If chemo takes the rest of my hair, I don't have that much to lose.

Perry Cockerham

First post: May 24, 2017 Latest post: Feb 6, 2018
by Sara
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. Please let me know if you have any questions. We really appreciate your support and prayers! 

I am Perry's youngest daughter, Sara. As a registered nurse (although I work in labor & delivery and have never cared for a male patient older than 24 hours old), my updates will probably consist of some  "medical-talk". However, I live about 4 hours away from Mom & Dad, and I am receiving  my info and updates through them, so my facts may not always be 100%. I have invited my siblings to contribute as well, so you may hear from them from time to time.

Here's where we're at (this is the short version):
Perry (aka "Dad" or "Pops") visited his PCP at the end of 2016 for his annual physical. He had elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels (but no symptoms), so after a couple rounds of antibiotics (with little improvement in PSA levels) his urologist decided to do a prostate biopsy. This biopsy pulled 12 samples from his prostate, and 8 of those 12 samples showed bladder cancer (not prostate cancer). After a few more tests (including lots of prodding and poking of which Pops wasn't too fond), his urologist in Marble Falls confirmed bladder cancer in both the bladder and prostate. 

The plan of care and the "staging" of the cancer have changed multiple times over the past few months, depending on varying tests and different doctors' visits. My understanding is that he has "high-grade carcinoma in situ" in his bladder that has spread through the muscle to his prostate. This puts the cancer at a Stage-2 (I think). Due to the "invasiveness" of this cancer, removing the bladder & the prostate is the most effective treatment option. This means Pops will have a urostomy - basically a plastic bag will collect the urine outside of his abdomen- the bag is attached to a "stoma" created on his skin, and he will empty the bag periodically throughout the day and night. 

We are so thankful for a family friend who worked her magic to get my dad an appointment quickly with MD Anderson in Houston, TX for a second opinion. Early March, he began receiving care from a great team of doctors (urologist, oncologist, surgeons) at MDA.

Late March 2017, Pops had a surgery at MDA; the plan was to remove the prostate and bladder and check in on a suspicious part of his colon. Upon opening him up, the doctors found an infection in his colon and changed their plans last minute to remove 1-2 feet of colon and create a temporary ileostomy (his small intestine is re-routed to a stoma on his abdomen, and the intestinal contents collects in a bag in which Pops empties multiple times per day). Imagine waking up after a 8+ hour surgery expecting to have a pee bag and the cancer gone, and instead you wake up and you've got a POOP bag and the cancer is STILL inside. Poor Pops! :(

Since that surgery, Pops has recovered well.  Initially, he felt pretty awful and just wasn't himself. Thankfully, he is recovered and is ready for the chemotherapy that begins May 24. 

Plan going forward:
Begin chemotherapy May 24, 2017. He will receive two different chemo drugs during 28-day cycles. The purpose of chemotherapy before surgery is to create "negative margins"; the surgery to remove prostate & bladder will be more successful in removing ALL the cancer if the edges/margins of the cancer are a little more confined by the chemo. 
The MDA oncologist is working with an oncologist in Marble Falls, so Dad will receive these infusions close to home and can recover in a familiar, comfortable environment. The plan is to have 3-4 cycles of chemotherapy and then return to MDA (after a recovery period) for another surgery to remove his bladder and prostate and reroute his intestines/remove the ileostomy. This final surgery is expected to take place towards the end of September, although this plan may change depending on lab values, etc. that may potentially delay chemo treatments. 

God has shown us that He is taking care of Pops and Gigi and our family throughout this process, and we are so thankful the hope we have in Jesus. I believe my parents have been deeply encouraged by kind notes, meals from neighbors, and so many prayers. We are thankful for the love and support so many of you have shown!

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