Colon Cancer (4/21/12)

So the symptoms didn’t go away. Bloating, cramps, constipation, and occasional blood in the stool.  These symptoms were still present. I went to my family doctor once again on 3/26/12.  He didn’t waste time in ordering a colonoscopy.  He felt that the fact that changes in my body (the testicular cancer) have happened was enough to justify checking on these symptoms further.

The colonoscopy was done 4/21/12.  Upon awaking from the colonoscopy the doctor told us he found the cause of my issues.

“There is a tumor blocking about 50% of the colon.  And I’m 99% sure it is cancer.”

“Could it be a metastasis of the testicular cancer?”

“It is possible, but not likely. Most likely this is colon cancer.  We’ll know for sure when we get the biopsy results back.”

Again, my heart sank into the pit of my stomach. I knew this feeling. It was like deja vu; Halloween in April this time.

He referred me to a colon surgeon and recommended I get this tumor removed as soon as possible.  My appointment with the colon surgeon was scheduled for 4/25.

This was a much more serious surgery than the orchiectomy.  Basically, it consisted of cutting out a section of colon and reconnecting the two remaining pieces.  I wondered if I should look for a good surgeon.  Should I trust the “small town” surgeon to do this?  How do you know if the surgeon is good?  What are their credentials? How many times have they done this surgery?

So many questions, so little time to research, and hardly any resources to help with selecting a surgeon.  That is another challenge with dealing with cancer. You fall into the medical system and you really don’t know who these doctors are and whether they are good. Or if the hospitals are good or which are the best. You are forced to pick surgeons and hospitals and sometimes these choices are done blindly and with little data.

Anyway, from what I could gather up on the web, the surgeon in Battle Creek was rated highly.  My family doctor spoke highly of him. The nurses at the hospital spoke highly of him. The doctor that did the colonoscopy said that he would be his surgeon of choice if he required this surgery.

So 4/25 came and I met with the surgeon.  He seemed confident. He answered all our questions.  He went over the biopsy results that confirmed it was colon cancer. He scheduled the surgery for Friday, May 11.

This surgery would require a leave of absence from work and would require a few weeks of recovery.

This cancer would not be dealt with like the testicular cancer.  So much for not skipping a beat.

Close Surveillance and Waiting (2/1/12)

Waiting is one of the hardest parts of a Cancer battle.  Once you have cancer you are always a cancer patient. You need to try and tune into anything your body is telling you, as that could save your life.  I had told my wife shortly after knowing about the testicular cancer that I didn’t think this would turn out good. I told her that I had cramps, constipation, and bloating issues; and worried that this cancer was in more than one place.  Another promise – she made me promise to to tell the doctors all these symptoms.

And so my follow-up visit came on 2/1 and I reported all the concerns to the doctors; shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, bloating, cramps, and blood in the stool… They told me that the shortness of breath and fatigue is normal after receiving radiation therapy. They also said that some constipation will come from pain medicine and that blood in the stool was probably nothing to worry about — probably just hemorrhoids. Take some stool softener, drink prune juice, and eat fiber … You’ll be alright.   Hmmm…  I had CT scans on multiple occasions, of course there must be nothing to worry about! Surely they would know if there were any other issues.

So off to get the follow-up Chest X-ray to make sure everything looked fine, drink prune juice, etc.

The day after the X-ray, the doctor’s nurse Elsa called me while I was at work.  “There is an “abnormality” on your right lung. The doctor would like you to go in for another CT scan.”  The CT scan was scheduled for Friday, 2/3/12.  So, I’ll get results on a Monday…  Waiting…

The abnormality is confirmed by the CT scan. What do you mean “abnormality” on my right lung?  How could there be an abnormality that quickly?  I just had a CT scan and Chest X-ray done a couple months prior???

I need to pay more attention to things.  I asked the doctor if he compared the current X-ray to previous scans.  He had not. So he obtained the original chest X-ray from a different hospital and finally did a comparison. His report — “the original X-ray actually did show the lung nodule but it was obscured by a rib.”  That means the other radiologist didn’t see it when it was originally taken.

His report was that my lungs were all clear. These doctors make mistakes.  Yep, they are human too.  They don’t catch everything.  So there was a nodule then and the nodule showed to be a little bigger now.  But the size difference was within a measurement error, so they were not sure it was growing.

Given the location of the lung nodule, a biopsy will be difficult. So the radiologist’s recommendation was to get a PET scan.  A PET scan will measure the metabolic intake of a tumor.  If it is cancer, it will take in sugar and “light up” on the PET scan.

More GOOD NEWS. The nodule did not show uptake – it was NOT CONSISTENT WITH CANCER. Therefore, all we need to do is wait and see…

The last thing the good doctor told me in Battle Creek was “Don’t be overly optimistic. This still could be cancer

The next scan was scheduled for 5/16/12.

More waiting…

Orchiectomy Surgery (11/1/11)

Good News!

The orchiectomy surgery went well. Heck, it was more than well. The pathology report was complete. I had the least aggressive type of testicular cancer someone can get.  It was classified as a pure seminoma, stage 1. And that’s only an “R” and “L” away from semi-normal. That meant I really didn’t need to do anything else at all; except watch and see if it ever comes back.  Just to be safe and, going along with recommendations of the good doctors, I went ahead and had radiation therapy to kill off any cancer cells that may be in the lymph nodes connected to the right testicle. Twenty two treatments, a little nausea, a little fatigue and I’m done!  Odds are with me (85%) that this cancer is behind me and I can get on with life. Whew, this was a close call.  But luckily I’ve come out of this (hopefully) with minimal impact.

Can Cancer be beat this easily?  Wow, this was pretty amazing. I didn’t even miss an entire day of work. Even my surgery was done on an outpatient basis and I was home in time to work in the afternoon (until the mediation wore off). Who thought you could have cancer and never skip a beat?

Now only thing we need to do is watch (close surveillance as the doctors put it).

Next tests and scan is scheduled for 2/1/2012.

Cancer is a Silent Disease (10/31/11)

Last October was a busy month for me. I had a conference in Seattle Washington the week of 10/10 and another conference in Las Vegas scheduled for the week of 10/24. And when I travel to conferences that means I usually need to find additional time to do the normal work as well. So, that month involved working extra hours, in addition to taking care of the house, attending Bryce’s football, etc. Then add Halloween in as well, and yes, this was a very busy month, and as it turned out, the scariest Halloween for me ever.

On 10/26, Wednesday evening, around 8 p.m., I decided to take a hot Jacuzzi bath after a long day at work. This was a sure way to relax and prepare for an evening’s rest. During the bath I noticed a lump on my right testicle. When I mentioned it to my beautiful and loving wife (smile), she made me promise to go and get it checked out.

So the next morning I called the doctor to fulfill my promise to Connie. To my surprise, the doctor’s office told me they had an opening and asked if I could it in. Within hours I was in the doctor’s office being seen by the doctor’s assistant. I guess I thought they may give me some anti-biotics or an inflammatory medication and I would be all set.

The doctor’s assistant acknowledged that there was something there and said it was probably just swelling. To be safe she wanted me to go for an ultrasound. I told her I was scheduled to travel the following week so I was hoping we could complete the tests soon. In compliance with my request the ultrasound was scheduled for the next day, Thursday, 10/25.

The doctor called me with the Ultrasound results and said I needed to go to an urologist to talk. He never mentioned the cancer word but the seriousness in his voice, and the fact that he was calling me after hours on his way home from work certainly raised this concern in my mind. He wanted me to see the urologist and acknowledged that I may need to reschedule my trip to Las Vegas if necessary.

Reluctantly I ended up rescheduling my trip to Las Vegas. I knew this may be serious, but I really discounted the possibility that it may be cancer. I talked about it with my nephew and he shared a similar story that turned out to be something that healed itself in time. I thought for sure that I was dealing with the same thing, not cancer.

The weekend came and went and the appointment with the urologist was on Halloween 10/31/11 at 3 p.m. on a Monday. The urologist did an exam and did not mince words. He flat out told me that he is 99% sure this is CANCER and that I needed to have the tumor removed as soon as possible.

Everything in me went numb as I absorbed his words. I didn’t know what to think or say. People who have cancer die? Will I die from this? Sure everyone dies, but I’m only 48 years old.  I really didn’t expect I’d die until 80 or 90.  Cancer certainly was not in my plans.

I agreed that we certainly should have the tumor removed and asked when he would like to do it. He asked me if we could do the surgery the next morning at 7 a.m. Wow, here it is 5 p.m. on a Monday and I’m going to go in for surgery on Tuesday, 11/1/11, instead of traveling to Las Vegas like I had originally planned.  And what about this Cancer? What did it mean? How am I going to deal with this?

On the way home, I was numb and shaken. I felt the biggest lump in my stomach. Suppressing tears was very hard to do… I didn’t know what to do… What would I tell my children? What would I tell my new wife of three years? She lost her first husband to cancer, how could I tell her that I have cancer?

I called my wife and my sister on the way home and told them the bad news; although, I don’t remember much about the conversation.

We would know more the next day — after the surgery was completed. Perhaps it really isn’t cancer, after all he said he was 99% sure; that means there is a 1% chance he is wrong.

Welcome to my blog

I apologize to anyone reading this blog in advance, for I am not really a blogger… I don’t really know what a good blogger is or what a skilled blogger does, so I will likely make a few mistakes as I stumble about using blogging media to tell you my story.  And for this I apologize…

The purpose of this blog is to share my fight against cancer with my family, friends, and colleagues. In addition to providing updates on the facts, I also will share my thoughts and emotions. So, if you indulge me in this venting, I am sure it will help me in this fight.

I hope that this blog will bring together all the people praying for me, gather us together in a virtual space. Wherever two or more are gathered together the LORD is present!

Anyone who is interested in following this story can follow along.  My initial posts will cover past time, and as soon as I catch up to today, I will continue to post real time, as life unfolds.

I hope my story may benefit others somehow; although I confess that I’m not sure exactly how.  Perhaps it may inspire someone to follow-up on a symptom and catch a problem sooner than they might have on their own?  Perhaps it will help someone gain insight into a fight for cancer and allow them to be a better supporter or friend.  In any event, I am looking for your help in shaping up this blog so it accomplishes this goal…  Please post your comments…

Of course, I don’t know the end of my story at this point, but I will start by writing the END anyway. So sorry to ruin the story but this story will end as follows.

By the Grace of God and the skilled hands of many doctors and surgeons, Philip is now NED (No Evidence of Disease) for five years, six years, seven, ten, fifteen…

I believe that our living LORD has the power to heal, and healing me or anyone from cancer would take but a blink of an eye. And if it is the LORD’s will, than the cancer that I’m facing will be defeated and I will live to serve the LORD for many more years on this earth. And if the LORD’s will is for me to come home to him, than I will go to serve and praise the LORD as his servant for eternity. Either way, we will ALL be alright.

So, the start of this story begins with the following prayer.

Jesus, no matter what, I pray that you give me the wisdom to know your will, the courage to choose your way, and the strength to serve you as you wish. Amen