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Mar 28, 2018 Latest post:
Dec 10, 2018
It's still surreal that I am creating this page for Marty. I'll start from the beginning of when this journey began.
On January 1st we traveled home from a weekend of skiing in Whitefish. That day Marty complained about be achy from skiing which was weird since he skied with Ecko, Ashur and myself all weekend which means he didn't have to exert too much to do that. When we got home to Joplin that evening we had to shovel snow to get into the house. When he was done he complained about pulling a muscle under his arm. The next morning he got up, exercised and got showered. By the time I was out of the shower he had went and laid down on the couch. Within an hour he was sick enough not to go to work. Over the next few days he got very sick. High fever, body aches, headache and fatigue. By Thursday January 4th at noon, I insisted that he go to the doctor in Chester. We were positive it was influenza as was the Nurse Practitioner. A test quickly ruled that out, so blood was drawn. Elevated white blood count indicated an infection. IV antibiotics were immediately started. Within two hours it was obvious to the NP that Marty was not getting any better and he ordered a mercy flight to Benefis Hospital in Great Falls. In Great Falls they couldn't really pin down why he got the infection but thought it was Sepsis from a strep bacteria . After a week in the hospital they were able to stop the infection and Marty was released to go home with oral antibiotics for an additional week.
The last few mornings before Marty was released from the hospital in Great Falls he was experiencing some pain in his upper abdominal area. This pain was familiar to him as he had pancreas attacks in the past. The pain would usually go away when he got up and moved around in the morning as it did those mornings in the hospital. On our way home to Joplin we discussed the pancreas pain and decided it was a good time to go see a specialist since he had only doctored locally for this condition. At the follow-up appointment with the infectious disease doctor we asked for a referral to a gastroenterologists in Great Falls . She referred us to Dr. Attaway.
When Marty was about 10 years old he had his first pancreas attack. He was diagnosed later in his twenties with pancreatitis. In his thirties he started taking daily medication because his pancreas did not make the needed enzymes to digest food. At the first appointment with Dr Attaway he did not seem to concerned but wanted to do some test to look things over. He scheduled labs, a CT Scan and an Endoscopic Ultrasound. Before we left Great Falls, Marty did the recommended labs. Around 9 pm that night Dr. Attaway called and said that the labs showed Marty had elevated liver enzymes and he was jaundiced. He wanted him back right away for the CT Scan.
On February 1st the CT scan showed a mass on this pancreas but we had to wait to see what that mass was until the Endoscopic biopsy which couldn't be done until Feb 12th due to hospital scheduling at Benefis. On February 12th Dr Attaway performed the ERCP and Endoscopic Ultrasound. Our worst fears, the mass on his pancreas was a cancerous tumor. Dr Attaway felt that it would be operable. He gave us our options for treatment. One would be to go to Seattle to Virginia Mason hospital or to a surgeon at Kalispell Regional Hospital. After doing some research we felt that the surgeon in Kalispell was a very good option. The convenience of being able to stay at our home in Whitefish weighed heavily on the decision. During this time Marty became more jaundice which caused severe itching and overall fatigue and weight loss. Marty was very uncomfortable during this time but had little pancreas pain. It became evident that the infection in January was from the tumor's location which was blocking the tube from the liver to the pancreas thus preventing the liver from functioning correctly. This caused the high bilirubin levels and created the jaundice.
Dr Sheldon, the surgeon in Kalispell shuffled his schedule and got Marty in right away. The doctor reviewed the scans and was confident that he could perform surgery. On February 20, Marty went in for a Whipple procedure to remove his pancreas, gall bladder and re-plumb his bile duct. About an hour and half into the surgery the doctor came out to the waiting room and informed me that things did not go as planned as the tumor had connected itself to a group of blood vessels behind it making it very dangerous to do the surgery. He did what he could do to decrease the problems with the liver bile duct blockage. He removed the gall bladder and re-routed this bile duct directly from liver to small intestine(duodenum) and closed him up. Nothing was done to the pancreas.
Now it would all be up to the oncologist. We got a good recommendation to Dr. Roop an oncologist in Kalispell. But first before cancer treatment could begin Marty had to heal from the surgery. A minimum of a month would be needed. So we waited for the healing to happen and most importantly for the bilirubin levels and liver enzymes to return to normal. The liver took its time to start working properly. As the doctor said, the liver was angry about its new way of working. During the last month Marty continued to suffer from the itching from this high bilirubin level. His weight dropped lower and his pancreas pain returned.
This brings us to March 27th. The first day of chemotherapy. Marty is on a treatment called FOLFIRINOX. It will be administrated on a 14 day cycle. 1st day will be about 5 hours in the infusion center, then 46 hours with an at-home pump then 11 days off. There will be12 treatments which is expected to take 6 months. The cancer is stage III. The plan is to schedule another CT scan in about 3 months to see the progress of the chemotherapy with the hopes that it shrinks the tumor enough to go back in and operate to remove the pancreas.
I hope to keep you informed on his progress on this web page. I don't promise to write something everyday but hope to check in often. I can't express how thankful and blessed we are for everyone's concern, prayers and kind words. Tina