Surgery

On October 30 at 8am, Tony and part of my rectum will be removed. I’ll have an ostomy bag for a few months which doesn’t sound like much fun but it should be only temporary and it’s a lot better than being dead. 

I’ll likely be in the hospital for a week. I’m planning to shave a few days off that though by recovering more quickly than expected. I just hope the Wi-Fi at the hospital is good enough to get some work done. With my ostomy bag I won’t even need bathroom breaks.

My rectal surgeon, the one I saw today, is the same surgeon who initially broke the news to me back in January that I was probably going to die. Well, today he was throwing around the word cure in various tenses. The sentence, “There is a chance you could be cured,” particulary stood out. 

This is now the second doctor who has used that word cured to describe my condition. I find this quite interesting, considering that back in January every doctor I met kept telling me my cancer was incurable.  

Praise the Lord!

My weight has been increasing significantly. Since I got off chemo I’ve gained another 20 pounds. I’m around the 170-lb. mark now which had been my typical weight for the past few years. Much better than my lows in the 130’s back in the spring. I’ve even cut back on the poutines.

We need prayer. 

Please pray for my rectal surgeon. Pray that God will guide his hands and that everything will go perfectly with no complications.

Pray for my recovery too. I won’t be able to lift anything heavy, like children, for 6 weeks, so pray for Leanne as I won’t be able to help her out as much.

This is a significant step on my road to complete healing.  My liver lesions will still need to be treated at a future date. Pray that God will continue to heal me.

 

In case you were wondering…

Total number of rectal exams: 5

 

September: Liver MRI Results

My oncologist called me on Friday with the results of my liver MRI and what was discussed about my case at the tumour board that morning. According to the liver surgeons it sounds like they will be able to access my liver (no arteries in the way) to remove the lesions when the time comes. They do want to wait a few months, however, as they need to see what is happening in my liver over time once the chemotherapy drugs are finally out of my system. They need to determine if the other lesions on my liver are cancerous or not before they go in to operate. The lesions are spread out over my liver so they can’t just chop off a single lobe to get them all. Please pray that the other lesions are just scar tissue so the surgery will be easier and safer.

My oncologist has also booked me in for another MRI, this time a pelvic MRI. This will be sent to my rectal surgeon to see if Tony (the primary tumour in my rectum) is ready to be removed. I should be meeting with him a week or so after my pelvic MRI to discuss those results and the consequences of Tony’s removal. Please pray for wisdom and guidance for my surgeon. Pray that he will be able to remove Tony with minimal repercussions.

My oncologist did confirm that I won’t be on chemotherapy for awhile which is nice.

I still feel great. The frequent doctor appointments are the only things reminding me that I even have cancer. 

Thank you so much for your prayers. 

September: CT Results

My oncologist surprised me yesterday with a call. I was initially a little worried as I have a scheduled appointment with him next week so I thought perhaps he had bad news that must be acted on immediately. The news was actually good. He gave me the results of my CT scan. My lungs appear to be cancer-free. The large lesion of my liver has again shrunk and the doctor is not even sure the other liver lesions are cancerous; they may just be scar tissue. He also confirmed that the primary tumour has shrunk.

To help the surgeon determine the feasibility of surgery, I’ll have an MRI on Wednesday, Sept. 11, and they will likely discuss my case again at the tumour board next Friday.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us.

August Update

Chemotherapy is done, at least for now. I was feeling great until I developed an ingrown toenail that is causing me a bit of pain and preventing me from walking. I’m actually writing part of this post from a bed in the ER as I wait for a doctor to fix my infected toe. Otherwise I feel great, although I don’t exactly look great. My rash has come back fairly severely and the doctor does not want to give me any more antibiotics. I still have some of the prescribed cream that I am using, which is helping. They are hoping the rash just goes away on its own since I am done chemo, but it is a little annoying (and a little fun to pick at the scabs).

I keep forgetting to mention another fun side effect of the chemo. My eyelashes are freakishly long.

My Freakishly long eyelashes
My freakishly long eyelashes

 

I have a CT scan scheduled for September 3. If the doctors like what they see, the next step may be surgery. I have a follow-up appointment booked on September 11 to discuss the results with my oncologist. Please pray that the scan will prove that the chemo has been effective and that God will give us strength for the next part of this journey.

July Update

I’ve actually only had a single chemo treatment this month so far, although my next one is this Friday. My oncologist gave me 2 weeks off for vacation. We rented a cottage up at Muskoka Bible Centre at the same time as my mother and my sister’s family. It was a nice, “work less” vacation for me. The kids had a great time playing with their cousins.  For me, I think, the best part was the break from chemo. I’m feeling especially normal as it’s been 3 weeks since my last chemo treatment.

Last week I met with a genetic counsellor to begin the process of determining if I carry any cancer-related genetic abnormalities. It’s a little late for me but this may be valuable information for my children. The counsellor went over my family’s cancer history but didn’t notice any significant patterns that would indicate a genetic cause. She said you would expect to see a few cases of cancer in any family tree, especially as people get older, but hereditary cancer is relatively rare. My age is the main reason my oncologist referred me to the genetics clinic. I agreed to do the genetic testing since it is free and only required a blood sample. I will get the results in a few months.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I met with my oncologist and he talked about surgery again. According to the doctor I actually only have two more chemo treatments left and then I will be having a CT scan a few weeks later (likely at the end of August). As long as the nodules in my lungs have cleared and my liver lesions have shrunk, then he will present my case to the tumour board again to see if a surgeon is able to remove the liver lesions and the primary tumour or if more chemotherapy is needed. Either way, it sounds like I’ll have a multiple week break from chemo in August.

I appreciate your continued prayers as I finish off this round of chemo (the two remaining dates being July 26 and August 9). Please pray that the results of the next CT scan will be favourable and that God will continue to guide the doctors’ decision-making as He has been doing all along.

June Update

I had an encouraging follow-up appointment with my oncologist today. First of all, my bloodwork was good and I am able to start my fifth cycle of chemotherapy tomorrow. Each cycle includes two treatments, so if you’ve lost count, this will be my tenth treatment. Four more treatments in total will bring me to the end of my sixth cycle. At that point, likely in September, I will have another CT scan. The oncologist said he will be contacting my surgeon to review my case beforehand, and depending on the results of the CT scan, they may consider surgically removing the primary tumour. That means it might be time to cut out good ol’ Tony!

For now, we will persevere through these remaining cycles of chemo. The side effects have not changed and have been quite manageable. Day 3 (Sunday) is still my worst day but it’s bearable.

Continue to pray for the doctors making decisions about my treatment, for wisdom and guidance for them, and for patient endurance for me and my family.

It’s certainly nice to hear some more hopeful words from a doctor this time.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

The Results

I’m not sure if it is actually a chemotherapy symptom but my head has been feeling a little cold as of late.

No hair John

I met with my medical oncologist today and he went over my CT scan results. I’ve attached the report below in case you like reading that sort of thing. I found the term “palliative chemotherapy” a little unsettling.

God is healing me. I didn’t quite get the cancer cure I was praying for, but He appears to be working through the chemotherapy. The nodules in my lungs are almost completely gone. There is just one little nodule remaining. There are still lesions in my liver but they are decreasing in size. I hadn’t realized how big the largest lesion actually was. There is no news on Tony, just that “the irregular thickening of the wall of the rectum is again seen in keeping with patient’s known primary malignancy.” I still maintain Tony has shrunk, as I am pain-free and my bowel movements seem to have greatly improved.

Since my body is reacting so well to the chemotherapy they are going to let me have another 3 months of treatments with the added bonus of continuing with Grastofil injections.

Being alive is nice, so I can’t complain.

I am very thankful for all those who are remembering to keep us in prayer.

I’m still feeling great and ready to tackle my next chemotherapy treatment which is tomorrow: Friday, May 31. Please continue to pray that the chemotherapy keeps working or that preferably, God would just completely heal me.  Actually, just pray for God’s will to be done. His plan is best. As Jesus said at the end of Mark 14:36 while praying in the garden of Gethsemane, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”

I’ve decided not to be nauseous on day 3 anymore, but just in case my body decides not to listen to me, a little prayer would be nice as well. 

I have been going through a Reading Plan in my Logos mobile app on prayer, and yesterday just so happened to be Luke 11:5-13, which is the verse I referenced in my first blog post back in January about praying boldly. I still find it a fascinating passage. It was a good reminder for me to pray without ceasing and to pray boldly.

P.S. Just a warning to all you worriers kind-hearted, concerned people, I may not blog for a while unless something important or interesting or entertaining happens in relation to my health. Chemo is becoming an unfortunate part of my routine, as are the symptoms. I’ll at least try to post an update before my next chemotherapy treatment which is on Friday, June 14.

My new glasses
Figured I should get a new pair of glasses to go with my new look

The kids with their tongues sticking out

 

 

CT results coming next Thursday

This post may be a bit on the longer side, but it makes up for my sparse postings this month. In case you just want the quick facts:

  • Last chemo: similar symptoms as previous
  • CT results: Thursday, May 30
  • Next chemo: Friday, May 31

Want a little more? Keep reading.

I had my CT scan today in Cambridge. It was much quicker than my last scan at Grand River back in January. We were back in the van within 45 minutes. Unlike Grand River they made me drink my barium sulphate suspension at home which sure beats drinking it at the hospital and waiting for an extra hour. It doesn’t look very appealing but the taste was acceptable. Well, acceptable enough to drink the 1.5L without vomiting. I was pretty thirsty by that point in the day anyway as I was not allowed to eat anything or drink anything for 4 hours prior to my scan, so it was somewhat nice to have at least something to drink again.

Barium sulphate
Barium sulphate

They gave me the contrast dye again. It has a rather interesting side effect while it is coursing through your veins. It makes you feel like you are going to the bathroom. Fun stuff. I found it more disturbing the first time as I was concentrating hard to hold my breath at the correct time and didn’t like the idea that I could be urinating all over their multi-million dollar machine.  This time I barely felt the sensation. The CT scan felt routine and I suppose it will be a regular routine for the rest of my 60+ years of life.

The nurse had trouble setting up my IV for the dye injection today. It was weird because I’ve had numerous IV’s in that arm. I get so many things inserted into my arms that I felt it necessary to assign different designations to each arm based on the direction of flow of the fluids inserted or removed. My left arm is my “in” arm which is where I get my weekly vitamin C and mistletoe IV and my right arm is my “out” arm where I have my blood test samples taken bi-weekly. Anyway, I’m not sure why the nurse had trouble with my “in” arm as my veins were clearly visible from the outside but she just couldn’t quite get the needle inside the vein once inside my arm. It was actually pretty cool to see her wiggling the tip of the needle around inside my arm trying to catch a vein. At first, I was a little shocked but since it didn’t hurt I was rather fascinated by the process. After the second needle poke in my left arm and subsequent fishing for a vein she gave up and used my “out” arm instead, catching a vein on the first attempt. I’m really getting used to and tired of being stabbed. 

Speaking of getting stabbed… During my last chemotherapy session, I happened to catch a glimpse of the port-a-cath needle that gets inserted into my port every chemo session and delivers my drugs for two days. The thing is huge! My port-a-cath is on my right shoulder so the nurse usually does her prep work on my right side. Often I don’t notice what she is doing due to my lack of vision on my right side but I sure did this time. I’m glad this was not my first plug-in or I might have been a little apprehensive. It is kind of disturbing though, as they really jam it in there. I find it helps to inhale when they insert the needle but it is still rather unpleasant to feel a sharp object poking through my chest.

Port-a-cath needle
Port-a-cath needle

The symptoms from my last chemo treatment were basically identical to my previous one. I will add that Sunday was probably my best day 3 yet. I ate more, felt less nauseous, and was moving around a little more than usual.

I can’t blame this solely on my last chemo session but I am definitely losing my hair. I hadn’t really noticed as I am not due for my annual look-at-myself in the mirror for another few months, but Leanne took a photo of me on our hike at Shades Mill tonight and I was shocked to see how thin ridiculously patchy my hair has become. I think it is time to shave it off.

Hike at Shades Mill
Daisy, Harry, John and Magnolia on our hike at Shades Mill

My poor patchy head

One more thing: Sometimes people assume the worst when I don’t post anything on the blog. They wonder if something dire must have happened to me. Let me try to clear this up. If I don’t post, it’s because I am feeling great and/or I have nothing of significance to report. My conscience will not allow me to flood your inbox with daily “I’m doing ok” mass emails. Don’t worry; if I am ever unable to share significant information, mi esposa has access to our blog and will post an update on my behalf.

I actually do enjoy writing these posts; my enjoyment is directly proportional to the number of giggles I hear from Leanne during the proofreading stage (also known as the making sure I don’t say anything too offensive stage). While I started this blog primarily as an efficient way to update the many people who were praying for us, I also hope that people will see how God is working through our situation, how He answers prayer and that He is in control. My CT scan might show new little Tony’s throughout my body or Tony could be gone completely. I’m cool with whatever the scan may show because God is calling the shots, not me.  

Thank you, everyone, for praying for us and for reading my posts.

Please continue to pray. 

God is good.

A little update

I’m still tolerating chemo fairly well. I took my nausea medication proactively this past weekend which may have helped reduce my usual day 3 nausea. It didn’t relieve my feeling of lousiness but the absence of dry heaving was most welcome. I did feel quite tired on day 3 and slept a good portion of the day. I ate two small meals, which is really good for a day 3.  I was mostly back to normal by day 4 and even played with the kids in the backyard awhile after supper. As usual, my rash is flaring up a bit but oh well. I like to watch my skin flake off my head and face in the sunlight. It looks like snow. 

I have one more treatment in two weeks before my CT scan. Please continue to pray for me. Prayer must be doing something because it seems chemo has been only messing me up for a day each treatment. My CT scan is on May 23. Please pray boldly that it the scan will show no sign of cancer. Oh, stage 4 cancer is not curable? Perhaps you haven’t met my God. 

 

Life is good

Thank you for your prayers! I made it through yet another chemotherapy relatively unscathed. As usual day 3 was the worst. I felt a little nauseous and generally lousy. My rash flared up a bit but the medication is keeping it from getting too bad. My throat needed a little bit of my special mouth wash today but it’s really not a big deal just a little uncomfortable. My weight has been mostly stable, hovering just under the 150 mark. My day 3 lack of eating did not have as much of an effect on my weight as last time. I had a little bit of diarrhea on day 5 but I attribute that to late night fried chicken. I am still receiving daily injections from my dear wife which is lots of fun.

Life is good.

Next chemo is Friday, May 3. Please continue to pray for us.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever

Psalm 136:1 ESV