No, not that C word.
The particular noun I’m about to discuss strikes fear, sadness, and uncertainty into those who hear it from their doctor.
I’m talking about cancer.
But why? Well, let’s rewind a bit.
In August, I had emergency surgery on my small intestine due to a perforation. The surgeon removed two feet of bowel destroyed by Crohn’s Disease, and while he was working, he discovered a 4-centimeter cluster of cells that were determined to be cancerous. He removed them all before surgery was complete. None had spread into my lymph nodes, which is a very, very good thing.
The oncology department and its Tumor Board reviewed my case, and recommended I begin chemotherapy called FOLFOX, stating they could not be certain cells didn’t escape through the small hole in my bowel. If any cells had escaped, they could be floating around in my body, waiting to attach themselves and grow. If effective, chemo would kill those cells before that happened. It would be strictly a preventative measure “just in case.” They recommended treatment every two weeks for six months and diagnosed me with stage two adenocarcinoma of the small intestine, which is a pretty rare form of cancer.
Technically I am cancer free, the oncologist told me, but the uncertainty if the cells are there is the problem. And just my luck, those cells are not detectable by any scan or test that exists today, so there’s no way of knowing if they’re even in my body. Fan-freakin’-tastic.
Many tears were shed upon hearing the recommendation, and many more came after as it sunk in and began to process in my brain. The decision for a treatment like chemo is not something to take lightly, so I gathered as much data and opinions as I could from websites, family, friends, and medical professionals I know, and went to an informational appointment with a nurse practitioner about the type of chemo I would receive.
Ultimately, I am choosing to go through with treatment to be on the safe side. I’m not thrilled of course, and I hate not knowing for certain if there are cells still in me. But in this case, I think it’s a wiser decision to do it now and get it over with, than to potentially have cancerous cells reappear in a more threatening fashion.
I also elected to have a port inserted, and I wish I could say it was an easy experience to go through, but due to some complications with my veins, it wasn’t. However, it’s meant to make receiving chemo and other IV medications and taking blood samples a lot easier. Once my incisions heal, the only hint of a port will be the sight of a bump beneath my skin. The photograph below shows the IV connected to the port.
I was scheduled to receive my first treatment this past Monday, but due to effects in my blood caused by an antibiotic I had taken last week, it couldn’t happen. For my treatment, I will go to the local hospital’s cancer center for the infusion, then will go home connected to a pump which keeps feeding me medication through the port. After 48 hours, I have go back to the hospital for it to be disconnected. Chemo will be rescheduled once I meet with my oncologist next week.
As for side effects, my oncologist said cancer treatment has come a long way over the years. FOLFOX is a moderate type of chemo, but every patient reacts differently. I will probably have a lack of energy, might have nausea, and my hair may thin, but they don’t expect it to fall out like you think when you hear the word chemo. One thing I can expect, however, is called neuropathy, which basically means I will feel tingling and increased sensitivity in my fingers and toes — mainly to cold. So I will need to be careful this winter and dress warmly, use a type of protection when grabbing an item out of the freezer, and even avoid cold drinks and foods if it’s painful. It’ll be an experience, I’m sure, but I’m praying I won’t have to deal with much.
I truly wish the train had stopped once my month-long hospital stay had ended, but unfortunately this is one more hurdle I have to tackle. Wasn’t my 30th year supposed to be a great one? Regardless, I will press on and do my best to come out stronger. I have tremendous support from my family and friends, and know God is with me.
I will be OK.