Here’s another TMI edition of my recent medical issues. You can get the first part here. If not really interested, don’t click read more.
Since the last post about this I’ve had my CT scan and MRI. I’ve also had a PET scan and another biopsy, along with surgery to implant a port for chemotherapy.
After meeting with the doctors, whom we are really pleased with by the way (in the approximately 15 minutes between meeting one and then another they had already been talking about how to treat my cancer), I was feeling rather anxious about the near certainty of having to deal with a permanent colostamy bag. The surgeon said there was a small chance that after the chemo and radiation treatments he might not have to take as large of chunk out of my rectum and the colostamy bag would only be temporary. I know they aren’t debilitating or require a large lifestyle change, as one of my uncle’s friends has had one for about 50 years and is now retired from the Highway Patrol, and one of my former supervisors had one from the late ’60s until his death a couple of years ago. But any lifestyle change was seeming like a hurdle.
There were a couple of suspicious spots on my adrenal gland and in my lungs that showed up on the MRI/CT scan images. But they didn’t show up on the PET scan as indicating cancer. So it was looking like all the cancer was located in my rectum with both a tumor and having spread to my lymph nodes nearby. So it was looking like Stage 3 rectal cancer, which the doctor’s felt was very treatable with a high rate of success (around 70% they said).
Then on Tuesday the radiation oncologist called with results of the biopsy they took of one of the spots on my lung. It came back as being cancerous. Making my diagnosis now Stage 4 rectal cancer and cutting the expected successful treatment rate nearly in half (around 40% they said).
In seconds I went from anxiety about having to deal with a colostamy bag to just hoping that I get out of this year alive, and if I’m lucky I might get to see my 10 year old daughter graduate high school. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. The depression that set in Tuesday night has eased somewhat over the last several days as I’ve talked to various people about it, but I’m still not fully back to being optimistic about things. The psychologist I started seeing last week gave me some things to work on. But mostly I’ve just been trying not to think about things.
I started chemo a couple of weeks ago, and have another round this week. Right now it’s supposed to be about 4 months of chemo every other week, followed by radiation and then surgery at the end. The pain meds the chemo oncologist put me on are working well. I’ve been able to sleep a little better than I was before, though since Tuesday I’m back to waking up in the middle of the night and having difficulty falling back asleep. Hopefully that will get better with time.
And I have lots of time to use at work. Between sick leave and vacation I have around eight to nine months of time off I can use. That will hopefully be more than enough as I’m planning on working as much as possible during this. I kind of need to work just to take my mind off things and keep everything as normal as possible. I didn’t want to go to work on Wednesday this past week, but I made myself go instead of just curling up in bed under the covers and feeling sorry for myself. I think it helped my psychological well being.
When we met with the pastor the other night he suggested various verses we could use to help us focus on when feeling down and/or anxious. One of my wife’s coworkers gave us all small crosses carved from olive wood with the verse of Psalm 56:3, “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” It gives us something tangible to hold onto when worried. Another one I like is Psalm 112;7-8, “They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” I need to remind myself that this is just the beginning, and I can still fight like hell to overcome this setback in my life. God has always taken care of me in the past, and I believe he will continue to do so now.
If you’re the praying type, I’d appreciate your prayers. I need all the help I can get to stay positive and try to kick this bastard out of my ass.