As some of you know, about two weeks ago I was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. A CT scan revealed a large mass in my colon and mass lesions on my liver and lungs. A few days later a the colonoscopy confirmed that the mass in my colon was malignant. However, the mass is so large that they couldn’t get around the mass to explore the majority of my colon, shouldn’t they give me some type of discount since I didn’t get a full colonoscopy…maybe 30% off?
So with a diagnosis of colon carcinoma with pulmonary and liver metastases in hand, Lee and I pondered life. Although colon cancer is curable if caught early, once it expands outside the colon the news is not so rosy. Stage IV is treatable but not curable (at this point in time). The stage IV sentence is chemo for life, or death within a few months. With our horrible memories of Lee’s past chemo experience, we seriously contemplated forgoing chemo. Simply have surgery to cut the bastard tumor out of my colon before it ruptured and then party hardy until the end. Perhaps we could fly to Argentina and buy a vineyard? But then my friend Tom May confined in me that this was THE YEAR that the Oregon Ducks would win the National Championship. So I got out my calculator and did the math. The average time for death after diagnosis without treatment is 6 months. That would get me only thru the first few games. The fact that for the past several decades Tom has always been certain that each year was THE YEAR the Ducks would make it to the top was irrelevant. He seemed so convinced this year, he couldn’t be wrong again, could he? OK, hook me up to the chemo train. GO DUCKS!
We consulted with two oncologists. The poison they put in your veins necessary to kill the cancer cells also impacts the good cells, with lots of unpleasant side effects. One of the most effective drugs for colon cancer can cause neuropathy, impacting peripheral nerves causing weakness, sensitivity, pain and numbness. This is bad news for all patients, but a healthy normal nervous system has the capacity to repair the damage if the toxin is diminished or stopped. Not so with polio survivors. Polio destroyed most of the neurons in my lower extremities and a few on my left arm and hand., Any damage done would be permanent, so those drugs are off the table for me. But both oncologists were confidant that there is still good treatment even without those drugs. So I ask myself, is their confidence as proven as Tom May’s decades long confidence in the Ducks? Hmmm…..
While there was general agreement in the chemo treatment itself, there was controversy about surgery to remove the primary tumor. One doctor thought with chemo treatment the tumor would shrink fast enough that we could avoid surgery. The other doctor felt the size of the tumor presented too big of a risk. My gastroenterologist, who couldn’t get his scope by the tumor, was also worried. The down side of removing the tumor is that it delays chemo for three to four weeks, but both oncologists agreed that the delay would not have a significant impact on my overall results. The fact that a four week delay would not have that much impact scares me a bit as to the overall effectiveness of the treatment, but it did make our decision regarding surgery easier. Snip-snip and in the trash you go you ugly nasty tumor! So Monday at 5 pm at the Tucson Medical Center I will get rid of the tumor, have my liver and lung biopsied and the installation of a port for chemo therapy which will protect my veins from disintegration! I heard the port is titanium…..COOL, it will match my titanium crutches!
Bye for now, Lee and I thank you all so much for your prayers and good wishes.