Welcome to our CaringBridge website. Roy and I (Ann) will be using it to keep family and friends updated on Roy’s ongoing journey with colorectal cancer. We appreciate your support and prayers, and the words of hope and encouragement that you have shared since Roy’s initial diagnosis three years ago, and we think that this might be a good way to keep you all informed on a more regular basis. Thank you for visiting!
As many of you know, Roy was diagnosed in June 2017 with colon cancer. In July 2017, Roy underwent successful surgery at Mercy Hospital to remove a mucinous tumor near his cecum, twelve inches of his colon, and 27 adjacent lymph nodes. Because the tumor had penetrated the colon wall, and because malignancy was found in 16 of the 27 lymph nodes, Roy’s colon cancer was staged as IIIC. About a month after his surgery, Roy entered the care of Dr. Astrid Garino at Minnesota Oncology, and she recommended that Roy undertake six months of chemotherapy treatment to reduce the chances of recurrence.
In February 2018, after months of infusions and pills, much discomfort and quite a big loss of weight, Roy finished chemotherapy. His scans and blood tests indicated that he was cancer free! Roy worked hard and quickly regained his strength, happily returning to his usual activities and hobbies, visits to Hopkins and travels to Chicago to see our kids and grandkids. Dr. Garino continued to keep close tabs on Roy, scheduling blood tests and CT scans every three months. For almost eighteen months the results of those tests were “clean” and we celebrated with so many of you!.
In July 2019, Roy’s CEA (a blood marker that is used to monitor colon cancer) began to creep up. Dr. Garino ordered some additional imaging, but there was no sign of a tumor in Roy’s colon or elsewhere. We were so relieved! Still, the CEA continued to rise over the following months, and in October 2019 a slight irregularity was noticed in one of his abdominal scans. Dr. Garino ordered a laparoscopic biopsy of Roy’s omentum (a section of his peritoneum)—it revealed no malignancy...again we were very relieved! Roy’s CEA continued to rise throughout the winter, though, and by March 2020, Dr. Garino was convinced that the cancer had metastasized. Needless to say, we were sad and worried.
In May 2020, the two small tumors that had been causing Roy’s CEA to rise were finally visible on a PET scan. Unfortunately they were located in Roy’s peritoneum, and we were informed that there is currently no curative treatment for this type of stage IV colon cancer, only palliative care. No cure! We were devastated! After consulting with Dr. Garino and with some dear friends and family members in the medical field, we arranged to move Roy’s care to the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center. The U of M is one of just a few medical centers in the country that offer a more aggressive treatment of peritoneal metastasis, the so called “Shake and Bake.” This treatment involves opening the abdomen and surgically removing all visible tumors as well as surrounding tissue. While the abdomen is still open, the surgeon then bathes the entire abdominal cavity in a heated chemotherapy solution (HIPEC). After ninety minutes, the solution is removed, and the abdomen is sewn shut. There is a great deal of risk involved with this surgery, but after a lot of reflection and prayer, Roy decided that he was willing to undergo the risky and painful procedure in order to increase his life expectancy, even if only for a couple of extra years. There is so much life left to live...and one of Roy’s dearest wishes is to see our two grandchildren grow up.
July 14, 2020 — despite COVID, Roy’s surgery day arrived. The procedure went even better than we dared hope, with Dr. Gaertner reporting that only two small tumors were discovered and removed. He also removed additional abdominal tissue that is prone to colorectal metastasis. After the HIPEC, the doctors closed Roy up with a LONG incision, then called to give me the great news about the successful surgery. After a few more days in the hospital, Roy came home to recuperate and prepare for phase two of this treatment—another six months of chemotherapy 😬.
The surgical incision healed more slowly than we expected, but it did eventually close, and on September 21, Roy began his chemo regimen with an infusion of Oxaliplatin and the first round of his oral medication, Capecitabine (Xeloda). For the next six months he will continue to receive these two drugs in eight three week “rounds”. The goal is to kill off any microscopic cancer cells that survived the surgical procedure and to suppress the growth of new cancer cells. Although it is unlikely that Roy’s cancer will be CURED, we are very hopeful that we will be able to keep it at bay by managing it with this treatment, giving time for medical advances to arrive and praying that they eventually give Roy a long and cancer-free life!