COLONOSCOPY IV

Colonoscopy IV is finished!

For a 2-day prep/recovery, the procedure goes rather quickly. I was in at 8:30am and out by 9:10am.

champagne_toastThe doctor had pleasing news when I woke from twilight: clean as a whistle. No polyps, nothing unusual. Hallelujah! Ever since colon cancer in 2012, part of my maintenance plan is annual colonoscopies and scans. I’m on 4 of 5, so after next year’s exam, I can move out to 1 every 3 years, yet will probably continue the annual scans and quarterly blood tests (also normal maintenance protocol) for five more years.

For a polyp garden (my colon), the crop was bad this year. Nevermind the chemo cleanse I got for 8+ months. So, anyway, I have no worries there.

I feel like an easy patient again!

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BUILDING UP RESERVES

My current job is building up reserves…

yoga_with_adriene

“Yoga with Adriene”, I call my “YouTube Yoga” routine.

Some snapshots of cancer recovery:

May

…was great! Chemo finished exactly three months ago from today on April 29. I spent May feeling just exactly as I’d hoped: grateful, rejuvenated, optimistic, gaining energy and ready for summer activities to begin! Of course it did not last beyond that, but I still felt thankful to be done with the bi-weekly routine of going in to the clinic for chemo treatments, the bedraggled energy and sickness and restarting my fitness routine over and over again. Whew! My oncologist was pleased to release me from “maintenance” chemo obligations because of how well the cancer had responded to the treatments.

June

… I’d disappointingly began experiencing some miserable myalgia, a persistent muscle soreness from head to toe, concentrating in my shoulder/neck area, and resulting in numb hands, hot, shooting pains in my wrists, palms and fingers. The only time I could escape it was lying still in bed. It would let up for a while after exercising, especially post-yoga, but would come back in a short time.

cupping-chinese-medicine

“Cupping” – Chinese Medicine

Initially, I thought the pain was lactic acid build-up due to serious dedication to my fitness routine (walking, light biking or yoga). I’d drink more water, and stretch to alleviate the tension. I began taking a day off in between workouts; I restarted acupuncture; I asked my various doctors about it. One told me to drink more electrolytes, one recommended acupuncture, massage, “cupping” (a Chinese medicine treatment of introducing hickeys to the painful spots, which I did try), hot wet towels, supplements… Another suggested a physical therapist, a chiropractor, massage and acupuncture. And still another recommended supplements and gave me additional appropriate minerals in my nutritional IV’s. So I tried (and am still trying) all of these.

Do I get an “A” for effort?

July

I have been letting off of some physical activity, upping supplements and seeing an orthopedic doctor. Gawl! What ever is going to get this pain under control? I can say that I “get” chronic pain now! I was feeling really impatient and fatigued from the pain and stiffness, and frankly discouraged and depressed.

Finally, a recommendation from my naturopathic physician, Dr. Dickinson. She deals with adrenal, neurotransmitter, cancer rehab and PT. I should increase the amino acid supplements (and quite probably what my complimentary oncologist put in my IV as well), the pain is 85% gone! Much MUCH better now at the end of July. My muscles still require extra time to recover from kneeling, getting out of bed, looking over my shoulders, etc, but my days are now tolerable. Apparently, with the fitness, I was “using up all my reserves”. My body, still dealing with a heavy, toxic chemo load in the deep muscle tissues, was having trouble keeping up with supply and demand of aminos and minerals! Dr. Dickinson urged that just because I will start experiencing more energy, not to use it. The idea is to build up the reserves. (Never mind the 20-mile bike ride at the coast last weekend with m’dad… But still I’m feeling ok!)

I also saw a physical therapist, which pointed out a misalignment of ribs near my right shoulder. This could explain why the pain was concentrating there. Muscle myalgia would pull on the ribs and neck and with them out of alignment, would just cause misery. Thinking back, there was a bike accident where I cracked a clavicle. That was 5 years ago. That would do it, I suppose. Now we’ll see what the orthopedist says next week.

The other bit o’ good news I’ll share today:

Cancer tumor markers in my blood (CEA, which show the body’s response to fighting cancer) have been in normal range for months (0-2.5). The better news is that over the months, they continue to drop lower within the normal range (1.7 to 1.3 to 1.1)!

In late August I will meet with Dr. Look, my oncologist, and maybe spread out the tests to every three months; I also get my annual colonoscopy. Although I’ve been healthy and continually improving, each test is a stress to me and my loved ones. But, I’m on the right track.

WOW oh WOW! I feel so amazingly grateful for the gracious attentiveness shown to me by friends and family out in the world and through Facebook during this time. The love is being swallowed up by my gut and heart each day, and is building up my reserves!

CHEMO – FINAL ROUND 12 OF 12

Monday began the final round of chemo. That makes 12 in all! Whew! Remarkable!

champagne_toast

Monday morning I went in to meet with my oncologist, Dr. Look, get bloodwork, take vitals, chemo infusion and IV fluids, like usual. The primary thing I wanted to know, a conundrum we had discussed last meeting, was what the partners said about my case. Dr. Look was confident that my case was unique because of how well the cancer responded to the treatments and surgery. He felt I may not need to go through a maintenance chemo regimen, which would have gone on indefinitely, same routine with fewer chemical ingredients.

To review:

  • My cancer tumor markers (aka Carcinoembryonoic Antogen or CEA for short) came down to normal range before my surgery in early January (hallelujah!)
  • The surgery was a neat success with clear margins (no cancer cells found in the margin of tissue removed along with the tumors)
  • I went through 6 more rounds of chemo post-surgery after I was declared NED (no evidence of disease)

I should be pretty squeaky clean. Therefore there is no baseline disease to monitor new cancer activity, and Dr. Look felt it would be of no benefit and possibly cause more discomfort and harm than good. The partners at Compass Oncology agreed. THAT, dear readers, is the best news all year.

Coming up, I will have a baseline CT scan in three weeks to compare with subsequent scans in the coming years. I will have bloodwork done quarterly, colonoscopies done annually and scans probably annually or maybe 6 months.

So with caution, I will be celebrating in the coming weeks as this final round wears off. I’m not much on celebrating my own achievements. Although I like the idea, I always feel that things could change at any time, so I feel better mushing my celebrations in with other celebrations happening around the same time, ie. holidays, birthdays, housewarming parties… just not my own celebration – I prefer just hitting the hiking trails, the kayaking, making art, just playing for a while. What to do without all those pesky doctor appointments all the time!

Although I was already drinking tiny amounts of wine between treatments (hey, when in Rome, right? And I’m always in proverbial Rome with my family), I felt that a glass would be helpful mentally and do little harm in my already struggling liver. After about a week of no alcohol, I do moderately miss it. But I have to say, I have some simple virgin drinks which I drink at night that I do love. Recipes may be shared! And from my lovely friend Bettina, now in Dusseldorf Germany, mailed some lovely, refreshing tea mixes that I binge on daily. Don’t ask what’s in them unless you want a photograph of the label, because it’s all in German.

The Tempest is over, the laundry list of complaints left over are all annoying ones. Drippy nose; bloody mucous; mild sinus congestion; unpredictable, urgent, frequent bowel movements; constipation (all chemo-driven); shingles are still numb, but only scars now; neuropathy in the souls of my feet; dry skin. What else? It all blends together, but I’m still functional!

I feel I’ve been pretty blessed in spite of this cancer event. I keep telling people that I aught to be sicker than I am, but I’ve had such good complementary care from my naturopathic doctor team, my medical doctors have been so on the ball in my case, I’ve been able to do most anything that I want, with exception of some side effect discomfort, fatigue and so on, I feel pretty energetic most of the time. Life for Matt and I has been on a good track, and we are very happy with what we have and who we hang out with! Can you believe all this can happen in the face of a devastating disease? I absolutely cannot, yet here we are. We are very grateful for the benefits life has for us right now. And I am so truly thankful for my family and friendships and all the love I feel from around the world! Even making new friends and reacquainting with old friends who are going through similar trials as me has given me new resolve to get through my own.

I cannot ask for more after this final round 12, except for a permanent state of NED!

D-DAY: Down to Business

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion

Matt got us to the hospital on time for D-Day,

…in spite of OHSU’s confusing, hilltop campus. It’s astounding; can you believe they built a hospital up here? It was quiet, dark and cold at 5:30am. I arrived clean (inside and out, thanks to that special body soap) and dressed simply and purposefully. Matt & I were a team, at times a comical duo, and in spite of the D-Day reality of the procedure, it was little worry to us as we bustled to gather belongings we would need at the hospital for about 5 days.

wet_dog_nose

Wet dog nose

After admitting, the nurse took me back to the pre-op waiting room and gave me moist, medicated towels that I was supposed to meticulously rub over my whole body. It felt like dog nose on the skin because when it dried, there was still an invisible tacky residue. “I’ve never, ever been this clean,” I thought.

Cancer_Institute_Team

Knight Cancer Institute Team

Each one of the surgical team came in at different times to introduce themselves, describe course of action for this procedure, the potential complications and answer questions. The procedure would last 5 hours, including:

1) Resection of two tumors on the outer tips of two lobes of the liver

2) Visual exam and surgical fondling of the whole liver to check for unusual masses or spots.

3) Finally, an ultrasound of the liver to look closer and deeper into the tissue than the hand and eye can.

And then I would wait in the recovery room for an hour or more for monitoring before I could see anybody, then I will see Matt and my parents before getting moved to my recovery unit. After that I will either go to the ICU (intensive care unit) for over-night observation (pretty routine in liver cases, but not always necessary), or I will go to a regular old room. IV’s placed, then the Anesthesiologist, a big teddy bear with jovial grin, went over his whole procedure.

All set to go

Matt & I said our goodbyes, and I was wheeled gently back to the OR (operating room) where the whole team was bustling about confidently getting ready for this complicated surgery. Some were familiar from the prep room, and others were introduced to me as they helped me shimmy to the operating table, and I faded out.

Again, both Matt and I have been through this more than we care to discuss, so a whole lot of mystery has been cleared up by our personal experience. We knew what to ask, and to some extent, what decisions to make.

Later on

I learned that the procedure was simplified because there was nothing new and unusual found in the liver, the chemo and complimentary treatments shrank the tumors down so he could remove the tumors with “good margins” (tissue surrounding the tumor is taken in case cancer cells traveled outside the tumors, and still leave large portion of my liver!

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion-terrace

Many walks along this terrace

From Recovery, I was moved into a regular old room! But I guess it was not in the cancer ward, so the second night I was moved up to be among my kin. Not a stellar view, but where this hospital is situated, all kinds of cool weather effects happen all the time. I saw a double rainbow, lots of rolling fog banks between the trees and buildings, what a great place for pictures! The food is pretty good (!!), my expectations were low, so I am very impressed. Matt stayed one more night, and the lack of privacy drove him nuts, he couldn’t sleep, and he felt a cold coming on. But he was so gung ho to be my personal caretaker! Jeez, really, there will be plenty of time for that at home, Sweetie. So, we decided the hospital could take care of me, and my husband could be his own wife and recuperate at home.

A successful D-Day down and behind me! Each day is easier, and I can see progress. As long as I can pass gas by tomorrow, I can go home.

Tee hee. Truly, that’s what I’m waiting on.

HAPPY NEW YEAR UPDATE

Hello All!

I haven’t updated publicly on where I am in the cancer treatments in a really long time. Sorry. I’ve been avoiding the FB rabbit hole while maniacally getting Hollarday preparations done. Tee hee.

Trust me, although I’ve had the month off from chemo, I’m still dealing with some medical stuff, nothing serious, just some discomforts and inconveniences!

By all accounts (family, friends, doctors) I am doing really well. I feel well; exercising, healthy appetite, seeing friends and celebrating *most* holiday events. Woohoo!

Right now I’m looking at surgery preps given by my complementary care oncologist – 4 pages of diets, supplements, etc, before and after surgery. Whoa… well it’s all good for me at least! Starting to think about what I will need after surgery.

The surgery is scheduled for Jan 8. No anxiety yet (that should come a day or two prior). Actually, it’s all going according to my plan, so I am very comfortable as things are. Wednesday, the 7th I sit down with the surgeon and finalize things. That’s it! It’s up to him after that! No pressure, Dr. Billngsley!

I’m expecting the very finest surgical work and exemplary follow-up care! I am doing my best, after all.

happy new year

Happy New Year and Ald Lang Syne

CHEMO IV

Round IV of Chemo – the lead up and follow up.

11/4/14 Tuesday

I’m anticipating the next chemo round coming up later this week. I feel very good. Not 100%, but I can do anything I need to, I can and want to exercise, I’m productive, and I’m eating healthy portions! On the other hand, I notice less energy, fatigue more easily, phantom nausea 1ce/day or so, and I’m very foggy (losing train of thought in conversations, etc). Photography is coming along as a new hobby. Even though I am fond of my images, I am still trigger shy about ordering any prints. My mind tells me that as soon as they get blown up to actual art piece size, they will turn hideous compared to what’s on my computer screen. But that’s just paranoia.

Marijuana legalized today. This is very good omen for all the dispensaries out there!

11/6/14 Thursday

Chemo Day, Round IV

Yesterday Matt and I used as a fun day! Starting with a noon-time movie at Lloyd Cinema with dear friend Frank, we saw a great movie called “St. Vincent”. Casting was excellent (starring Bill Murray), story excellent, great humor, drama, relationships and unpredictable. I love a good movie, period. Then Matt & I drove Frank downtown, and he left to do his errands, and Matt & I walked around downtown admiring the energy, buying coffees, watching and chatting with people on the street corners. Then on to dinner with my parents. We took a walk after dinner in my old neighborhood to the park to play on some fun, new playground equipment. It was really a wonderful, relaxed day, with little thought for the Chemo session the next morning.

At the chemo session I got my vitals tested and port prepped and visited my oncologist. He could already tell me the results of the blood test, and blood cell counts look low, but safe, so we could continue with chemo. We discussed the changes in the IV to avoid the nausea for this round. He cautioned that at this point (round 4) my bone marrow is getting fatigued and is not producing blood cells, red or white, as quickly as before. This will affect my immunity, so I must be extra cautious about germs in public places. I also learned from my nurse that my exuberant attempts to gain weight when I feel well and hungry are not all necessary, and this is because the IV’s I’m given are chock full of calories to help boost my energy and tolerance of the medicine. No wonder I am gaining weight instead of losing it! …Foiled again!!

11/7/14 Friday

Community Acupuncture Day! I was a bit slow this morning, the day after chemo day. Nausea started last night, but fortunately I was able to get ahead of it with a few vial puffs of the medical marijuana vaporizer pen. It makes my lungs hurt and tastes horrible, but then there wasn’t a nausea problem. Until the toke, I was kind of a waste upstairs in bed. I ate a lovely meal that Matt cooked, and we watched a really good vampire movie. An aside: Aside from the vampire theme, which I’m guessing by now everyone is tired of (at least, I can speak for myself), this movie starred some wonderful, yet lesser known, actors. The movie was surprisingly thrilling, suspenseful and sweet with good relationships; another good one! (Called, “Let Me In”). Because of a vampire/witch novel gifted to me by Bonnie Bennett, a long-time, dear family friend, I could catch Matt up on the background of vampires and witches as I knew it, which gave the movie more depth and understanding. Matt was really pleased that I knew about vampires.

Today I had acupuncture, and I felt very relaxed while there. Afterward, I learned from Dr. Look’s office that my cancer marker is down since last month. A drop from 48 to 19.2 points, so it’s dropped over half in a month! The combination of the chemo, the medical marijuana oil, the nutrient support IV therapy, the cancer-fighting supplements, all must be working! High five! Do you hear that, Mary in New York?

I feel good today, spunky, energetic, yet not up to normal. I came home from the grocery store and did some cleaning, made pancakes (for lunch. Funny cravings during times of crisis!), Matt walked in for a short visit and remarked on the aroma of food and how much he loves that and loves me. I spent some time weeding in the garden for some fresh air. Now I am writing in bed with a cup of strong tea.

No nausea to complain of to this point, but then there’s always tomorrow…

COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, HEALING HABITS: Week 3

Complementary medicine and other healing habits I get to try…

complimentary-medicine

The healing power of food

It’s been about three weeks since beginning chemo treatments for this liver metastases I’ve got, and nearly two months since diagnosis. The first two treatments were NOT SEXY. I did not tolerate them so well. Even with making extreme efforts to help each treatment go better, I have not seen any improvements.

It’s the nausea I’m most concerned with. The first two days of a treatment are fine, then when the chemo pump comes off is when the nausea sets in. Then I don’t want to eat or drink, which causes the side effects to be even worse. To start, I began with two prescription anti-nausea meds, plus one that was infused along with the chemo. Then I was prescribed another, I bought two herbal anti-nausea tinctures, fresh ginger, ginger tea and candied ginger. Plus I had the medicinal marijuana oil and vaporizer pen. If any of those don’t work, than the others will, right? None of it seems to work on those nausea days, so then I must wait to be productive until the chemo has settled out of my system.

Starting out, I found it extraordinarily difficult to keep a medication list because it was continually going out of date faster than I could print them out, yet it has been helpful. New symptoms, new supplements, new medications, more symptoms, medications to counteract the symptoms, etc, get it? I surrender! You know when you go to a new doctor office, you fill out patient intake paperwork, which includes a medical history, a list of current medications, etc. My medication list was just too long, so I’ve typed and printed a list of my prescription meds, supplements, how and when I take them, what dose, strength and duration. Now this handy list I print and give to the doctor will help determine which medications will conflict with which.

Also, I was getting stuffed full of pills each day, and how am I to know the ones need, which ones are working? My complimentary care oncologist went over the whole list and marked the ones I could leave out of the regimen for now, and ones that will be most helpful. That took the quantity of supplements down to a far more manageable half quantity, thank goodness.

Other side effects have included extreme fatigue, body aches (flu-like), neuropathy affecting finger tips, lips, teeth, constipation, diarrhea.

Holistic treatments to augment chemotherapy:

support_iv_cancerSupport IV therapy – infusion at Dr. Panutich’s office (my complementary care oncologist), and this contains amino acids, minerals, vitamins. It will do two things: agitate the cancer cells so the chemo acts more effectively, and nourish the healthy cells by protecting digestive lining (which tends to get burnt out from the chemo), muscle strength and soreness, dehydration, immune support.

acupuncture_needles_sticking Out from Feet

Acupuncture & Community Acupuncture

Acupuncture – two sessions per week; one with my naturopathic doctor, Dr. Shaver, and one at a community acupuncture session (Group acupuncture? Really?). After the first treatment, I did not notice a difference. After the second and third, however, I felt very relaxed, pain-free, and I do believe that with the chemo side effects, the acupuncture will work – we’ll see!

Medical Cannabis Oil

Medical Cannabis Oil

Medical Cannabis oil – a really, really potent concentrate of the leaf. Just a dabble of this makes my head spin, and I take it at night when I’m going to sleep.

vaporizer-pen

Vaporizer Pen – Medical Cannabis

The Pen – this is like an e-cigarette, except it is filled with marijuana oil, no nicotine. This should provide relief for nausea almost instantly. Again, we’ll see!

Continued exercise – strengthening, stretching, cardio, meditation. All are keeping my spirits and strength up and allowing me to feel accomplished.

Healing Habits:

I’ve been asked whether I follow any special diet, if I’m taking anything special for treatments, and yes, I am. Mostly, I am pretty moderate, but I do avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, grains and dairy. I drink some when at a celebration, I can’t get by without some sugar, because it makes me happy. Grains, pasta, etc, I substitute yams. Matt and I harvest from the garden for most of our food. It’s sort-of a non-strict Paleo diet, the goal is to eat nutrient dense foods. Of course everyone has their food fetishes, their “needs”, but this is a good overall lifestyle. Along with the healing food, getting some creative time, some writing, visiting with friends and family, wearing comfy clothes, “getting out”, taking naps, and…

…just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

spoonful_of_sugar

WHAT’S WORSE THAN LOUSY? Week 1

Week 1

Man oh man, I want to eat greasy cheese so badly!! But my challenge today is to successfully keep an anti-nausea pill down, and then, maybe some pretzels! Gourmet bliss…

So, since I got on the fast track chemo plan, here’s what’s happened:

port-insertion

How the port works

Wednesday AM: Port placed under the skin on my upper chest.

Wednesday PM: Chemo Class. Almost two hours (!!)

Thursday AM: Infusion of steroids, fluids, anti-nausea med, and chemotherapy drugs. Portable pump hooked up to my port. All told, about 3 hours, plus 1 hour of oncology consult.

Friday: Did fine, exercised in the AM, some afternoon nausea, then went to dinner with Matt & my parents. Getting used to pump and tube dangling at my side making sounds like an automatic soap dispenser every 60 sec.

Saturday: Vomit, walk, eat some, drive to oncology clinic to get pump removed, fluids infused. Vomit again. Home, anti-nausea pill, vomit, sip water, vomit again, another anti-nausea pill, spoon of applesauce, ginger tea, vomit some more. Ok, what am I doing wrong here!!

Boy, did things change in a hurry! I was told at the clinic that the anti-nausea pills help one to feel not so nauseous, but not help with the vomiting. Huh? Oh great. >:-( I guess this will take a lot of experimentation. This, they remind me, is just the beginning. The meds will have a cumulative effect, then I’ll go from feeling lousy to feeling, what’s worse than lousy? Guess, I will let you know!

Matt is very sensitive and feels so sadly that he sees my misery and cannot protect me from it. I cannot reassure him, but I have to say, he is really showing strength, being gentle, unlike his usual exuberant self. It is not easy for a loving partner to stand by helpless.

In the meantime, I could not be happier than to lay motionless all day long in my bed in silence!! Getting taken care of, and dreaming about foods I miss. The little things!

POUR SOME CHEMO ON ME*

*Just a little ‘80’s metal mood. 

First of all, let me tell ya –

Don't get sick in the Fall

Don’t get sick in the Fall

Don’t get sick in the Fall. Everyone you need help from is on vacation then. Just FYI.

Gawd. It’s taken way too long since the diagnosis of the cancer recurrence (Aug 25th-ish) to get a surgeon chosen, get an oncologist and to get started on the treatments. Although I was waiting a whole two weeks for appointments with the oncologists I wanted to meet due to lengthy September vacations (and who can blame them?), luck happened and late last Friday afternoon Dr. Look (my original Portland onc) called to make sure I am getting my needs met. Turns out that HE is NOT on vacation and IS available to start my treatments after an appointment the following Monday.

So today I met Dr. Look for the outlay. He says chemo will be the same treatment no matter which oncologist I opt for. He is also open to collaborating with a complimentary care physician (naturopath).

Regimen:

The combination therapy he described is 3-4 different drugs, Oxaliplatin, 5FU pump, Leucovorin, and I think FOLFOX, too. To infuse all of these, they will install a port, a small device set underneath the skin on my upper chest with a catheter that connects to a vein where all intravenous chemicals/fluids can go in and blood samples can be drawn as needed. I will wear a pump for two days after each infusion (talk about a ball-and-chain), then have it removed for the remainder of the two week cycles. At about 2 months, I take a break from the infusions, and have the surgery, then resume chemo after a healing period. The remaining duration of the infusions will be determined by results from CT scans.

Side Effects:

The first treatment is likely to be the worst, and the first few days, especially, for nausea, neuropathy (tingling and cold sensitivity in extremities, mouth), some hair loss (but not necessarily all of it), diarrhea, anemia, other unpleasantness.

When will I begin:

This Wednesday they will install the port at the hospital, I will go home the same day. Wednesday night I take a class on chemotherapy (!!) – and it’s 2 hours! Ugh, I hope they make it fun, especially since it’s the same day I have the port surgery. Then the very next morning, Thursday, I get a pump hooked up and the first of the infusions at the oncology clinic. Saturday I will have it removed for the remaining two weeks until the next infusion.

I am working out a meeting with the complimentary care physician now, and will post an update on that soon.

So, here goes!get-the-ball-rolling

I KICKED CANCER’S ASS

Kicking cancer’s ass

Wow, I’m still swimming in glee after the visit with my medical oncologist, Dr. Fischer! The news that my cancer is in remission, and there is no statistical benefit to follow-up with chemo, leaves Matt & I emotional and ecstatic!

Whew! That was big news. Matt & I both expected the doctor to say, “Here are your statistics for survival. Now you get to choose whether or not to go ahead with more chemo!”. I wasn’t looking forward to that decision, and we were both feeling a little anxious about this meeting. In spite of the potential life-saving benefits, the possible medication side effects of sickness, hair loss, neuropathy (numbing and tingling) by months of harsh medications.

My case was relatively clear cut.

The tumor was a standard stage II adenocarcinoma. The radio-chemo treatments successfully shrank the tumor, and Dr. Childs skillfully removed it and surrounding lymph nodes. The pathology tests were very extensive, and all came back in the low-risk category. The most important tests for my layman’s knowledge are:

Depth of Invasion – referring to how far the tumor grew through the rectal wall. Mine penetrated only the innermost layer, but did not emerge on the outside of the wall where blood vessels and lymph nodes are likely to pick up and spread it to other organs.

Lymph nodes – 21 of my nodes were removed and tested (standard removal is approximately 12 nodes), and all tested negative for cancerous cells.

The doctor also said, testing revealed that this was not a hereditary condition, known as Lynch Syndrome, that it was a freak occurrence… Not so comforting to me because there is still a question mark in my mind about what the heck started the tumor. I already thought I was doing the right things. But I guess I’ve got the rest of my LIFE to ponder that!
So I am proceeding with the planned course of surgery coming up in a few weeks (July 11), plus follow-up quarterly blood tests for the first year, every 5-6 months for years 2-3, then once per year through year 5. If, by year 5, test results consistently come back normal, then cancer recurrence is unlikely.

Wooooo! Matt & I did good!

And I must not forget to credit you, my friends, for the support, prayers and chants sent my way since the diagnosis. I believe a network of community support is the framework for successful recovery. Take care of yourselves and doing the right things for your own cancer prevention. Then we can all grow old together and party till we drop!

Now for the final recovery and the financial landslide… Right now I have a horrendously high out-of-pocket fee to pay plus extras insurance doesn’t cover. My days are filled with long hours of paperwork and research on financial assistance for patients. Wish me luck!

Thanks again for helping me kick cancer’s ass, and for your powerful, strong-arm prayers! They worked!

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