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Hi there, with the so thoughtful creation of a gofundme from some close friends, many people have inquired about some background to Dan's diagnosis, and ways to continue to get updates on how he is doing. I decided this is the easiest way to do so!
Dan was diagnosed in May of 2013 with stage 3 rectal cancer. He had been experiencing bleeding, but when brought up with a doctor, and his young age, it was determined that it was just hemorrhoids. At continual physicals for 3 years this was noted, but again, it was until a few years later, the year that Dan turned 40, that the tumor was discovered.
With rectal cancer, instead of going straight to surgery as typically done with most operable tumors, he underwent chemo and radiation every day for 3 months. He stayed in Nampa at a house graciously loaned to us, while the boys and I commuted on the weekends to see him. Family stayed with him during the week to get him to and from the hospital. The goal was to shrink it as much as possible so that they could keep him from having a colostomy at such a young age. The tumor did shrink, in fact it appeared to be gone. He rested up until October of that year and then we headed down to UC Irvine to undergo a robotic surgery in effort to save Dan's "bum:)" The surgery went well, they were able to save what little nerves there were left, with what they thought were good margins, so that he could continue to function normally. They gave him a temporary ileostomy to let the colon heal. This was a new learning curve for sure. We stayed in California for a few weeks until we were past the "infection" zone and had learned to use his temporary porta potty! After 2 months of recouping, he again did Chemo for another 4 months. Then May of that year, he underwent the surgery to put his bowels back together. Boom, we thought we had this!
Dan continued to struggle immensely with his current status. The damage from radiation was so painful that he spent most of his time, when not working, using a sitz bath for comfort. Unbeknownst to him, we began socializing less (fear of what leaving the house could mean, and pain) and coming home from work, sometimes eating (often not), and then going upstairs to try and ease the pain. This was a hard few years and Dan continued to stay quite thin, eating was just the cause of so much pain, sometimes he just didn't want to. He continued to under go scans every 6 months, and 2.5 year later, the cancer returned to the original location. This is most likely because they really didn't get the margins originally trying to save him from the ostomy. I suppose the only silver lining here is that now getting all the margins, and giving him a permanent colostomy meant, no more pain. He had used a bag before temporarily, so the learning curve was easy and now he could freely move about and get his life back. Heck he could fish in his waders longer than most ;) Because of the trauma the last few years, his low weight, and lack of overall health, he made it two rounds of chemo and called it quits. He was exhausted and wanted to live life, have the boys see him healthy and be able to spend family time. He thrived and we moved farther away from the cancer. Scans every 6 months and hoping soon to move to every year.
Cancer has a way of making you see things differently and live differently. A lot of that is positive as you enjoy moments more, tend to cherish family time and the day to day. It also leaves what I would imagine is symptoms of PTSD. Fear, and the constant worry that anything that comes up could be cancer returning. It is constantly looming and I think, at least myself, had started to to ease in those thoughts. Dan had a blockage in November of 2019 that left him in the hospital for a week, waiting for it to clear. At that time we did a scan and it was normal. Another blessing. In June he stated that he had been having this "odd pain"- for lack of better word, and a CT scan indeed told us the cancer had returned at Stage IV. It currently has moved to nodes in his illiac chain and retroperitoneal area.
This was heart breaking to say the least. We had been -HE HAD- been battling this for 8 years and we thought possibly we were beating it. To be told the course of treatment left is to do palliative chemo, will bring a look upon someone's eyes that is something I can't quite describe. Do this until you can't is what we are told. We have met with Knight Cancer Institute in Portland AND had a Foundation One test. There is one other drug to substitute if he becomes resistant, but oddly, his cancer is quite ordinary and I guess ordinary isn't winning any clinical trials lately.
Yesterday after 5 rounds of chemo, which occur every other Monday in Boise.....we found out the chemo is indeed working and the nodes are all shrinking. This doesn't mean there is a change of treatment, it will continue to be every other week .....and maybe at some point we can move it to every 3 or 4 weeks, it is too early to determine. He has a few bad days......then typically by the weekend gets 8 days of feeling pretty decent! He is managing to work on projects around the house, for some other folks, and is fishing and just "being" around us. Learning to keep his brain busy and being occupied between rounds is the goal, to enjoy life.
I know this is a lot of information, but I am hoping this catches all those folks up whom wondered. I am sure my medical terms may not be 100% but you get the gist. We can't begin to thank EVERYONE for the continued support, the kind words, the text messages, the MEALS, the gofundme, the random books or puzzles in the mail, shout outs from people near and far. In current times, I am glad to know KINDNESS still exists. Hold your loved ones close.
link to gofundme: : https://www.gofundme.com/f/friends-amp-family-of-the-higgins-family?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR0c-Y64Sx6znN8K_4lS70t4pk4CMaVg9svNWiN_W0GkIS_hWEnzTjgLM6k