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Nov 20, 2017 Latest post:
May 16, 2018
It all started at age 16 (1981) when Rick was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The doctors kept saying it was the flu, but his Mom knew something was wrong. Finally she found a doctor that diagnosed Rick's condition. Rick battled this condition for many years. After many years of this he decided to go to a specialist. He found an excellent doctor at Mt. Sinai who monitored Rick's condition. Different drugs were tried but in the end, at the age of 31 (1995), Rick needed to get his colon removed. After the birth of his daughter Ashley, Rick went to Mt. Sinai the same day his wife and daughter were coming home. The surgeons removed 98% of his colon and created an internal pouch in place of his large intestine. He proceeded with 1 year of chemotherapy and finally beat the cancer.
After the surgery, Rick had a condition the doctor's called pouchitis and PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis). PSC is a progressive disease which causes constriction of the bile ducts and liver cirrhosis. Many times PSC ends in cancer of the bile ducts. Rick maintained his health for the next 17 years until he ended up in the hospital with excruciating back pain. Rick had a severe case of pancreatitis and needed to get his gallbladder removed.
After the removal of the gallbladder, the surgeon raised a red flag and did not like the looks of his liver. His GI doctor (Dr. Brandwein) recommended Rick to see a liver specialist from Yale New Haven. During the first visit with the liver specialist (Dr. Schilsky) in 2013, he informed us that Rick would need a liver transplant in 3-5 years. We were devastated. We continuously monitored Rick's health through MRIs and blood work every 6 months. All the results remained stable and we thought we finally beat it.
Until this past summer when Rick started feeling lousy. He was constantly tired and dizzy and couldn't stay focused on anything. His skin was very itchy and Rick began looking jaundiced. We didn't understand what was going on as his last MRI and blood work done in August was stable. During an early October visit with the GI doctor, Dr. Brandwein ordered another set of blood work and an MRI. The MRI showed further constriction of the bile ducts and a spot on his liver. Dr. Brandwein advised that Rick needed to undergo an ERCP to install stents in his bile duct and perform a scraping of the bile ducts. This procedure was scheduled for October 17. It just so happened that Rick had an appointment with Dr. Schilsky the liver specialist the day before the procedure. During this appointment, Dr. Schilsky recommended to start the intake process for a live liver donation. We were scared, but very hopeful that this would cure Rick.
After the installation of the stents on October 17, we met with Dr. Brandwein for a follow up. The news we received was not good. The scraping he took of the bile ducts came back positive for cancer. We were told that with this new prognosis, a liver transplant with Yale New Haven was not possible. There was another alternative though. Columbia Presbyterian in NYC would take Rick as a patient and potentially surgically remove the cancer in the bile ducts and perform a liver transplant. Dr. Brandwein also recommended to begin chemotherapy which won't cure the cancer but slow the progression of the cancer. Dr. Brandwein was also concerned about the spot on the liver which grew from the last MRI performed in early august. He wanted Rick to get a biopsy of the liver. Once again, we had some hope that Columbia Presbyterian would take him.
The liver biopsy was scheduled for October 27. Prior to this he was once again in the hospital for GI bleeding from the ERCP. Rick was discharged from the hospital on the 26th and went for the liver biopsy the next day. We spent the entire weekend waiting. On Monday, October 30, we received a call from Dr. Brandwein's office that the results from the biopsy were in and that we needed to come into his office that day. Once again we were scared of what we would hear.
The news was not good. The cancer from the bile ducts had spread to his liver. Due to this, the cancer is at stage IV. Any surgery is off the table and the only treatment plan is chemotherapy which will only slow the progression of the cancer. Rick met with the oncologist Dr. Kloss to discuss the treatment. Rick will go for chemotherapy every 2 weeks and get 3 different medicines. During this visit, Rick will get a pump to continuously pump the drugs through his system for 48 hours. With this pump, he is able to continue this medication at home.
We are continuing to look for 2nd opinions and alternatives. We have reached out to Mayo Clinic, Sloane Kettering and the Dana Farber Cancer institute. Thanks to a high school friend, Jill, we were able to get an appointment at Dana Farber the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Please keep us in your prayers. We will continue to update this site with any news to help inform our friends and relatives of any recent news that we have received.