Sunday, January 17, 2010

Post Surgery - What's Next

It's been a while since I wrote. My surgery was a little over a month ago. Sorry for making you wait for this entry, especially those of you who are far off.
My surgery on December 15th was a success. It was 6 1/2 hours long and dedicated entirely to the rectal region. The liver was not addressed. They simply ran out of time to get there. So I will be going under the knife once again, more about that later.
The tumor was removed from my rectal area. And biopsies of the adjacent organs and female parts were done right there in the surgical room. They took these biopsies and obtained preliminary results during surgery to determine the immediate course of action. It was decided right there during surgery not to remove my uterus, ovaries, or any other female parts. Other than the tumor, they did remove the lower portion of my colon, which was the doctor's plan all along, and not in question. In doing so, they reattached my colon to my rectum, a very delicate procedure.
For whatever reason, I was under the impression that I would only have a couple weeks recovery before restarting my chemo treatments. But they gave me a month and a half to recover. I've been off chemotherapy since Halloween. My body shows many signs of that first round even though it was cut short. My nails are missing several layers, my hair is extremely thin, my skin is changed for the worse and, of course, the ileostomy bag is a constant reminder of my cancer patient status. Also, I have been given an intense pain medicine combination. Initially, I had to administer oral medicine every 4 hours. I've since cut back, however after doing this for weeks, my sleep patterns are all out of whack. If I get a 6 hour stretch of sleep, that is a rare and wonderful thing these days. Usually I wake. Now that I've weaned myself off of the oral meds (I only have a Fentanyl patch) I don't need to wake. But I still do, finding myself having to empty my ileostomy bag. Last night, Takashi and I went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. I paid for it in an unusual way. I must have emptied that bag about 6 times throughout the night. It is highly annoying, but knowing what I am going to face next, I gladly put up with it.
A week ago, I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon. All is well, but he gave me a piece of news I'd rather not have heard. UNC hospital's cancer board discussed my case and they want me to continue with another full course of radiation treatments. The rationale being that all their data are based on a full course of treatment, not a half course, which is what I had. So back to radiation I go, starting the first week of February. Happy Birthday to me. :-(
I anticipate that I might get radiation colitis, radiation burns and rectal inflammation once again. So I love my annoying ileostomy bag. It will likely save me from experiencing the torturous pain from my past (see prior blog post from November for that gory detail). I likely will have pain, but what I may experience is nothing compared to what I would go through if my cancer revisits the rectal area.
As for my liver, the chemotherapy that I have during my radiation should keep it under control and hopefully shrink the tumor there. And after a few months of treatment, I will go under the knife once again.
So for now, please pray that my cancer is responsive to the chemotherapy treatment. I believe it will be, as my tumors did respond the first time around. The responsiveness is the key to my recovery. The doctors can cut out what they see, but it is what they do not see that truly matters. If my cancer does not respond to treatment and tumors resurface after my treatments are done, then the doctors will label me incurable.
This brings to light another element of my treatment. I have not dismissed alternative treatments. A friend from my church had offered a drink, a dietary supplement that contains an ingredient called Fucoidan, among other super supplements. My friend claims that this ingredient is a miracle supplement that cures cancer, diabetes and many other diseases. While in my doctors’ care, I want the best chance of success for the regiment they administer. So I brought this supplement to my doctors' and nurses' attention and they all basically said they cannot recommend its use, especially while on chemotherapy. Such supplements may actually work against the chemotherapy drugs and can decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments. I also learned that chemotherapy drugs work on your body about 6 to 8 weeks after you stop using them. Since my last dose of chemotherapy was on Halloween, I have been clear of chemotherapy effects in 2010. So I have a window of time in which alternative supplements can be used. I took this Fucoidan supplement this January. So you can also pray that it does miracles for me. As such, I won’t know what cured me, Eastern or Western medicine. Who can say? But then again, does it matter? I think not. I’m in God’s hands. He is The Great Physician.