On July 11th, Mark felt a "pop" in his right upper abdomen while lifting weights during a workout. Thinking that he must have pulled a muscle, he dealt with the pain for a couple of weeks before going in for his scheduled annual physical. The general practitioner also felt that he had strained a muscle, and said to continue icing and ibuprofen . When the pain persisted, Mark went into UrgiCare, where an ultrasound showed some "sludge" in his gallbladder. He was able to get in to see a gastroenterologist on August 3rd, who ordered an MRI. We received the news on that Friday night that Mark had probable metastatic lesions on his liver. We had to wait until Monday, August 6th to get him in for a CAT scan, which confirmed that Mark has stage IV cancer of the gallbladder with metastasis to the liver.
We had a long visit with an oncologist, Dr. Joseph Leach, on Tuesday, August 7th. We were given the news that this cancer is non-operable because of the extent of tumors throughout the gallbladder and liver. Our first concern was to try to alleviate the abdominal pain Mark has been feeling, so the next day he was scheduled for an endoscopic stent placement, to help drain the back up of bile from his gallbladder (caused by blocked ducts) directly into his stomach. Unfortunately this relatively minor procedure did not go as expected, and one end of the stent did not completely deploy into his gallbladder.
When the nurse called me back to talk to the gastroenterologist, Mark was in excruciating pain and being prepped for emergency surgery to remove the useless stent and repair the perforation to his stomach. Mark has never had surgery before. He has had the joy of undergoing annual colonoscopies to monitor his ulcerative colitis, but he has never needed surgery. Once his pain was brought somewhat under control, he looked into my frightened eyes and said "it's always good to have new experiences". Oh how I love that guy. (I've attached a picture in the gallery of how I figured out which curtain Mark was behind in the Recovery Room.)
The repair of his stomach went well and, after spending two nights in the hospital, he is now home. The one good piece of news we did receive from the surgeon was that he did not see malignant tumors in the stomach, or any other organs in Mark's abdomen. It's a bummer that the stent couldn't be placed to help with Mark's pain, so now the hope is that chemo will help to reduce the size of the tumors blocking his bile ducts and causing pain.
This week is for rest (and celebration of Mark's 55th birthday on Wednesday!). On Friday, we meet again with Dr. Leach. Then Mark will begin a whirlwind of tests and procedures next week, including a PET scan on the 21st, a port insertion on the 22nd, and his first round of chemo on Friday, the 24th. During the failed stent placement, the doctor WAS able to get the core biopsies needed to determine the genetic mutation associated with Mark's cancer. This does not mean his cancer is hereditary; every cancer involves a gene mutation, and gene mutations involved in gallbladder cancers are usually acquired during life. The hope is that there is currently a drug available that can target and attack (Targeted Therapy) his specific mutation. I have not yet seen the biopsy report, but Mark's oncologist verbally told me that it shows cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).
We are very grateful for both Western and alternative medicine and treatment, but we also firmly believe in God as the Greatest Physician. We shall be fervently praying for His divine healing of Mark's cancer.
Thank you for all of the love, support, and prayers we have received over this past week. We are striving to find purpose and blessings in Mark's journey, and you are certainly part of the blessings.