The C Word

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.

Cancer CellsIn 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.

cancer-port

(Photo by Justin McKee)

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.

—K

About Karin

Journalist, singer, reader, movie fanatic, photography buff, GVSU alum, wanna-be-Brit, Crohn's fighter, Coca-Cola addict, animal lover, not a kid person, hater of winter, Michigander
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23 Responses to The C Word

  1. Jashana says:

    Oh Karin I’m so sorry to hear that! I’m glad to hear that it sounds like they caught it pretty early and will be able to take preventative measures, but I can only imagine how difficult that uncertainty must be. My heart goes out to you, and I certainly hope that your side effects from the chemo are few and far between! <3

    • Karin says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Jashana. I’m starting to think the perforation was the (sucky) gateway to finding out I had those cells in me. But I’m glad they were found, too.

    • Kimberly Mendes says:

      Karin, do you like tea? I LOVE tea. Always have. And I read something neat the other day that reminded me of you and your current journey. “Christians are like tea bags. It’s only when they get into hot water that you find out how strong they are.” (-Anonymous) Karin, you are soooooo strong. We’ve seen it over the past couple months. And I know God will continue to fill you with His strength and keep you going. Wait and see just how far you’ll get. Holding you close, always, in love & prayer. Maybe we can even share a cup of tea one of these days? Who knows? Hugs, Kimmie

  2. Stacey Stahl says:

    Personally, I get cranky when I’m in the middle of something that I’m not in control over or don’t have enough information about. I would be crazy in your situation, Karin. You sound like you’ve processed through the ambiguity and are depending upon your relationships with God and family/friends to help you. Bravo. Praying for you.

  3. Deb Kirby says:

    Karin – your straight-forward approach and willingness to share this just proves what an incredible young woman you are. You will continue to be in the thoughts and prayers of MANY people. Stay strong and lean on those of us readers & friends out here in “blog-land” who will support you and lift you when you are down. Here’s to a winter full of warm lattes and hot chocolate!

  4. Janet M Schnell says:

    Prayers and hugs are with you! May you continue to gain strength with each passing day! With the Lord, family, friends and your positive attitude, you can beat the dreaded cancer word! Thanks so much for sharing your continued health issues. You are one very strong woman! God’s blessings, Jan

    • Karin says:

      Thanks for the comment Jan, and thanks for what you’ve done so far. I’m definitely not giving up, even though some days I know I will want to!

  5. Lisa Cameron says:

    Karin, Know you are in my prayers. Your mom and I spent many Saturday mornings together preparing the altar at church. God is faithful and He will not let you down! Be strong! Thank Him continually for the smallest things! You have a community of Prayer Warriors praying for you!

  6. Denise Cosper says:

    Karin

    I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis and that you have to continue with treatment. Your positive attitude, however, is exactly what I would expect from you and exactly what will keep you going. Know your sisters in song continue sending thoughts and prayers for healing to you.

  7. Cheryl Colley says:

    Prayers and gentle hugs. No one should have to deal with “C”. Each person deals with it in their own way. It has touched so many lives, children, family, friends, total strangers, and pets as well. The best I can do is continue to pray for all – the doctors who strive to help their patients, the scientists who strive to find a cure and to the loved ones who sometimes so helpless. Bless you and your family on this journey. Sincerely, Cheryl

    • Karin says:

      Cheryl, thanks so much for your kind words. Many people forget to also pray for the doctors and nurses helping treat, and I’m glad you didn’t!

  8. Laurie says:

    Karin, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers and remember that prayer is a very powerful tool. I am so sorry for what you are going through but wish you comfort and success with your treatment. Take one day at a time and don’t worry about tomorrow…God is already there! Hugs

  9. aunt kim says:

    Hugs to you. Prayers continue.

  10. Laura Taylor says:

    I’m so very sorry you have to go through this. And relieved to hear it did not spread to your lymph nodes… I think you’ll be glad you opted to have to the port put in, despite the initial difficulty. My younger son is a lymphoma survivor and his port made receiving treatment a lot easier. Thinking of you! You are a strong lady!!!!!

  11. Lori Sage says:

    Karin, my heart breaks for you, I had no idea it was so bad. Prayer is a very powerful tool, and I can tell you have a lot of prayer warriors. I am now included as one. I barely know you, but I’m praying and hoping things get better. You are a special young lady.

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