Dear Family and Friends, Many of you already know that I was diagnosed with stage 3b colon cancer in mid-September. Paul and I have been overwhelmed by the love you have poured out over us in the form of cards, letters, visits, phone calls, emails, texts, and food, and we have been strengthened by it! I underwent surgery to remove 50% of my colon and a very large tumor. I've spent the last 6 weeks resting, healing, trying to gain weight, and getting prepared for chemo to begin. That date has finally arrived! On Monday morning, I will begin a 6 month protocol of Xeloda - 4 pills in the morning, 4 in the evening, for 14 days, take 7 days off, then repeat.
Most of you know this is not my first bout with cancer. I had metastatic melanoma 19 years ago and underwent a pretty grueling, experimental bio/chemo treatment. The idea was to kill off everything in my bloodstream, take me to death's door, but not let me cross the threshold, and then allow the biological drugs to help my immune system build up strength to fight off any remaining bad stuff. I walked through this long valley with the love, support, and encouragement of my husband, Paul, children, Nancy & Jack, my "Village" of family, friends, and church who took care of every aspect of my life until I was able to do so again, and most importantly, with the deep and abiding love of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was, and continues to be, a constant source of strength, courage, and guidance.
In late May, I developed a small, dry cough. I saw a PA about it in June. Shortly after treatment ended, the cough came back. I went back in August, saw the doctor this time, and we repeated the treatment. By mid-September, it was still there, so I went to see my doctor again. He took an x-ray and said my lungs were pristine. However, due to low iron and a few incidences of high fevers through the summer, he began doing a more thorough physical exam. When he pressed on my tummy, he could feel a mass where there shouldn't be one. He sent me for a CT scan which showed either a primary colon cancer or metastatic melanoma that had ruptured through the colon wall. After 48 hours of IV antibiotics, a colonoscopy, and surgery, we knew that it was a 6" in diameter colon cancer. And that cough? I never coughed again after learning the results of the CT scan. My Dad died from metastatic melanoma many years ago. It spread to his lungs and as a result of that, I have always been nervous about a cough that doesn't go away. God knew exactly how to get me to the doctor's office and get answers!
Following the surgery, we learned that a significant number of survivors of the bio/chemo treatment have developed various cancers many years later. I guess our immune systems weren't as strong as we thought they were. You should also know that I was up to date on my colonoscopies, but this tumor, although supposed to be slow growing, was quite aggressive. The good news is that it's gone and everything is working the way it's supposed to.
Chemo is no fun, but sometimes it is the only path to healing and it is a bumpy, pothole-filled road we have to walk. The main side effects of taking Xeloda are nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, fatigue, and something called hand/foot syndrome. I have medicines ready to combat the first three and I don't think there's anything to be done about the fatigue because chemo is designed to devastate the red blood cells. The hand/foot syndrome is the one that worries me. The chemo can burn the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, as well as creep into the connective tissue between the fingers and toes. The reaction can be mild to severe. A severe reaction would cause cracking and bleeding. I have to avoid hot water (there's nothing I love more than a hot shower), long showers (argh!), dishwashing (so sorry, Paul), and walking (sorry, Henry and Ruthie); basically anything that causes friction to the hands and feet. They also tell me that my hands and feet may change color. Interesting!!!
One thing I can say is that I am not scared like I was 19 years ago. I have learned that there are things I can do and things I cannot do and I know where that strength and wisdom come from. This is just a new path I have to travel for a while. I'll strap on my roller skates (so I don't have to walk) and I'll be grateful for you to follow along with me and offer prayers along the way. I know that with faith, determination, and a sense of humor, my family and I will emerge with new stories and life lessons. I look forward to leaning on my faith, drawing closer to Jesus, and seeing what He has in store for me!
Love & hugs to each of you! Ellen
"For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
"Hear me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise." Jeremiah 17:14