Jackie Russo Jackie's Journey

First post: Jan 3, 2017 Latest post: Mar 23, 2017

Thank you to all who suggested I use this site to communicate with you on a more regular basis. If I did not respond to your text message, email or private message, I apologize.  Communicating thru this site should take care of that, as it will be my main source for communicating with you, moving forward.  This first entry will be a little lengthy, as I attempt to answer your questions.

Here are a few Q&A's you've been asking about . . .

Q:  What happened?  Did you have any symptoms?
A:  I had a stomach ache, on and off, for a couple of weeks.  My annual physical was coming up, so I was prepared to talk to my primary care doc about the issue as well as schedule my colonoscopy, because I had just celebrated my 50th birthday.  

Q.  How did they find the cancer?
A:  In the early morning hours, the day before my scheduled annual physical, I woke up with severe stomach pain.  I though it was either appendicitis or a gall bladder issue.  The emergency room CT scan revealed I had some sort of blockage.  They tubed me to suction the blockage and advised "these things usually resolve on their own in a few days".  We would wait for the surgeon to arrive to determine exact cause of blockage

When the surgeon arrived he asked me to explain what I knew at that time.  I repeated what I had been told about the blockage and that I was hopeful I could go home in a few days.  It was then, when his demeanor changed and the look on his face softened.  He revealed to me and my sister that I had Stage IV Colon Cancer that had spread to my liver and lymph nodes.  I was certain he was not talking about me, so I asked him to repeat himself.  He was the surgeon that was ready to relieve me of my stomach pain (remove blockage and resection my intestine), and then I would be referred to an oncologist for the next step in the process. 

Q:  Does cancer run in your family?
A:  No - cancer does not run in my family. The tumor grew in a area of my intestine that would not have been detected by a colonoscopy. .  If you were a tumor that wanted to live happily ever after, in a human being, virtually undetectable, this is where you would go.  Docs estimated the tumor was growing for approximately 8-10 years. No symptoms, no cause, no family history. I simply did not win the genetic lottery.

Q:  Do you have liver cancer?  Is surgery an option?
A:  No, I do not.  I have colon cancer which has spread to my liver and lymph nodes. I have 15+ tumors in my liver, so surgery is not an option.

Q:  What is your prognosis?
A:  The doctors confirmed, in July, that without treatment, I would live approximately 6 months. With treatment, indefinitely. I am not curable, but I am treatable. We did our research, sought other opinions, and decided to start treatment with Dr. Seth at Upstate Cancer Center.  Treatment would be every two weeks for an indefinite period of time. 

Q:  What is happening now with your treatment?
A.  Not only did I not win the genetic lottery, but I also did not win the cancer cell genetic lottery.  Doc told me that my cancer cells possess the KRAS Mutation. This means that the only other chemo cocktail I could try would prove to be ineffective against the KRAS mutated cells.  Once my current treatment runs its course, I will have to jump to a Clinical Trial.  My current treatments are every two weeks.  Once I finish in the infusion chair (6 hours), I leave with a portable chemo pump, which operates for another 46 hours.  Once finished, I return to Upstate for the pump disconnect and receive a shot of Neulasta to assist with my white blood cell regeneration (pulls white blood cells from my bone marrow).

Q:  Were you healthy before your diagnosis?
A:  Yes, extremely healthy.  In fact, the reason my doc can be aggressive with my chemo treatment is attributed to my good health standing and my age.  I know it sounds crazy, but I am a healthy person who is not fighting any other ailments while going thru this.  Very rarely would I consume alcohol.  I have never smoked. I have never taken any drugs, prescription or otherwise. I exercised regularly and competed in fitness programs, finishing in the top of my class, and I was working with a nutritionist.  My diagnosis was not a result of something I did or didn't do.  It's simply bad luck.

Q:  What are your side effects?  How are you doing?
A:  While on my chemo cocktail, the side effects accumulate.  So, with every treatment, comes side effects that are worse than after the last treatment.  I am managing the side effects very well.  Working everyday, and staying as active as possible. Neuropathy (nerve sensitivity to cold) proves to be my biggest enemy. I have to wear gloves to reach into the fridge or freezer or anytime I handle cold items.  I have to keep as warm as possible while outside, not exposing anything to the elements, but my eyes.  My eyes burn when I get teary eyed, so there is NO crying in Chemo! Then there's the bloody noses, bathroom issues and the inability to taste most of my food.  All manageable and certainly worth going thru to prolong my life.  

Today, 1/3/17, is my eighth treatment.  This fight is far from being over!  Fall down 10 times, get up 11!  I am extremely grateful for your generosity, love, prayers, support, kind words and friendship!  I believe in the power of prayer and the impact a positive attitude can have on your health.  Failure is not an option! 
Thank you for being in my corner!

Cancer doesn't always win . . . and together, we'll prove it!!

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