On Tuesday, October 2, 2007 I received an email from my brother's wife Vanessa saying that she had taken Stu to the hospital with intestinal problems. Things got serious very quickly and we had no idea where this was going to lead...
What started out as an simple intestinal problem became an emergency operation to remove a large obstruction, which turned out to be a cancerous tumor. A third of Stuart's colon was removed and a colostomy was performed. Fortunately, the biopsy showed no metastasis. Now he's hoping for a chance of a resection in a few months, but overall he's just happy to be alive.
Flash-forward to 2009: Two major operations later, trying to restore Stuart to normalcy. For a time his ostomy was swapped for an ileostomy (where the poop squirts directly from the small intestine) and in March 2008 the "take down" procedure reconnected what was left of Stuart's colon to what was left of his rectum. Stuart was pronounced cancer free.
But post surgical bowel pain got worse instead of better, and by New Year’s he had as many as a dozen bowel movements an hour. Harsh. A routine colonoscopy procedure in May 2009 could not be performed because a new and more malignant tumor had grown at the anastomosis (where the guts were surgically joined). This time cancer spread to the lymph nodes and Stuart went into Stage III.
Another emergency surgery took out the tumor as well as most of what was left of the rectum and, just for the hell of it, Stuart's appendix and belly button. He is a lifetime ostomate now, and must undergo grueling concomitant treatments of eight months of chemotherapy and about 40 blasts of targeted radiation.
During this, he weaseled his way back into the classroom and teaches at Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia.
Update January 2012. In May 2011, Stuart had another bowel obstruction. This time the surgeon could not remove the tumor as it was too deep in the pelvis, declaring it, per his experience as a “betting man” as nothing more sinister than "scar tissue". It’s not scar tissue. All bets are off. More chemo, another surgery to follow.
Well, guess what (fall 2012 now). The wound didn't heal because it was the epicenter of the worst malignant tumor yet. Now Stu's in Baltimore for a month, getting double-zapped with daily chemo and radiation, in hopes of a rare (there's never been a successful one performed yet) April surgery with HIPEC (in which his innards get sloshed directly with gallons of heated chemo!) Are we having fun yet?
Update May 2013: Yes, amazingly, fun is being had, although somewhat curtailed by gasping and dizzy spells and lots of scat (meaning the second, gloppier definition). Stu not only survived HIPEC (17 hour surgery), but got treated to stomach flattening (well, it's better than it was), hernia removing plastic surgery. He's less one gall bladder, one kidney, most of his major and some of his minor intestines, and his teaching job for life.
By June 2013, we found out that the cancer was back, metastasized inside and on top of the bladder, and elsewhere. Our surgical options are done. Palliative chemotherapy is his only option to slow (not stop) the growing tumors. This is the beginning of the end, and the end will come within a year.
We just intend to make it one helluva year.
Mid to late 2015. I soldier on. No one knows how, few know why. I'm home for life, disabled for life, but I still enjoy life, and (in my limited way) contribute to life. This is a great gift, which I cherish enormously every day.
Late 2015-early 2016. Over seven years now at Stage IV colon cancer. Survival rates crap out after five years. There are no stats for plus seven years' survival. I like it that way,
THE FINAL ENTRY IN STUART's STORY Stuart died on August 27, 2016, at home , in bed, surrounded by his family. If ou wish to leave a thought - scroll to the bottom of this page under "Thoughts and Well Wishes." Thank you.