Looking forward to 2020
My husband and I are amazingly healthy, which may be why we pulled through so well this year. But it started out rough and took a turn for the worse somewhere along the way.
January – I began the year in bed with pneumonia. Got up only to attend the funeral of one of my dearest friends who died unexpectedly from an allergic reaction to medication they gave him before going in for routine surgery. (Hate allopathic medicine.)
February – My hero of a husband, Dave, fit and hardy and works like he’s still in his 30’s, had a colonoscopy and found out he would have to have his ascending colon removed because of a slow-growing tumor. I attended several appointments with him, loved his doctor, and we scheduled his surgery for July of this year.
March – During blood work done the previous month, we found my husband’s PSA levels had risen drastically. He had advanced, aggressive cancer of the prostate. The doctors would confer to see which one would be the first to treat him.
April – On the14th of the month, I turned 66. Two days later I was knocked to my knees in excruciating pain. The friend I was with rushed me to the emergency room. I had had no symptoms leading up to this. As you can see from this picture taken on my birthday, I was feeling hale and hearty.
After a CT Scan, the ER doc came in (I disliked him on sight), told me they were taking me back to remove my ascending colon (seriously?) and they would start chemo immediately when I was done. When I told him I wanted a second opinion, he told me I’d die if I left. I told him to give me whatever paperwork I needed to be discharged, I was going home.
The next morning I called my husband’s doctor, asked if they could read my reports from the previous day. The doctor looked at my records. His nurse said that I was, in fact, in imminent danger, but they had no surgery appointments until July. A short time later they called to say that it just so happens the doctor was on call in the emergency room at a different hospital and if I presented myself there, he would be the one who would operate on me. I was on my way.
After a series of tests it was found that my malignant tumor had perforated 3.5 of the 4 layers of my colon, but I was so anemic from the tumor they ended up giving me blood transfusions over the next several days. I was, obviously, not allowed to leave the hospital.
On Saturday, April 20, they removed my ascending colon and a small part of my transverse colon. Instead of the massive incision that was a real possibility, the magnificent doctor was able to perform the entire procedure through a small incision in my belly button.
On Tuesday, April 23, I was able to go home with little-to-no pain and was completely able to perform normal tasks.
The following week it was found that three of the eighteen lymph nodes that had been tested from surgery were malignant. I would have to undergo chemotherapy for what was found to be a genetic mutation of the PMS2 gene – also known as Lynch Syndrome. (My daughters and granddaughter find the PMS2 hereditary malfunction easy to remember.)
May – My girls and husband and a dear friend gathered to meet with the oncologist. It was determined I would need two types of chemo, one administered over several hours in the hospital each session, and then I would go home for three days with a pump. I would be infused every other week twelve times.
The kind and gentle oncologist hugged me as we met in that room and told me I was going to be just fine with the kind of support I had with me that day. The surgeon who did my April surgery was the one I selected to insert the port in my chest that would be needed for chemo.
A few days after I had my port inserted, I sat with my eldest daughter as she had a hysterectomy. Several days later I began chemo.
June – My dear husband had his ascending colon removed but didn’t fare as well as I did during the aftermath. After nine days in the hospital, I finally told them I was taking him home. He had been throwing up since surgery and hadn’t been able to keep any food down. He had lost 20 pounds from his already-slight frame (really? men!) and I knew I could take better care of him. As soon as we got home the nausea stopped. Come to find out, the anti-nausea medicine they were giving him in the hospital was causing his nausea! (Have I mentioned how much I hate allopathic drugs?)
July – After several chemo infusions, my white blood count got dangerously low. They can’t administer chemo with the blood count that low, so twice it was delayed. Instead of being done by Halloween, it would now be Thanksgiving when I have my last round. But the good news was that Dave would not need chemo.
August – They started prostate radiation on my beloved. Forty-five days, five days per week. We were supposed to be done on the same day. It was not to be. Through it all, I have been working one of my busiest real estate years ever.
September – Daughter #4 was found to have a malignant skin cancer under her eye. I held her hand during that surgery. My oncology department found a drug that would keep my white blood count up (Neulasta) but the side effects are severe (more severe than the chemo). On day three of chemo they attach an on-board injection system to my arm. The medicine is dispensed twenty-seven hours later. Since it is stripping the bone marrow, the symptoms are similar to arthritis.
October – Dave has been doing wonderfully well with his radiation and has not slowed down. He goes for his appointment every morning and is working by 11:00 each day. He will be done on the 29th of this month.
My symptoms grow increasingly harsh each round but I only have three more sessions left. I am psyched to be done.
November – My last infusion will begin on November 25. All of my kids and grandkids will be with me on November 27th when I get to ring the bell announcing the end of chemo. I get teary just thinking about it.
December – I plan on taking the month off and taking care of me and my adored spouse. Our developmentally delayed daughter (#5 - she’s 32) wants a special Christmas. I’m thinking a beach somewhere.
We’ve never lost hope, but let me encourage you to SCHEDULE A COLONOSCOPY. Most of this would not have happened if we had had regular testing. There are discouraging days, but being part of such a loving support group of family and friends, the blessings have far out-weighed the heartaches. I wish you all a peaceful and joyful upcoming Holiday Season.