Nick Zucati

First post: Sep 27, 2016
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.

As Nick's wife and advocate (Becky), I am starting this page to connect people with with his journey through colorectal cancer. In the past, we have updated people through facebook, but not all our close friends and family are facebook connected so we are creating this site as an additional way to communicate.

For anyone not familiar with Nick's story, here's the rundown. In October 2014, Nick was hit with severe abdominal pain and admitted to the ICU at Auburn Regional Medical Center. He received scans and was put on antibiotics, told he was suffering from Diverticulitis. He was sent home and told recovery would take a while but to get a Colonoscopy sometime in the next year to check back on the condition.

**This is where we tell you to be aware of what is normal with your body and what is not. Coughing, Muscles, Pains, EVEN Pooping - Go to your doctor and if you don't feel 100% reassured, get a 2nd opinion!

**This is where we tell you that when you turn 50, get that colonoscopy! Or the Mammogram at 40! If it is available, there is a reason for it!!

Nick was not getting better. He continued to have poor health, while seeking the care of a physician. He was given more antibiotics, iron, and vitamin d while continuing to feel worse. Although he never felt altogether better, he did schedule a colonoscopy in April 2015 with a referral (since he was not 50 years old, this was required). This was the day we learned something was terribly wrong. There was a complete blockage. We tried getting in to the surgeon we were referred back to at Auburn, but she was not available for some time. I called Valley Medical Center and was transferred to a specialist in this kind of surgery (the Auburn surgeon was a general surgeon). They pulled strings and got us in quickly. We had the best surgeon who changed our expectations for the future.   

Unfortunately, the colon was quite affected and Nick was in need of a colostomy. This was a difficult step in Nick's life, but when survival is your goal, you find reserves you never had. We were hopeful at the first diagnosis of stage 2 with the liver looking clean and all lymphnodes being clear. However when we met with the oncologist we were assigned at Valley Medical Center and got the results of a Petscan back, it showed involvement in the liver which changed the cancer to stage 4. It was a hard truth to hear, but we were ready to fight. The oncologist put Nick on Folfox post recovery from the surgery in July 2015. We were able to squeeze in a family vacation and come back to start treatment. Part of the Folfox regimen included Oxaliplatin, which caused Neuropathy (severe sensitivity to anything slightly cold), as well as the typical nausea and fatigue. This was a concern with the oncologist, but Nick did respond very well to this regimen. Towards the end of this first treatment plan he got a scan which showed he was a candidate for a liver resection which could remove the two existing liver tumors, which were the only ones showing on the scan. So surgery at the end of these rounds of chemo was the recommendation. There was an indication on this scan that he may have Thyroid cancer going on as well, but that is a back burner thing because it appears to be a very slow growing cancer if it is indeed cancer. Meanwhile he had been managing with teaching middle school math while struggling with the side effects of chemo. 

We were referred to an amazing surgeon at Swedish. We were so excited. This meant taking time off from teaching and chemo, but to lose the tumors - we were so hopeful about this surgery. It was scheduled for January 2016. It was very successful both because he was able to get the colostomy reversed, but also that they were able to get clean margins on the tumors. This was a very invasive surgery though, and required a long recovery time. During his recovery period, both of us discussed his future care and opted to change care over to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We were looking for a more open line of communication which we had not felt at Valley. Our first contact was not a good fit, but we were getting good at asking for what we needed and ended up with what we now feel is our perfect team for care.

Sadly, as Nick was returning to follow up treatment for cancer, he had begun to show some concerning symptoms. These were reflected in his scans which were taken prior to restarting treatment. His liver showed continuing spots and his bladder wall had been affected as well, which was a result of the original tumor in his colon. What we thought would be maintenance chemo turned into another series of "the hard stuff" which he began in April 2016. They suggested that he would likely lose his hair with this treatment (with Cetuximab), but if you know Nick's hair (at age 50), it's not going without a fight (turns out he's the exception and kept all his hair). He did have a surgical procedure done to help with the bladder tumor, but it remains a concern. A scan done towards the end of this treatment regimen showed no growth, but no shrinking of the tumors. This was confirmed with a further tumor test which showed that he had a type of tumor that would probably not respond to the Cetuximab piece of the regimen.

So he started a new treatment which uses Avastin with the main chemo cocktail. This seems to cause more nausea and lack of energy than before. The maximum amount of chemo has been reduced due to his symptoms, but he is battling with wanting the full force available. He is starting back at school, so this is the dilemma. He has a scan scheduled for late September, so we are hoping for positive news with this new treatment soon.

As of right now, the plan is to pull back on "the hard stuff" as the recommendation of our oncologist which will make teaching a bit easier. It is dependent on  good upcoming scan and is the standard of care at this point in treatment. It is scary to pull back on treatment but we have to trust the professionals whom we put our trust in. That is where we leave you. As always, asking for your prayers and positive thoughts!

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