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More chemo

I’ve settled into my daily radiation treatments. They’re really quick, which is nice, but the stomach troubles it causes are not. 

At my treatment today my radiation therapist said I needed to go directly up to see my medical oncologist. Seeing as I just had a CT, this message really got me nervous. In hindsight me worrying about tumor growth made the news I got instead easier to swallow. I need more chemo. But not because of tumor growth. This chemo, which is the same as I had before but in pill form, will work alongside my radiation to make it more effective. Unfortunately, I will have to have double the dose. 

My oncologist explained that from the beginning he hasn’t looked at me as a short-term fix. Due to the advanced stage of my cancer I’ve got to think of this more of a 5-year plan. If I can get to 5 years, he has succeeded. 

So tomorrow I will begin chemo.... again, along with radiation, weekly blood work and appointments. 

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More treatment

When I walked out the hospital doors on Wednesday I thought I wouldn’t be back until June. I had about three hours of freedom before I learned that I needed more treatment. Honestly, that call rocked my world more than the initial diagnosis. 

Instead of June I found myself walking back in those doors about 48 hours later. I listened while my new radiation oncologist told me that I need 6 weeks of five days a week radiation. He said the tumor board of around 20 doctors all agreed that this has to be. My age, cancer stage and the strange location of my tumor makes this my best shot. 

If my math is right then my new freedom date will be around July 4th. Matt and I both have peace about the decision even though it really stinks. 


Nearly there

Tomorrow I will be disconnected from my final pump and ring the bell! The bell signifies the end of chemotherapy and the beginning of the surveillance stage. Woohoo!

In June I will begin my 3-month rotation of blood work and CT scans. If my colonoscopy is clear I should just have to have one annually. Hopefully I will be able to have my port removed soon. If my scans remain clear for 5 years I will be considered in remission. The hallmark of my type of cancer is the recurrence rate. It's pretty high. But I am going to try to forget all that and just keep living. 

I feel like I was given a gift by finding this cancer just a hair before terminal. Kinda scary but also makes me feel like it's a sign God wants me to make it. 

Life is very short. It's very unpredictable. Pardon my language but there's a lot of bull crap we all focus on that really doesn't matter. My life was distilled down quickly in October and I have found that not much matters beyond people.

Thank you, friends and family, for all the love and prayers. I wouldn't have survived this without your support. 

Very close!

The last few weeks I've been suffering from canker-like sores all over my throat. Last week, they became pretty painful. They hurt when you swallow and when you talk .... pretty much pain all the time. FUN! Sores are a pretty common side effect of chemo. They can erupt anywhere from your mouth all the way down to your you-know-where. 

Today I went in for my 11th infusion (insert happy dance). My doc took one look at my throat and decided to take away another part of my chemo and that I needed some new prescriptions. He had already taken away two other parts of my chemo early in this journey because my body just couldn't hack it. He told me I have made it farther than 90 percent of his patients with this particular drug.

This latest adjustment makes me VERY HAPPY. This particular med gives me lots of trouble (neuropathy in my hands and throat) and it also is the sores source. This also meant that I didn't have to have a 2-hour infusion in the hospital today and was able to get some IV meds and my pump and leave. HALLELUJAH!!!! 

In other news I tried to convince my doc to just cram these last two infusions back-to-back to get me finished sooner. That was a hard no. In fact, he giggled at me when I asked. My absolute neutrophils are very low. He said I was borderline to even get today's treatment let alone a couple so quickly. He did move my last treatment up one day. I will take it. My official DONE DAY is May 5th!!!

Sorry for the convoluted update. I'm very thankful this journey is almost over. Praying and crossing all my fingers and toes that the cancer stays away. Somehow I will have to figure out how to live with the threat looming over me but that's just the reality of my life now. 

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior


CT results/halfway chemo

Last week I completed round 6 of 12 chemo infusions. It was also the first time since beginning chemo in November that my oncologist did not have to lower my dosage. That was VERY exciting to me! 

If you're not familiar with how it works, here's a little rundown. A group of the main hospitals in the U.S. got together and created a "standard of care" for all the regular and most common cancers. This way patients can go to local oncologists and doctors can implement the standard of care for each cancer and patients don't have to go traipsing across the U.S. to get other opinions on what to do. 

My oncologist has been using these parameters in accordance with my type and stage of cancer. Each time I come in for a treatment I start by getting a blood draw. He looks at my numbers and talks to me about how I tolerated the previous treatment. Side effects are as varied as the people who get the chemo. Everybody is different. Some side effects can land you in the hospital. Others are just annoying. Each treatment mine have been different. 

I've had VERY low white blood counts (enough that the chemo floor didn't want me to pursue another treatment). I've had nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fevers, elevated liver numbers, headaches, neuropathy in my hands and my throat, blisters on my hands, cracked and painful feet, and extreme fatigue. 

When I asked my doctor how the lower chemo dosages affected my prognosis he was pretty vague. He explained that he can only give me percentages based on full dosages, which was not comforting. But he told me that this is a poison. We have to find the exact right amount. Too much and it kills me. Too little and the cancer does. Quite the balancing act. 

Today (Friday, Feb. 19) I had my first CT since October, which was before I had the nasty tumor removed. I am happy to report that I have no signs of metastatic cancer in my guts!! Obviously I will get more information from my doctor on Monday.

Monday is also the first day of my seventh treatment. I got a second wind of motivation when I reached the halfway mark. It is SO hard to stay motivated during this. As soon as I recover from one round I am sent right back in to get another. Feeling terrible is exhausting and demoralizing and I canNOT wait to be healthy again. 


How it all began

If you're here then you probably already know that I have been diagnosed with advanced colon cancer at just 37 years old. Stage 3c to be exact. Yikes. I know.

Prepare yourself, this is an exhaustive background and it's long.

The number one question I've gotten is, "What were your symptoms?" (This part is a little awkward. This is colon cancer. Bathroom talk is taboo.... but, here goes!)

Yes, I'm sure it is alarming to see somebody healthy like me with no family history of colon cancer suddenly get such a diagnosis. The doctors don't know how long or short I've had this cancer. What I can tell you is that you should never ignore bloody stools. TMI, I know.

Here's how it went down. I had bathroom troubles for a while before it became obvious something was very wrong. Thankfully, my local doc didn't blow me off and sent me on for a colonoscopy. My surgeon later told me I was very lucky, indeed.

The GI doc that did the procedure immediately knew it was cancer and told Matt so. He happened to be (hello, God) walking down the hallway and ran into a colorectal surgeon who specializes in my type of cancer. They were able to converse on the spot and the surgeon agreed to come in early from his vacation and do my surgery.

October 6th was the colonoscopy. October 20th was my colon resection. Lightening fast in this current medical world. I'm so grateful.

Question #2 - Do I have a bag now to use the restroom? NOPE! My surgery was done with robotics (which I think is super cool). He made five incisions in my abdomen. He removed the tumor (which he told me had finger-like tentacles) and 29 lymph nodes and reconnected my colon. It's like brand new! 

My advanced stage of cancer is due to the fact that the tumor had grown completely through my colon wall and was "just not touching other organs" and I had 9 cancerous lymph nodes. 

Really until we found this out that it had spread, I was pretty care-free. In my mind surgery was going to cure me and all would be well. Finding out I would need chemo and learning all the stats that go along with advanced cancer was quite the bummer. 

Covid put a damper on my options, which is annoying, so we stuck local. 

Through the entire process I had been 100 percent devoid of emotion. But sitting in my new oncologist's office listening to him talk about the fight that was ahead of me did bring a tear. In true Seneker fashion I buttoned up the emotion quickly and got to brass tacks. He told me I would have to fight to be healthy for the rest of my life. He wanted full workups on nearly every part of my body. He said he was going to be super aggressive with my health. 

Through this testing (which I'm also too young for) we found a lump in chest. And, of course, it had atypical cells. Thank goodness we found it and now it's gone.  My surgeon for this surgery was amazing and he is also helping me formulate a plan going forward since I'm now high risk for breast cancer! Fun!

That is pretty much everything. 

As of January 30th I have completed my fifth round of chemo out of 12. Chemo sucks. And due to Covid I have to do much of this alone. Walking into the chemo room for the first time by myself was the scariest thing I've ever done. The nurses are heroes to me. My family and friends have been miraculous. 

This cancer stuff is pretty tough. I'm walking a road I never imagined but will continue to walk for my husband, kids, and family. 

I've been given a gift, a chance to live, and sometimes life does not shake out this way. I'm trying to remember that during the tough moments.

This is a very disjointed and LONG post. Sorry for rambling! If I didn't answer anything just let me know. I'm pretty open about all this.