In May, David began to loose weight and experience fatigue. By June, he had lost about 15 pounds and would have to nap immediately after work. He started to experience brain fog and numbness on the right side of his face. He thought he might have a sinus infection so started antibiotics. He saw the physician's assistant at his GP's office and she prescribed a different antibiotic. He returned to the GP's office a few days later as the antibiotic was very hard on his stomach. She ordered blood work. It came back normal except for a slightly elevated white blood count. He return the next week to see his GP as he was not feeling any better. On June 26th, I took him, at his insistence, to the emergency room where he was admitted. They did blood work and his white blood cell count was slightly elevated, but all else was normal. So they did a CT scan of his head. A dark spot was seen on the pons (the top of the spinal column in the brain stem). Then they did an MRI, which confirmed something there, perhaps vascular swelling and bleeding. As he didn't want to spend the night in the ER, we went home with instructions to see their neurosurgeon for a better explanation.
On Monday, July 9th, we saw the neurosurgeon who would not commit to any diagnosis. His advice was to wait two months, have another MRI, and then see if the "spot" had increased. That evening, during dinner, David got a very sharp, violent pain in his left side. I called 911 and the ambulance took him to the emergency room. We thought it might be a kidney stone. After blood and urine tests, they concluded it was not a kidney stone and did a CT scan of his chest. This is when we were told he had numerous lesions - one his liver, kidney and right lung. He was admitted to the hospital.
After a very long night and next morning, the hospitalist came to his room to discuss his diagnosis. It was agreed to do a liver biopsy the next day, Wednesday. This was another long day as the time for the biopsy kept changing. At 2:30 they came to the room to prep him and by 4:00 it was over. He had to lay prone for two hours and then at 8:00 they did a last blood draw, showing his white blood cells still slightly elevated. At 9:00 he was released and we went home.
Thursday, July 12th, was our 42nd anniversary. At least we didn't have to spend it in the hospital. David spoke to his GP that morning and he was able to get David an appointment with an oncologist the following Monday. On Sunday, we had a long conversation with a friend who was being treated for abdominal cancer at the UNM Cancer Center. She was stage 4 when she had her first appointment and after 6 months, she was nearly cancer free. That sounded like the place for David. Our friend graciously offered to email the CEO of UNMCC, a long-time friend, to get him an appointment.
We met with the oncologist, who was baffled by the radiologists saying David had liver cancer. She was sure it was lung cancer. She said she would meet with the radiologists and consult with her colleagues about this diagnosis. She thought it was a good idea to get a second opinion from UNMCC.
Thanks to our friend, David was given an appointment at UNMCC for that Friday morning. UNMCC is in Albuquerque, a 60 mile commute, but we thought it was worth it. They are the only nationally certified cancer treatment center in New Mexico. We met first with Dr. Soares, the liver oncologist. She explained that it also looked to her like lung cancer and she they had ordered a tissue sample from the biopsy so that they good analyze it. We then met with the radiology oncologist, Dr. Schroeder. He explained the treatment he would perform to address the "spot", by now it was being called a lesion, in his brain. He would do five gamma radiation treatments. This involved having a mask that looked similar to a fish net, fitted to his face. The mask is pliable when wet, but hardens as it dries. He would wear this mask, which, once on, was attached to the table to prevent his head from moving. They also did a CT scan as that was the template the physicists on staff would use to program the laser. Very science fiction.
David's first radiation treatment was the following Tuesday. His sister, Faye, flew in that same day so was with us for the first treatment. It took about 40 minutes and he was able to walk out and go home immediately after. However, he had begun to feel quite unsteady on his feet, most likely due to the swelling of the pons, so I had gotten him a cane.
To date (August 1st), he has had 4 treatments. His final treatment is on Friday, August 3rd. However, last Thursday, after his treatment, he met with Dr. Kumar. This was when he was told he had Stage 4 lung cancer. Needless to say, that evening we were all quite emotional.
David is taking steroids for the swelling and that has helped. He is no long nauseous and doesn't need the cane, but eating is difficult as nothing tastes good or the texture is off-putting to him. The next step is a PET scan next week, to see if there are other tumors, especially on the lymph nodes. David has promised to fight and forces himself to eat to maintain his strength. He is applying for a medical marijuana card and has already gotten a high potency CBD oil to take twice a day.
This is going to be be a long haul, but many friends and family are helping to support us. I will continue to update this site as we get new information. Thank you for your good thoughts and prayers. Keep visualizing him fishing!