Last night (around 4 am Saturday) John had a bit of a fever so they moved him to ICU B in the morning. This is a unit for patients who are not as critical as those in ICU A, where he was before. They just wanted to be able to monitor him very closely.
After they removed his epidural Saturday morning he was in a lot of pain (he described it as an 8 out of 10). They started giving him hydromorphone but it did not improve much.
Saturday afternoon his temperature spiked again and the doctors were worried he had developed an infection. They did a CT scan and an X-ray in the evening. His Mom was with him while this happened and kept me up to date. I came back to the hospital after tucking the kids into bed, leaving my parents to sleep on the couches in our living room. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)
After reviewing the scans, the doctor said he is stable enough to avoid doing surgery tonight. He will remain in ICU B overnight and they will continue giving him antibiotics for the infection as well as hydromorphone for the pain. Another complication shown on the CT scan was an ileus in his small bowel, meaning a buildup of material that has stopped moving through his intestines, leading to swelling, pain, and potential blockage.
The other unpleasant thing he had to endure tonight was the insertion of a nasogastric tube through his nose to his stomach. This was to help drain some of the stomach juices and relieve some of the painful pressure in his abdomen.
I should also mention that the good news is, he has started having bowel movements again, but there was a little bit of blood in his stool. Not enough to make them rush him to the operating table but enough that they want to keep an eye on his hemoglobin to make sure it’s not dropping. The CT scan showed that this blood was coming from the same site that was bleeding before, but thankfully it is not bleeding as profusely. Hopefully it starts to heal on its own.
The nurse sent me home to get some rest so that is what I am going to do. Please keep praying.
Today John was deemed well enough to be moved from the ICU to the surgical floor. Praise God! He was able to sit up in a chair for a couple hours and started on a clear fluids (and jello) diet. No more bleeding. It sounds like he will continue his recovery there until he meets the criteria to go home. Basically he needs to be able to walk, eat, drink and go to the bathroom on his own.
They removed the catheter from his neck as it was no longer needed for quick intravenous access and blood monitoring. I missed the removal procedure but apparently the nurse satisfied his curiosity and let him admire the 5-inch long object that had been in his jugular.
After doing an ultrasound to check for blood clots in his legs, they gave him compression stockings to wear as a routine precaution. Once he gets up and walking again this risk will be reduced.
He is also supposed to chew gum several times a day to help get his digestive system working again. Fun!
The kids and I miss him a lot and can’t wait till he can come home. We visited him this afternoon and then he called to say goodnight before they went to bed. It’s good to see him looking better everyday. To each person who reads this blog I want to say: Thank you for praying along with us and for reminding me we’re not alone! I hope that you are as encouraged as I am to see how our powerful and loving God is answering our prayers.
Dear Readers, I need to thank you once again for praying for us. John is still in intensive care but he has not had another bleeding episode since early this morning. Around 3am, his blood pressure began to drop significantly and the ICU team rushed to give him the blood, platelets, and medications needed to stabilize him. After that, they continued all day (and will continue overnight) to monitor his hemoglobin every two hours to make sure it stays out of the danger zone.
To summarize what the surgeon and intensivist (ICU doctor) said today, they want to avoid operating on him again if at all possible, as it is risky to do so. The site of the excessive bleeding was where the tumour and part of his rectum were removed and the severed parts of his digestive tract were reattached. The blood from this wound was actually gushing out his rectum. Thankfully, that stopped early Thursday morning. However, there could still be more internal bleeding they don’t know about. For now it’s a matter of waiting to see whether his blood tests show any signs of more bleeding.
From what I saw, he seemed better today than when I left him Wednesday night. He was more talkative, more himself. He was even able to sit up on the side of the bed for a bit with the nurse’s help. I brought the kids in to see him in the evening which made them and him very happy.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but thank you all for your continued prayers!
“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.” Psalm 143:8
Today was a long day. John was up at 4:00am to shower with his antiseptic sponge and to drink his apple juice at 5am as instructed. We arrived at Grand River Hospital before 6:00am to get him prepped for his surgery at 8:00am.
Three hours later, as expected, the surgeon came out to the OR family waiting room to tell me that everything went well. He removed the tumour without doing an ostomy. I was told John would be in recovery for 1-2 hours and then be transferred to his room, where I could see him.
That’s not exactly what happened.
The surgeon came back before 1:00pm to let me know that they were concerned with how much John was bleeding. They were going to continue monitoring him in hopes that it would start to clot. Otherwise they might have to open him up again to fix it.
As the hours dragged on, I read, drank coffee, listened to podcasts, and crocheted until I ran out of yarn (keeping my hands busy helps my mind stay calm). Under any other circumstances this would have felt like a vacation. And of course I prayed for John. Later in the afternoon a nurse let me say hi to him briefly in the recovery room.
He was transferred to the ICU around 5:00pm. I was finally able to see him about an hour and a half later. He was talking coherently but seemed very tired and extremely thirsty since he wasn’t allowed to have anything to drink yet. He said talking made him feel nauseous. He was still having bleeding episodes, so around 8:00pm they started giving him blood transfusions. They’ll continue to monitor him overnight in the ICU and tomorrow he may need another surgery if the bleeding doesn’t stop on its own.
It was a long day for the kids too. Harry especially was disappointed that I didn’t come home before he went to bed, although I did call them from the ICU waiting room to say goodnight before Grandma and Grandpa tucked them in. They all miss Daddy.
Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us and sending me encouraging messages all day long! Please continue to pray for John’s recovery. I know he is in good hands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.