A long, long time ago (well, it was actually 1994) in a galaxy far, far away (OK, it was her in Pennsylvania) the doctor discovered a carcinoid (cancerous) tumor in my stomach, and I had surgery to remove it. A year and a half later, another one was found in a lymph node outside my stomach, and I had surgery to remove that one. I had an enlarged lymph node, which my oncologist referred to as an "anomaly," but subsequent CT scans and other tests revealed no further activity, as there had been with the second tumor. These reports of no activity continued for years, even as the monitoring grew farther and farther apart, and finally stopped after 15 years.
Fast forward to the present: I experienced severe stomach pain this past August. I went to the doctor thinking it was my gall bladder. He thought so too, and sent me for further tests. These revealed no problems with my gall bladder, but an elevated white blood cell count. I took an antibiotic, felt better, and resumed my life, including my annual 100K bike ride.
But I would experience weird episodes every 2 1/2-3 weeks: chills and fever, loss of energy and appetite, that would last a day or so and then subside. My doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist. Was it my gall bladder or appendix, or some weird African virus I had picked up in Ethiopia in March? The doctor performed an EGD, a scope down my throat, to take biopsies. He discovered a mass in my stomach, and took biopsies of that and other tissue. He also saw elevated liver counts and scheduled a CT scan and began the referral process to Hershey Medical Center, which has a surgical oncological group. At the same time I began to suffer from liver problem symptoms, including jaundice and severe itching.
The CT scan showed the tumor had grown and was touching my liver. The Hershey doctor referred me to get biopsies to determine the nature of the tumors (slow growing or fast growing) and if they were related to the original carcinoid tumor. Meanwhile I got medicine to relieve the itching and had a hidascan done, to determine if there was any duct blockage. There was none.
The biopsies were done November 14 and showed that all the tumors were slow growing. This meant that chemotherapy was not a treatment option. (I had been told in the past that with slow-growing carcinoid tumors, the chemo will kill you before it shrinks the tumor, and that is apparently still true.) I also had an MRI done to look for any further tumors and an EKG to confirm that my heart is healthy enough for surgery (good news: I have a healthy heart!)
In my last visit to Hershey on December 2, we found that the tumors were widespread throughout my abdomen: impacting up to half my liver, part of my pancreas, and 1 adrenal gland. In addition, tumors are either touching or in my spleen, gall bladder, diaphragm, and other body parts. These they hope to pull the tumor away from, but will remove these parts if the tumor has infected them. This surgery, scheduled for December 12, will be major: 7-8 hours with 2 surgeons (someone asked me if they will tag-team or work concurrently, and I'm not sure). I will be in the hospital 10-14 days, and recovery will take a full 3 months.
God has been faithful through all this. My liver symptoms are gone, including the itching. I am experiencing no symptoms at all except for getting tired more easily. Kim and I feel the prayer support and appreciate the words of encouragement. We definitely feel the peace that passes understanding. While I would not categorize this as a 'fun' experience, I can see God's hand at work and intend to give Him all the glory as He works through this situation.