For those that know me well, know that I have struggled with medical issues for quite some time, however, I will start this story with the onset of my cancer journey.
In July of 2014 I had significant abdominal surgery to help manage a previous medical issue and to minimize the threat of cancer. Unfortunately, during surgery they discovered three cancerous tumors. These tumors were removed as well as numerous lymph nodes. A biopsy of these numerous lymph nodes and surrounding tissue revealed no signs of cancer. The medical opinion was that I was cancer free. As a precaution I would be routinely followed by an oncologist, have regular CT scans and blood tests to monitor my situation. In December 2014, results showed no sign of cancer.
The situation changed suddenly in May 2015 when a blood test showed evidence of cancer markers being elevated. Additional blood tests and CT scans in the coming months confirmed the fact that the cancer had returned. A tumor was found in the presacral area (near the tail bone). A biopsy of this tumor revealed a diagnosis of mucinous adenocarcinoma. This was obviously a huge surprise since no signs of cancer were seen just a few months prior. After appointments with various oncologists, I was initially scheduled for the combination of radiation treatments and chemotherapy, however, a PET scan revealed that the cancer had already spread to various areas of the abdomen and lymph nodes. Therefore, radiation was not feasible. Thus, only a short time after my surgery (done to prevent the onset of cancer), I had stage 4 cancer and was told by the oncologists and surgeons that the cancer was not curable.
My choices were a very radical surgery that was filled with numerous risks, along with an extended, painful and difficult recovery with only a possibility of extending life for a relatively short time. My other choice was traditional chemo and this is the route I chose.
My chemo treatments started in October of 2015. From November thru February 2016 I lost nearly30 pounds and now weighed 84 pounds. I was hospitalized approximately 6 times during this time period for intestinal blockages, thought to be brought on by the significant weight loss and the spreading cancer. Each CT scan showed evidence of the cancer spreading. My pain levels also increased during this time and required heavy pain medications to even coming close to controlling the pain.
By February 2016 chemo treatments were stopped and I entered into a palliative care treatment plan to both try and help control the pain and regain weight and some level of strength. At this time I had a gastro tube placed into my stomach. Its purpose was to help avoid the occurrence of more intestinal blockages and to avoid the placement of NG tubes when I was in the hospital (NG tubes are awful). Homecare nursing would visit for periods of time.
To add to everything, it was at about this time where it was discovered I had Graves disease (a hyper-thyroid condition). I had a procedure to deal with this issue and now am taking thyroid medicine.
Another complication had me back in the hospital in mid-April 2016. A CT scan showed that things continued to progress. Specifically, the cancer had spread to parts of both lungs and was blocking a ureter to one of my kidneys. Kidney function, although compromised, was supposedly adequate. From April to the end of June I continued to see the Palliative Care physician and have my pain meds adjusted to compensate with the increased pain levels.