Archive for December, 2009

A few random thoughts during this special time of year….

Posted on December 14, 2009. Filed under: The 'C' Word |

As mentioned in my most previous post (Odds, and what I’ve actually accomplished – December 13, 2009) I talked about beating the odds for colon cancer.  If that’s not enough to get you thinking about your own health, then – what else could?

Let’s make no mistake – the preparation FOR a conoloscopy sucks.  It’s not fun.  But, it’s only about 4 –6 hours of hard work, and then you’re pretty much out for the actual procedure.  If there are no issues with your preparation, then the actual colonoscopy itself takes about 15 minutes. Yes, you’re going to get a camera stuffed up your butt, however – remember you’re not remembering any of this.  Really.  I promise.  The actual time you spend getting ready FOR the procedure once you get to the Doctor’s office that will perform the procedure takes about 4 times as long as the actual procedure.

Oh, and if you have relatively decent insurance, it’s going to be covered.  If it’s not – start shopping for new insurance, because – let’s be honest….  It’s cheaper to detect early and cure rather than detect later and then have to go through chemo, radiation, and surgery.  But, as we are finding out through this whole mess called the “Health Care Reform” bill, some insurance is pretty retarded, much like the so-called recommendations about breast cancer screenings being changed completely – and would have ended up with 100’s to 1000’s of women dying due to cancer not caught in time.  The basic concept of insurance is to take as much of your money and pay out as little as possible.  That’s the business plan – and your health is really not their concern.  If you doubt that – then, I’m not sure the rest of this conversation is going to make any sense anyway.

Can you see that I’m being a bit of a militant radical when it comes to early detection and screening?  Going through what I have (the massive up’s and down’s – with the final thrill ride at the end of a Surgeon literally walking on air as he came in to my hospital room to tell me “We got it all!  You are no longer a cancer risk from this tumor!”) since 9/24/2009 when I first found out about this tumor – and knowing the right decisions on my part and my Primary Care Physician (by the way – his name is Joedy Istas, M.D. and I’d be honored if his patient load went up because of me…..  He’s already heavily in demand…  Don’t blame me if you can’t get an appointment with him.  He IS that good.) and my surgeon (Dr. M. Shashidharan, Colon and Rectal Surgery, Inc. [just call him Dr. Shasi {Sa’-shee}, everyone does – colleagues and patients alike]and he does colonoscopies as well, as you might suspect) contributed to an astounding outcome.  And, contrary to my usual nature, I didn’t procrastinate for a year or five before going and getting the colonoscopy.  As mentioned, I hit the lottery on this one.  The odds were not in my favor on this.

As my brother-in-law, John, who has lost more friends and relatives to cancer than I, famously says “F#%k you, Cancer!”, I get to add my own, which I’ve used in more than a few places.  Thanks for letting me borrow this, John:  “F#%k you, Cancer!  I WIN!!!”

But, I do have to give a nod to friends and relatives who are either currently fighting or have lost their battle, and I am forever indebted to for their contributions to what the medical community knows about cancer:

Richard T. Kingslan, Sr. (Passed 1995)

Kelly Hendrickson (Passed 1998)

Ron Pieters  (Passed 2008)

Eleanor Jones (Passed 2009)

Matt Kamprath (Passed 2009)

Bill Greve (Still fighting)

My final plea – give money to the American Cancer Society.  Research into cancer is really, really good.  What the Doctors know today as compared to 5 years ago is – simply stunning. 

Get your colonoscopy – even though you feel fine and seem to think you’re immortal.  I hope I’m not bursting any bubbles – you’re not immortal.  But, you kinda want to die really old – or at least doing something you like.  And, I’m sure that none of those I’ve named really liked dying of cancer. Seeing the strongest man I’ve ever known, my father, wither from his cancer was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And, I don’t want you or any of your loved ones to have to see your die in such a miserable and painful way.

Get tests… Avoid cancer like you would the plague. And, if anything – be like me and realize that you have a second lease on life – and now you have to figure out what your mission is.

I think, in some ways, you can likely figure out what my life mission is going to be. If I can save one person, I get to tell cancer “F#%k you!” once more.  Make no mistake – that’s fun – and very, very fulfilling.

Rick

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Odds, and what I’ve actually accomplished

Posted on December 13, 2009. Filed under: The 'C' Word |

I’ve won the lottery.  You now, the Powerball – with a powerball value of x5.  Plus, the Publisher’s Clearinghouse folks dropped by to give me the grand prize check the other day.  Add to that – I found out that a deceased person needed me to help get the family estate money out of Africa and I got 3 million dollars just for helping.  And, it wasn’t a scam!.

OK – none of the above actually happened. But, seeing my Oncologist and my Radiation Oncologist – they both had a message that was more important than all three of the above:

“Rick, it’s time that we end our professional relationship.”

What this means, simply – is that I beat huge odds – massive ones when we are talking about colon cancer.  I am cancer free. It was caught in Stage 1. The rarity of this actually happening is small – surprisingly so.  And, there was a set of circumstances that were set into place in early September of 2009 that allowed this all to happen this way.

1. My Primary Care Physician LISTENED to me when I was describing some odd bowel issues.

2. He decided, rather than waiting another year, to send me in for a colonoscopy.

3. Contrary to my nature, I didn’t procrastinate – and made the appointment for a week after seeing my Primary Care physician.

4. From that point forward – things took on a life of their own – to the conclusion of Friday.  I am well.

I also thank the wisdom of my Doctors to keep going back to trying to get a biopsy that CONFIRMED the diagnosis of the second colonoscopy and the endoscopic ultrasound.  If they did not keep trying for this hard and fast diagnosis, or that one of the biopsies returned a positive on the cancer, radiation and chemotherapy would have started for a carcinoma that needed only to be REMOVED – not killed off and reduced.

Because this cancer was completely and totally contained in the wall and muscle of the colon, there was no further involvement of any other tissue.  No lymph nodes, nothing.

Yes, I have won the lottery.  Check the odds.

Rick

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Biology and the workings of cells are so complex….

Posted on December 8, 2009. Filed under: The 'C' Word |

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a message to the blog.  There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. I’ve had surgery, and frankly didn’t much feel like posting
  2. My wife took over the day to day communications to most people, so there wasn’t as much of an immediate need for me to do it

 

So, that is it.  Not much desire to get on the computer.  I’ve got an incision from my belly button (Dr. fixed a herniated belly button while he was there – thanks, Dr. Shashi!) all the way down to my pubic bone.  About 10 inches of nicely healing scar. During the surgery (possible over-share violation upcoming), the Dr. removed some inches of my rectum and colon, containing the tumor.  Remember the tumor was only a 5 cm mass, but it was very important to take enough to ensure that the entire mass was removed.  In addition, they harvested a large number of lymph nodes in that area because of the high suspicion that they might be involved. Once the clean up was done, the ends of colon and the remainder f the rectum were reconnected in some specific manner.

To give the newly reattached plumbing time to heal, the Dr. installed an ileostomy. An ileostomy is done by separating the ileum or the end loop of the small intestine that attaches to the large colon on hte right side of the body, and presenting it to the surface of the abdomen through a hole in the surface skin and muscles.  The intestine in turned inside out where it exits the hole, and is sewn in place.  The exposed inner intestine in impervious to the output fluids, however, the skin is not.  The patient in fitted with a replaceable appliance that serves to protect the skin and act as a ‘port’ to a bag to retain the output from the ‘stoma’, or the external intestine.  The stoma and the appliance must be replaced, and contains a pectin that provides the skin barrier and the seal between the appliance and the stoma.  The bag needs to be emptied as it fills.

So, as you might imagine, there are two types of ileostomies – permanent and temporary.  Mine is temporary.  When my doctor determines that the rectum/colon is healed, I’ll go in for a much less radical surgery to reconnect the ileum to the colon, and to remove the ostomy in my abdomen.

Waiting is the hardest part…

When you have cancer, you are always waiting for news.  Is it back?  Is it gone? How bad is it? Will I die?

The news that I was waiting for was very simple – do I have cancer or not?

Once the colon tumor was out, the pathologist had full and complete access to every bit of the mass.  And, remember those lymph nodes that were harvested?  He had access to those two.  If there was cancer, it couldn’t hide any longer.

My Doctor did a great job in calling in some favors and the Thursday after the surgery was able to tell us that the tumor was fully contained in mass.  Nothing outside of the colon walls, period.  And, for good measure – none of the lymph nodes showed any signs of cancer.

For the record:

I did have cancer.  The mass was malignant. But, of the three walls of the colon, it had penetrated two of them.

And, for the record:

I’m a cancer survivor.   And, damn happy to be among that class of champions.

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