Monday, February 11, 2013

Four Years!

February 6th was the 4 year anniversary of my tumor being found during a colonoscopy.  I was having some symptoms that my primary Dr.(pcp) and gastro Dr. both thought were irritable bowel or colitis.  Thankfully, before my pcp looked further into my symptoms, she wanted me to have a colonoscopy, and then we'd know more what we were dealing with.  We were ALL surprised when the tumor was found. The gastro doc doing the procedure saw it right away (I was given some good drugs, but was fully awake) and said "See that? That shouldn't be there".  After the exam the doc came in and told us he was sure it was cancer, although we needed to wait for the pathology report for the 'official' word. I am so grateful Rich was with me!  We just held each other when the Dr. left.  Then he came back, and told me he had set up a CT scan for me that afternoon.  Things moved really fast!  I remember the nurse giving me a hug when she walked us out and telling me I was going to be ok.  That was so sweet, and yet scared me because I didn't really realize the gravity of the situation yet.  Thanks to my 'happy drugs', I wasn't too upset yet--I told Rich in the truck after to stop looking so gloomy!  Poor guy, he just found out his wife had cancer!  I'm sure he was overwhelmed! (I don't think I'll ever know how hard all of this was on him, as he did a good job of keeping it from me.  He was an EXCELLENT caregiver, and I'll always be grateful for that!)
Like I said, things moved quickly.  My CT scan didn't show any other areas of cancer (except a possible lymph node).  My gastro doc also contacted a surgeon, and an appt. to see him was scheduled, then my pre-op, then the surgery on Feb. 20th, just 2 weeks later.  During surgery, 18" of my colon was removed and I was able to be reconnected.  I came close to needing a colostomy, but am thankful I didn't!  It was a tough surgery, and I was in the hospital 8 days.  2 of 20 lymph nodes had cancer, and I was stage 3b.
My wonderful oncologist told me this type of cancer could be CURED.  Because of my young age (44),  I was given everything they could possibly throw at me!  None of my chemos were reduced, even with bad side effects.  Once he even let me get chemo when my counts were really low--the nurse had to go ask him if the orders were correct!  But he knew my counts always bounced back quickly when I had a neupogen shot, so he wasn't worried! I think it made a difference that my onc knew me well enough to know that I really wanted to complete all the treatments.  If I had said it was too hard and I wanted to back off a bit he probably would have, as I think he would have respected my wishes.  Same thing with radiation.  That was even more difficult, and I was told I didn't need to finish, but it was important to me to finish those last 3, and I did!  Although, I have to say, I never realized all the side effects I would have to live with!

Sometimes I have a hard time remembering how awful it all was, and other times I remember too well! I get frustrated dealing with painful side effects, but mostly, I am just so glad to be living life, cancer free.  I am enjoying my children and grandchildren.  My girls are such a blessing to me!  They really stepped up and did everything they could to help me get through those tough days of cancer treatment. I'm sure it was hard to watch their mom get cancer TWICE.  They are amazing young women!
Enough 6 month CT scans are coming up next Monday, Feb. 18th.  I'll also get my labs done that day too.  Then the following week I see my oncologist and have a mammogram.  This coming Thurs. (the 14th) I'll see my colorectal surgeon about the fistula, and I'm thinking I'll have to have surgery on that soon. That is a side effect from surgery and radiation.  :(   
1 more year and I'll hit that 5 year mark!  I'm going to ask Dr. J about being 'cured'; if that still fits my case or not.  I don't remember if the breast cancer will ever be considered cured--maybe because I was  only stage 2b, I can be cured of that too.  I'm not sure--I hope I remember to ask! April 1st will be 3 years from the breast cancer diagnosis.
Life goes on, and God is good! :)