Thursday, February 12, 2015

So Life Does go on

It has been nearly seven months since I have last posted and life does go on. I have been taking the chemo pill for roughly six months now, They first had me on 400 milligrams, but that appeared to be too strong for me. They keep a close watch on the blood levels for all sorts of things. It seem the 400 milligrams were affecting one of the components they were watching. They backed me off to 300 milligrams and that is where I have remained up to this point. I was told early on, that I would possibly be taking the chemo pills for at least two years, but the last trip I made to my Oncologist, Dr. Vivek Sharma, I was told that they are studying these cases and are considering moving the length of time to five years. Evidently, the cancers of some have returned after stopping the pills after only 2 years. I don't seem to have any side effects from the pills. None that stand out anyway. Many of the side effects mentioned in the literature they provided, I was already feeling from age.

I have had my first 6 month scan on the cancer and all seems to be clear. Thank God. I must continue to have my blood monitored once a month. I went to my family doctor this past few weeks for my regular semi annual check up and all of my numbers are great. That was no surprise though, since I was in excellent health when they discovered the cancer and am today. That is why it was so hard to understand how there could be a third stage, fast growing cancer, inside of my body. The only symptoms I ever had that there could possibly be something wrong was an occasional change in my heartbeat. Sometimes it would act up and do weird things, but I have dealt with that, for my entire life. My heart has always concerned me. That is why I keep a good heart check up every ten years or so.

The last time I decided to have my heart checked was in early 2013. I had been eating a bit more chocolate than normal, so I figured that was the problem,  To be on the safe side, I went to my family doctor and she put one of those halter monitors on me and sent me home, telling me to wear it for 24 hours. Upton returning the monitor, they read it and informed me that they had seen some irregularities in the rhythm of my heart. That called for more tests, so I was sent for an electrocardiogram with Dr. Mehta. He checked my heart over and decided my heart muscle was strong, but I did have a leaky valve which would not kill me,BUT he had seen something else that concerned him and he felt I needed additional tests to determine what it was. I chose and was sent directly to Dr. Marshall Johnson. Carmen and Pop had used them and they trusted his judgment. Dr.Johnson recommended an endoscopy. it appeared to be a tumor in my stomach, and possibly in the lining of my stomach,so he could not get a good read on it. He suggested I go on to a specialist in this field, Dr. Charles Scoggins, who worked with the Norton's Hospital, University of Louisville, and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.We felt if Dr. Johnson trusted him, then we would trust him. Dr.Johnson went out of our examining room directly to the phone and hooked me up with Dr. Scoggins/ Within a day or two, we were at Norton's, having surgery on June 17, 2013. Dr. Scoggins looked at the tests that had already been run on me, and he stated up front. It is a cancer. That was for sure . A GIST cancer. A Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumor. It needed to come out asap to be tested to see if it was fast or slow growing and in what stage it was. The Brown Cancer Center and the University of Louisville both came to me with papers to sign, requesting me to relinquish to them, a sample to be studied. Evidently the GIST cancer is not that common, possible 3-4 thousand cases. found in the U.S. per year. I willing agreed to both studies. I remained in Norton's for four days while they sent the tumor off and had it analyzed. The surgery only took 45 minutes since the tumor, which was the size of an orange, was sitting directly on top of my stomach instead of in the lining as they had first thought. Dr. Scoggins was only 45 minutes removing the tumor along with five percent of my stomach. He had anticipated being in there two and a half hours. Thank God once more, it was a much simpler procedure than they had expected. We waited for the result and four days later, Dr. Scoggins informed me that it was a fast growing, third stage cancer. Thank God again, they were able to get the entire cancer out in tact. No surrounding lymph nodes to be affected, so that was another good thing. On the fourth day, Pop and the girls came to take me home. Pop had a room at the motel where they provide rooms at a reduced rate for family of patient, so he was close at hand for the most part. He did go home a time or two, to check on things there, but for very short visits then returned asap. There was a bit of confusion about my check out time, but nothing to really get concerned about, since all else had gone so well. We headed home and didn't realize the trip was a bit rougher on me than we had thought. Upon getting me into the house, I collapsed in the living . I felt myself going going going, but was able to get to a chair before passing out. Thank God, once more, Carmen was there and took control. She knew exactly what to check for. She called her husband,David, who is a paramedic, to bring oxygen and whatever else she deemed necessary to revive me and get me stabilized. In no time I was better and in my bed. I guess the activity of getting me home from Louisville was more than my body could stand after having surgery and being in bed for 4 days. The healing time from the incision was roughly four to six weeks and that was rough, especially since I had never had any kind of major surgery before, but being in such good health anyway, it was not that bad. We did learn during the next few doctor's visits to Louisville, that my iron was below normal and needed attention. That would require four trips to the Brown Cancer Center in the next four weeks. Once a week. Each time I went, I would take a 2 hour session of intravenous iron. It turned out to bring the most wonderful results. I felt like Super Woman. My levels were 6 when I began. The normal range was 11-60, so I was definitely low on iron.  I have always known my iron levels ran low since I was never able to give blood on that account. I tried to eat liver at regular intervals, but evidently my body was not absorbing it correctly. Not taking in enough vitamin C with it could have been a contributing factor, considering I have learned since that iron absorbs much better when taken with  Vitamin C. It's been 7 months now, and I have had so much going on in my life during these last few months, I have had no time to dwell on the fact that I ever had a cancer inside my body and had gone through such an ordeal. I am so blessed and I know it. I am so grateful and thankful for the help I have had from my entire family. They stayed beside me through this entire journey. I am thankful for the team of doctors who worked with me and brought me through this life altering saga. 

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