Welcome to Rhonda's Caring Bridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place while Rhonda fights cancer! Rhonda has been off of work since September 12th due to her illness. Rhonda had been having horrible pain in her left side that started in late August, after visiting the doctor, he told her it was a pulled muscle and sent her on the way. After several weeks of the pain being consistent, she ended up in the ER on September 11th, where blood work and a CT scan was done with a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver and some fluid in her abdominal area. Once again, was sent home and told to see a specialist about her liver and the fluid would go away. As the days went on, her pain got worse with being unable to eat or sleep. She went to see her primary physician because she knew something was not right. The physician looked over her recent ER test and said things just aren't adding up. Her liver enzyme blood work was perfectly fine but there was a large amount of fluid in abdominal area. The primary physician referred Rhonda to more ultrasounds and to interventional radiology about the fluid. Two days later, 4 liters of fluid was removed from her abdomen and the fluid was sent away for testing. After having the fluid removed, Rhonda had some pain relief but still not feeling well. Within a few days, Rhonda received results that abnormal cells were found in the fluid and was referred to an oncologist.
September 20th we met with oncologist, Dr. Dalal, at Illinois Cancer Specialist. We were beyond happy with the treatment at this facility and the care that Dr. Dalal gave us. He looked over and over all of Rhonda's previous scans and blood work, but couldn't pin point what was going on; why was she retaining fluid? Where were these abnormal cells coming from? He ordered more blood work in the office, was going to have other doctors look at her test results and ordered a PET scan for that following Friday, September 23rd. Dr. Dalal called on Thursday, saying he continued to go over all her test and on her recent blood work noticed that it may be best to see a Gynecologist Oncologist, Dr. Sharma but still get the PET scan done.
Rhonda knew Dr. Sharma from working in the OR at Hinsdale and knew he was one of the best. We saw Dr. Sharma on September 26th. After an exam and looking at all her recent test, we got the news we were not expecting. It was either ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, or peritoneal cancer (all these are treated the same exact way). Dr. Sharma gave her two options 1). have three rounds of chemotherapy, surgery( complete hysterectomy) and finish with another three rounds of chemotherapy OR 2). have surgery first then three rounds of chemotherapy. Rhonda chose option #2 as she wanted to get surgery out of the way, start the road to recovery. Surgery was scheduled for October 4th. Even though Rhonda was still in pain, she was glad to finally get a diagnosis and start the road to recovery.
October 2nd, Rhonda woke me up at 4 am in excruciating pain and we went to the ER. There she was given some medication to relieve the pain and another CT scan was ordered. That showed more fluid in her abdomen and she now had a gallstone and would need her gallbladder removed (doctors planned to have that removed when her hysterectomy was scheduled). They admitted her into the hospital that day for pain management. On Monday, October 3rd, IR removed another 4 liters of fluid before surgery.
October 4th, Surgery day had finally arrived. We were told the surgery would be at least four hours long. After just a few hours, the surgeon who was to remove her gallbladder came to speak with us. We did not get the news we wanted to hear. When the surgeons opened her up, a large tumor was found in her abdomen(that had also been growing to the gallbladder, she did not have a gallstone, was just the tumor pushing on it). Surgery was unable to be done as the tumor was too large and it'd be more of a risk to remove anything at that time. Dr. Sharma came to give us an update, with the tumor being too large, he was unable to get an answer of what type and stage of cancer she has. The plan was to start three rounds of chemotherapy right away, try surgery again (hoping the chemo shrunk the tumor) and finish with three more rounds of chemo. It was heartbreaking to tell Rhonda this news. Immediately she said, "I have no other choice but to fight this, I have too much to live for." (note: during surgery Dr. Sharma placed a port on the right side near her collar bone, Rhonda refers to it as her "super power button" ALSO her liver looked great, so no cirrhosis).
October 9th, Rhonda was discharged from the hospital. She was given no choice but to come stay with Scott, Leonard, and I for recovery. During recovery, Dr. Sharma called asking if she'd like to participate during a clinical trial if she qualified. She of course said yes, because it wouldn't hurt anything. She had to be tested to see if she carried the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene. With negative results, she was able to get chemotherapy scheduled. Chemotherapy days will be every Thursday for the next 9 weeks.
October 13, first day of chemotherapy. None of us knew what to expect. Rhonda was blessed with the best oncologist nurse, Kate. She is gentle, caring, funny, and talked Rhonda through step by step. Kate gave great advise that during chemo appointments, other patients will become your best support group. Everyone is willing to share their story and share wisdom from their experience with gynecological cancer. During chemo, Rhonda did get tired and kind of loopy but otherwise walked out feeling somewhat good, we were all surprised with this. She continued to feel good Friday morning, asking to go to lunch and maybe do some shopping, we of course were more than happy to get her out of the house. Late Friday afternoon came and that's when it kind of all started going downhill. Rhonda was unable to keep any food, liquids and medications down, which continued into Saturday morning. I ended up calling Dr. Sharma, he told us to get her to the ER. We spent all day Saturday in ER for her to get IV fluids and zofran. She was still not feeling good; tired, achy, incoherent, chills/hot flashes, etc. They did release her to come home and late Sunday, she was able to keep liquids down again.
I know this news will shock many of her family and friends. Believe me, we are all still trying to grasp what is happening. Some days it feels that this can't be possible. Rhonda had been active, working full-time as a pharmacy technician, no medications, no major health problems and in her words, "I turn 60 and it all goes to shit."
We wanted to create a Caring Bridge page for Rhonda, where we can post photos and regular updates for family and friends out of state. And where family and friends can leave her messages during this time.
We appreciate your support, words of hope, and encouragement during this time. In Ronnie's words "I'm Ready To Fight This Bitch They Call Cancer!"