Oliver | CaringBridge

Oliver’s Story
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. You can share this easy address to get to this page:  http://oliver.habichts.net/. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement left here. And please refrain from sending Oliver email, texting, or calling him at this time.  Amelia is committed to taking things a day at a time and may be delayed or non-responsive to any message she receives. Her more frequent updates are available at http://twitter.com/habichthealth

Summary: Oliver has pancreatic cancer. As of 9/17/2018, Oliver has few, if any, symptoms.

The story begins when Oliver had not felt well for more than a week, with fatigue and increasingly yellow skin and eyes, along with other symptoms but no pains.
On Monday, August  27th, arranged to see his doctor during work hours. Tests conducted and imaging were ordered for the next day. He then biked back up the hill to finish out the workday.
Tuesday (8/28) was picture day: An abdominal ultrasound detected a mass pressing closed the common bile duct, followed by a CT scan later that day to better characterize the 3 cm (1.1 inch) mass in the head of the pancreas. Such growths are 95% cancerous.
Wednesday (8/29) was fix-the-blocked-bile-duct day (ERCP), in which a plastic stent enabled the bile to again flow, with an overnight stay at the hospital in case of blood clots and for general post-op monitoring.
On Thursday (8/30), Oliver was discharged in the morning in time to go home and then attend a working lunch. And he felt well enough to work for a few hours before going home.
Friday morning (8/31) was spent preparing for a long holiday weekend departure that afternoon to the Adirondacks with family and friends. We returned Monday late afternoon, after much fun and joy. 
By Wednesday (9/5), we received results from various clinical tests, and it was confirmed the mass was indeed cancer. We know the road ahead will be uncertain and rough, so thank you for visiting and keeping up with the rest of Oliver's story through this site. Significant updates will be listed within this site's Journal entries.

Newest Update

Journal entry by Oliver Habicht

Monday's infusion two weeks ago (Chemo #5, Monday,  Nov. 19th) was one of my worst, during which I cried for the first time, perhaps as much from being emotionally drained as anything physical. Anyway, the nurses and doctor are working to determine what more can be done to increase my comfort during these almost full-day procedures. To add injury to insult, I must now take a blood thinner to deal with a newly discovered venous blood clot near the tumor, a clot which was thankfully found during the last CT scan (more about that scan below) since there were not really any outward signs of that blockage. And that drug is administered via daily abdominal subcutaneous injections. I will self-administer those for at least 30 days, apparently. Lucky for me I used to serve as an EMT many years ago, I suppose.
 
Also, I've experienced blackouts during the Monday night following my infusions the last two cycles. Each time I've discovered myself on the floor about a quarter of the way between the bed and bathroom, with pills scattered about the floor. And this last time I had a slight contusion and an abrasion (rug burn!) on my head. We have confidence we have figured out how to avoid any such repeat this coming Monday. Always a good thing to avoid falls and bleeding, and especially now that I'm on a blood thinner! I wished I had a camera rolling during the events, if nothing else to create some great click-bait on YouTube because they must have been a funny sight, even as potentially dangerous as such falls can be.
 
Our family has suffered other personal setbacks these past two weeks not directly related to my cancer (and not publicly shareable), so that's added to our stress. A shout-out to neighbor Mollie who came to sit with me when I was alone and needed someone to talk to- fabulous. We are now back to a more even keel. Phew.
 
The last CT scan's results were "good", other than the discovery of the blood clot. Info about the clot was conveyed in time to our nurses on Monday to start me on the blood thinner. By otherwise "good" we mean that the CT showed no evidence that the cancer spread elsewhere (metastasized), including within the liver. The one still slightly-enlarged lymph node may or may not mean anything, as from before. And the slightly reduced size of the tumor provides some evidence that the chemo is having the hoped-for effect. So we are staying the course which means at least 3 more bi-weekly infusions until the next CT scan about 10 days following my Dec. 31st infusion. This schedule all presumes we don't end up having to "pass" on an infusion due to an untimely fever, etc.
 
I finally received paperwork from New York State to permit me to obtain medical marijuana, with the closest dispensary being in Syracuse. We'll see how that goes this weekend when I go for a consult and buy some product, and we'll then see the degree to which it might help me next week. It's a cash-only business and requires other mechanics, including associated delays and registrations, which one does not observe when dealing with pharma-created drugs, even their prescribed drugs with a much, much higher potential to create personal and/or social harm. Interesting, isn't it?
 
Looking even far ahead, possible choices following the expected January CT scan are to continue the infusions to keep knocking the cancerous cells down (wherever they may be), if my body can tolerate it. Or schedule aggressive surgery (or radiation, or something else?) to occur about 3-4 weeks later. Those added weeks are required to allow my body to further recover from the chemo so it is better capable of enduring such a large physical insult. Or we end up doing something else, all dependent on what the scan shows and the current best practices, which keep evolving. Leads one to ponder, "What will physicians 30 years from now think of our current practices?"
 
As reported in the last journal entry, we were to get the CT scan Thursday, 11/15. Well, getting to and from that scan was itself an adventure since a major snowstorm came through that day- surprise! We are so glad we arranged not to go all the way to NYC for this specific scan! I drove both ways, with my mom providing me great company. It took the expected 3.75 hours to get to the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Bergen facility in New Jersey. We cleverly left Ithaca early hoping to avoid most of the incoming storm, arriving at MSK before 11am, and indeed MSK got us out at 1pm, which was when we were expected to originally arrive there for my 2pm scan appointment. Awesome of them, and indeed the storm was still not in sight! We finally hit the storm halfway home, soon after a quick stop for fuel, then choco and pie at the Roscoe Diner (memories for me from 30 years ago!). And from that point on we had no fun driving the rest of the way home with other cars either struggling to make it up hills in front of us or cars almost careening into us when a snowplow stopped mid-way down a hill in front of us. Our Subaru Forester has decent all-seasons so we mostly spent our energies avoid other cars not staying in their lanes and trailing slowly behind others. We made it home safely, but it obviously took hours longer than our trip down. We were prepared to overnight at a hotel, but it never came to feel that unsafe. All's well that ends well, even taking into account so many ups and downs.
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