Ellen Lutz

First post: 7/5/2017 Latest post: 8/19/2017

I want to share a bit of the "back story" with you for perspective on Ellen's battle with cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer. During January 2016 while vacationing in Southern California, Ellen started to experience some chronic abdominal pain. When we returned home to Seattle in early February she started to work with the professionals at Puget Sound Gastroenterology to try to find a cause for this discomfort. Not a month went by during 2016 when she did not have an appointment or test or consultation, but a diagnosis was elusive. Life progressed pretty much as normal, and we even spent the month of September in Europe enjoying a river cruise on the lower Danube and time in Vienna, Bucharest and Prague.  In early October, right in the middle of a round of golf, Ellen was stricken with a severe gall stone attack. She was transferred to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle where an ERCP procedure was used to clear gall stones from her bile ducts, and stents were placed to keep them open and draining properly. With exception of a case of reactive arthritis, all was well, and we even enjoyed two wonderful weeks with my family in the Tampa, Florida area during the Thanksgiving holiday. But all was not well, and the end of December brought another critical gall stone attack, another ERCP procedure, new stents, and this time biopsies of the tissue both inside and outside of her bile duct system. Sadly, on Friday, January 6, 2017, we got the call from the gastroenterologist that cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer, was evidenced both inside her bile ducts and in her abdomen beneath her liver. A team of doctors at Virginia Mason Hospital was convened and it was determined that this rare and very aggressive form of cancer was already inoperable, and chemotherapy was indicated as part of the palliative care to help preserve Ellen's quantity and quality of life. It turns out Ellen's body had done a superb job of masking and accommodating the progression of this disease, and the surgeon said in thirty years of practice he had never seen anything like it. She had shown none of the classic symptoms of liver disease! Her chemotherapy regimen started at the beginning of February 2017, and candidly, the past six months have been a whirlwind. The chemotherapy is hard on a body, and the progression of cancer is harder still. During April Ellen started to exhibit what I call "collateral damage" that included blood clots, hernias, internal bleeding, acute anemia, low blood pressure, and an inability to control the pain and nausea. She was able to have a successful celiac plexus block procedure which has virtually eliminated her pain, and we are very grateful for that! Despite her oncologist's admonitions to eat and exercise, both of those activities have become increasingly difficult. That leads us to the present, mid-July 2017, and to Ellen's decision that it is time to stop the chemotherapy and rely on other forms of palliative care to help preserve as much of her quality of life as possible. We will immediately start working with Evergreen Health's Home Hospice Care and look forward to many more safe and functional and happy times here at home. Abundant thanks to Ellen's companion and caregiver Rachel, to our generous and tireless families, and to the wonderful communities of friends we have enjoyed at Inglewood Golf Club, the Lake Washington Branch of the American Association of University Women, the Kirkland Kiwanis Club, and our West of Market Street neighbors. We love you all and are humbled by and deeply appreciative of your care and concern!
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