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One month ago on April 10th, 2017 we learned of Dan's cancer diagnosis. Dan has Stage 3B rectal cancer. There are more than 10 lymph nodes affected and the tumor has broken through the rectal wall. The good news is that it has not metastasized.
Dan turned 50 years old in November. He went for his annual physical in December and felt fabulous. In January, Dan had an intestinal bug and in the following weeks noticed changes in his bowel movements as well as not feeling well down there. He went to see his doctor again on Feb 3rd. His doctor checked out his prostate, did blood work and suggested he get a colonoscopy. Dan scheduled a colonoscopy on April 10th. Over the next two months, Dan continued to get worse. His biggest issues were his bowel movements, the pressure, as well as the inability to sleep.
I was out of town from March 11th-18th and then Dan and I left on March 21st for Hawaii. We had been looking forward to this trip for 25 years. The flight over was awful for Dan. I hadn't realized how bad he had gotten. Upon arriving in Honolulu, I noticed blood in his bowel movement and we went to the ER. By the way....we really don't know when the blood began, as Dan is color blind. Queens ER in downtown Honolulu did a CT scan and said it looked fine (they were wrong, by the way, and they gave us the disc to prove it) and said Dan was probably constipated. We discussed going home, however, Dan insisted we stay and continue our trip. In hindsight, I think we both knew there was something seriously wrong with him, little did we know. Over the course of the two weeks, we had an amazing vacation. We spent a couple nights in Oahu and saw Pearl Harbor. We flew to the Big Island for a week of sightseeing and hiking the Volcanic National Park. Finally, we flew to Maui for another week of sightseeing and hiking Haleakala National Park with our neighbors Scott & Nancy. Scott and Nancy were incredible travel buddies who were patient and compassionate despite Dan feeling ill. We got back home on April 5th. On Monday, April 10th Dan went in for his colonoscopy. The tumor was so large, the colonoscopy could not be performed.
The next two weeks were a whirlwind. We met with a colon/rectal surgeon, an oncologist, another oncologist, a radiologist, a nutritionist, and a CNP for a chemo class. Did I mention all the tests they performed: MRI, a CT scan, blood work, PET scan, more blood work? On Monday, April 24th Dan had a port surgically inserted into his chest for chemo. On Tuesday, April 25th Dan began his first round of chemo. Yesterday, May 9th Dan began his second round.
We were happily surprised we went for a 2nd oncologist opinion. The first oncologist recommended only one standard treatment (radiation/chemo, then surgery, then chemo). The second oncologist recommended an additional approved treatment which is more aggressive (chemo first, then radiation/chemo, then surgery). Long story, but we decided to stick with the first oncologist, using the treatment plan from the second oncologist.
Dan has a long road ahead of him. If all goes as planned, this is how it should work. He has 8 rounds of chemo first. Each round equals a two week period. Therefore, chemo will last for a total of 4 months. For each of these rounds, Dan goes in on every other Tuesday, they run the chemo drugs through his port. These appointments are about 3 hours. He leaves with a chemo pump hooked up to his port. By Thursday, the pump has been emptied into his body and it is removed. That is the first four months. Shortly after this, Dan will begin two months of radiation (M-F) with a lower dose of chemo. He will wait approximately three months before having surgery early next year.
We are listening to the medical professionals and trusting the proven treatment protocols. But, what else are we doing? I have been researching cancer. Why do some people get cancer and some don't? We may never truly know. But, it sure seems to me that cancer is likely preventable. The doctors won't tell you that. They only want to fix you. The first round of chemo was over $18K. Multiply that by 8. Supposedly, the surgery will be over $100K. You should see the bills. I've only heard about what a big business cancer is. Now I see it firsthand. I won't get into my conspiracy theories as Dan says I sound crazy, however, think about it.
I've switched completely over to all organic food. We aren't eating dairy. No GMO's. No sugar. I bought a juicer. We are utilizing approved supplements during treatment. I went off the deep end and threw out most of my plastic in the kitchen. I'm learning to cook all over again so the food tastes good. I'm not there yet, that is for sure. If you've had the opportunity to speak with Dan, he'll let you know my cooking stinks. Our arguments seem to all be food/beverage related. I'm considering installing a water filtration system for our entire home and even throwing out the microwave for a convection oven. I know probably overkill. But if it gives me peace of mind, it will be worth doing. Thank you Jackie for holding my hand and helping me learn more about holistic medicine.
Dan and work: Dan works for 3M. What a wonderful company and people. They have truly been a blessing and have been supportive and accommodating. They have allowed Dan the flexibility to work from home. For now, all his work travel has been cancelled. Dan assures me he is not under stress, as this is something we are monitoring. Dan loves his work and the people. Dan tries to go into the office when he can. I certainly know he wants to. However, that tumor needs to shrink so things work better down there. Work does help keep his mind off this cancer.
We told the boys Easter weekend. I think they took it well. I know they took it better than Dan and I did. They were more concerned about how this was going to affect them. For example, am I going to get the cancer? What about money? Dave came home a few days ago and Drew will be home next week for summer. Both are working full-time jobs 8-5.
How is Dan feeling? That is the question that gets asked the most. He has cancer and is sick. He is miserable more than he is comfortable. If you see him, you might not even realize he has this disease. He is strong when he goes out and puts on a brave face. We never know if it's going to be a good or bad day. In fact, we have good and bad moments. Sleep has been one of our biggest challenges. Neither of us has been sleeping well. We focus on this every day since a good night sleep makes a world of difference. The side effects of chemo kicked in right away. He tires easily. He is nauseous. We never know if he is going to be constipated or have diarrhea. Food has no flavor or tastes like metal. He is clearly frustrated and upset that he can't exercise twice daily. He is trying his best to get the gym when he can. I'm not going to lie. This is difficult. This is the hardest thing we've ever had to face. We are hopeful that the tumor will begin to shrink, once that happens I know Dan will get some appreciated relief and he will begin to feel better. I also want to thank Amy for being readily available to speak with Dan and me about your personal experience with this same exact cancer.
Dan has appreciated all the kind words, texts, emails, cards, prayers, etc. This stuff cheers him up and means a lot. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many loving and caring family and friends. We wish we could have taken the time to personally call and speak with each of you. We are still overwhelmed and sleep is a precious commodity. At our second chemo teach class, we expressed our concern about not communicating effectively with family and friends. The doctor suggested this website. I hope this will help us stay connected with each of you. We appreciate and want to hear from you.
In the end.....we have given this up to God. We've always put God first and we will continue to have faith.