffering from after their exposure to the earthquake and the thousands of aftershocks – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So, Lynn and I prepared ourselves for me to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital in south Fort Worth.
On our way home I prepared my mind to face the fact that I would become a patient in a place for patients with mental disorders. I wondered to myself what I was going to encounter. A million different thoughts raced through my mind – especially being tagged as being an “impaired” pharmacist – and if that would permanently affect my career as a pharmacist. Upon arrival at the psychiatric hospital and during the process of filling out mounds of paperwork to be admitted, the staff of the facility took my blood pressure several times. The pain I had been experiencing for many weeks continued to cause my blood pressure to be elevated – sometimes very severely. It was my blood pressure that ultimately prevented me from being admitted to the psychiatric hospital – and it may have saved my life. The staff at the psychiatric hospital asked if I wanted to be transported via ambulance to the hospital that practice. Lynn drove as my pain and stress level increased once again. Were we going to encounter another emergency room visit without any true outcome or treatment plan.
Upon arrival at the hospital emergency room in Fort Worth, I informed the staff of the day’s events – that I had just been discharged from a Dallas hospital and that they suggested treatment at a psychiatric facility…and that my blood pressure was far too high for the psych hospital to admit me. After an initial assessment and confirmation that my blood pressure was incredibly high, I was assigned Brendan, a physician assistant/nurse practitioner in the emergency room. Brendan, in my estimation, took my very troubled state and began the first steps to peace for my mind and for my ailing body. After taking my brief medical history and performing some assessments, he gently told me that I wasn’t crazy…that I didn’t need a psychiatric hospital. He prayed with and for me in a manner that no healthcare provider ever has. He asked me to sit in God the Father’s lap and allow Jesus to wash my feet to allow the healing process to begin. While the physical side of what would be found in the coming days was still affecting my body, Brenden calmed the swarm of negative thoughts and fear in my mind.
After two very painful nights in an extension of the ER, I was finally admitted to the inpatient side of the hospital for further tests. I had an additional CT scan and an ultrasound on Friday, March 29. The mass that was seen on the February 1 CT scan had doubled in size. On Saturday, March 30, it was decided to perform an endoscopy and obtain a small portion of the lymph node adjacent to my pancreas for a biopsy. The biopsy determined that I had an adenosarcoma of the pancreas and based on diagnostic criteria I have stage 3 pancreatic cancer.
On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, I had a Mediport placed to help deliver chemotherapy into a large vein in my chest. Also that same day, an additional endoscopy was performed that help alleviate most of the pain that originates from the location of one of the two tumors. This endoscopy placed a local anesthetic and alcohol on a nerve bundle to temporarily stop pain impulses being transmitted to my brain.
On April 10, 2019, I began my aggressive chemotherapy regimen. I receive a total of four administrations of chemotherapy and each infusion will be administered every other week. The clinic calls the regimen “FOLFIRINOX” and it is composed of 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan (Camptosar), and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin). If necessary, radiation will be administered after the chemotherapy regimen is completed and more chemotherapy may be needed as well.
Why me? Like all of us, our genetic building blocks come from our parents. In my case, I inherited a gene, from my mother, on chromosome 13, the BRCA2 gene, that is not working correctly. The BRCA2 gene provides instructions for making a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor. Tumor suppressor proteins help prevent cells from growing and dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way. Individuals who have a broken BRCA2 gene are susceptible to breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer.