This is the first post in our journey to being cancer free. From what we have learned so far, this will be a years long trek and may have many challenges along the way.
I feel fine. Yes, I am getting older, so I have a bit of arthritis here, joint soreness there, and am unable to stay in one position for extended periods without limping for a bit until I work out the “kinks.” A bit overweight, a smoker, and I pretty much eat what I want though I tend toward healthier foods. Elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol. Overall though, healthy.
Then the colonoscopy that has changed our lives forever.
I have rectal cancer. I have no symptoms, no pain associated with this disease, nothing. Even today, after many scans and examinations, I couldn’t have told you I had cancer. But I believe those trained in such things, and they are taking this very seriously. As such, so are we. I have quit smoking — the last cigarette on the day before labor day — as it might be a contributor, and the doctor will not perform surgery until I have not smoked for at least 30 days.
Julie and I made several trips to Portland for surgical and oncological consults. We now have a general idea of the treatment plan:
- First, radiation treatments with chemo-therapy to assist.
- 25 days of radiation and chemo over 6 weeks.
- Every week day, weekends off.
- A rest period, as the radiation is allowed to finish its job and my body heals.
- 6 to 12 weeks.
- Surgery to cut out whats left of the cancer.
- 4+ weeks to heal after surgery.
- This surgery will give me a temporary colostomy bag.
- More chemo.
- 6 months of stronger chemo-therapy.
- Heal in preparation for next surgery.
- Depending on blood counts 4+ weeks.
- Surgery to put my pieces-parts back together.
- Remove the temporary colostomy bag.
- 4+ weeks to heal after surgery.
- 2 years of monitoring including a colonoscopy every 3 months.
- 3 years of monitoring including a colonoscopy every 6 months.
Thats the plan right now, subject to change from an uncountable number of things.
Prior to today, Julie and I have been to the Portland facility several times for consults and preparation. One of the things done in preparation for radiation therapy was the creation of a lower body form. It is like a foam form shaped to hold my legs and hips in a fixed position. This is important to ensure the radiation treatment always hits the correct area each time. The doctor creating the form said that even a change in the angle of my ankles can change the internal placement of my pieces-parts. This form will be used to place me precisely for each radiation treatment.
Tomorrow, Julie and I head to Portland. Dear friends of ours — David and Tambri — have loaned us the use of their 22 foot RV to stay in during this first step of the treatment. They are pulling it up and helping us get settled in. The destination is a two spot RV park located on the Vancouver, WA VA campus. This is where I will live during this first step, radiation treatment with chemo assist. Julie will also be staying here four or five days of every week to take care of me as we battle this.
As a side note: CT Scans and MRIs used to prepare for this have shown two spots on my liver. Doctors say they cannot tell if they are benign or a spread of cancer. Two of my lymph nodes near the tumor site in my rectum might have been affected by cancer, so it is possible the liver spots are also cancerous. My oncologist says we will check these spots after the chemo therapy is complete; if they are still there, they are not cancerous. If they disappear (therefore affected by the chemo) they are cancerous, and the surgeon may have to make plans to dig around in my liver.
Right now, Julie is my Rock.