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On April 15, 2021 Don was diagnosed with stage 4 Sarcoma cancer. Several years ago he consulted with his doctor about a small lump on his chest and one on the back of his thigh. Both were thought to be fatty tissue cysts. The lump on his chest was a little sore to the touch and irritating so he had it removed and pathology reports confirmed it was a benign (non-cancerous) mass. The doctor suggested he keep an eye on the one on his leg for any changes....but most likely it would dissipate on it's own. Fast forward to late 2019.... the lump on his thigh did not go away....and we noticed that it had grown in size.....however, it was never sore, irritating, nor did it "look suspicious". Don decided it was time to see a physician again and have it removed and made plans to do so in early 2020.....and then the pandemic hit. At the time we thought it was nothing that required immediate surgery and it certainly didn't seem like a good idea to be in the hospital during COVID....so he put it off another year.
In February of this year we were vacationing with our friends in Siesta Key and for the first time his leg was hurting. He was also experiencing some pain in his back....which he thought was from playing golf while we were in Florida. In March he made an appointment with a primary care physician for a physical and a referral to a surgeon to remove the mass from his leg. Nothing is ever easy or fast with our health care system....the next 6 weeks was a fight between the physicians and insurance company for ultrasounds, an MRI, and other diagnostic results before scheduling surgery. In the meantime the pain became much worse and he was really struggling. On Thursday, April 15th he made the decision to go to the ER for help with the pain. They physician treating him decided to order an X-ray of his back.... the images showed what appeared to be cancerous lesions on his spine. He was admitted to Bethesda North Hospital and we spent 5 days in the hospital for further evaluation, pain treatment and diagnosis. They took biopsies from the mass on his leg and 2 spots on his spine and confirmed the cancer diagnosis. The mass in his leg is a sarcoma tumor and unfortunately the cancer has spread to his spine and pelvis. In addition, they found a blood clot in his lower abdomen (IVC) and started him on blood thinners. They also started him on radiation treatment to help reduce the pressure on his spinal column and stop the progression of cancer to his spine. To get the pain under control they put him on a round of steroids' and methadone.....both worked very well and when he was released, he was nearly pain free.
Some good news......one of the top Sarcoma Cancer Treatment Centers in the United States is at The OSU James Center. The Cincinnati Oncologist was able to get Don an appointment with the leading sarcoma doctor, James Chen on May 10th for a consultation. Just prior to our visit with Dr. Chen, Don was hospitalized again for extremely high blood sugar and diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It's most likely that the steroids' (which significantly increase blood sugar) combined with the trauma from radiation, cancer, and stress his body was experiencing launched the diabetes :( The team at OSU were impressive and we decided to have Dr. Chen direct Don's treatment (he makes the game plan, changes, etc) and the team in Cincinnati would administer the plan (chemo and other determined treatments near home). Dr. Chen also requested additional genetic/molecular testing of the biopsies to identify exactly what kind of sarcoma he needs to treat, ordered an echo cardiogram to make sure his heart was in good shape, a baseline PET scan, and dental clearance. The plan was to return on Tuesday, June 1 to discuss all test results and make our game plan.
Don finished radiation treatments on May 12th and was pretty wiped out. While he continued to be mostly pain free, his heart rate was elevated, he was easily winded and out of breath, and found it hard to move around without being exhausted. By the following week it was worse, and I became really concerned. On Friday, May 21st I called the Oncologist office in Cincinnati and was able to make arrangements for him to be seen. After an evaluation and consultation with cardiology we were encouraged to go to the ER for further testing. The emergency room physician ordered a chest x-ray and found a clot in his lung and some inflammation. His hemoglobin was also significantly low and he was anemic. Once again, he was admitted to the hospital :( We spent 5 nights at Bethesda North while they transitioned him from IV blood thinner (Heparin) and antibiotics to at home injections, ran blood cultures, echo cardiogram, and other tests to rule out infection and also gave him a blood transfusion. He was released on Wednesday, May 26th...unfortunately not in much better shape then when he went in. The plan was to keep him as stable as possible until we could meet with Dr. Chen on June 1st and start chemo on Tuesday, June 2nd.
When cancer is involved.... things don't always go according to plan..... Saturday & Sunday (5/29-30) he was feeling terrible and by Monday (5/30) morning his back was really hurting, he felt pressure on his chest, he was very weak, shaky, and still having trouble breathing. I made a decision to call Dr. Chen's office at OSU and ask if we should bring him into The James Center hospital. He agreed that he needed immediate attention and would likely need to receive inpatient chemo due to his condition. We arrived at the hospital around 3:00 p.m. on Monday and he was admitted. Yesterday and today the priority is get him as stable as possible for treatment. He is receiving oxygen, IV fluids, antibiotics, potassium, pain medications, and close monitoring. Because he continues to run a fever they ordered another set of blood cultures to be absolutely sure he does not have an infection.....which would prevent him from starting chemotherapy. Once those results are back we can get started kicking cancer's ass!
I hope this helps bring everyone up to speed and the following journal entries keep you informed of his progress. I am with him at The James Center and will do my best to post updates as often as I can. Our faith is strong and we know that God can move mountains, perform miracles, and mighty His hand is on Don. Your prayers, love, and support are greatly appreciated!