1) How did you know you had “the cancer” Jill and what type is it?
Well “insert your name”, I knew because my doctor just told me at the end of January. I underwent numerous scans/tests (ultra sound, CT’s, MRI, hemangioma scan, blood tests, etc.) and eventually a colonoscopy confirmed my dreaded diagnosis. The spots on my liver were detected at the beginning of December (2014). There were scans and tests performed in order to try to rule things out (benign tumors). When the scans and tests hinted that it could be metastasized tumors, more scans were performed looking to identify a primary tumor site (which happened to be in my Sigmoid colon-confirmed via colonoscopy). The actual diagnosis (I think) is malignant neoplasm (I believe an adenocarcinoma) of the sigmoid colon with metastasis to the liver. The fact that it has spread to the liver makes it Stage 4, however this is a very treatable/survivable stage 4 cancer, not like some of the others. So don’t freak.
2) What were your symptoms and did you feel any pain? Did your poop look different?
My poop came out looking like a rainbow. Just kidding. I didn’t really have a lot of symptoms or so it’s actually just very easy to pass symptoms off or ignore them. Supposedly younger people with this type of cancer do not feel much different physically. I had some discomfort in my stomach/abdomen area off and on for months. Didn’t think much of it. As for my stool… well… hmm… I had some blood (red in color-can be darker if near the stomach or beginning of digestive tract) in my stool over the summer. This was passed off by my doctor, as it is very common if individuals don’t consume enough fiber and could have an “irritation” (HEMI) near the end of your digestive tract. I think I had noticed a little blood each year randomly. Again, never thought twice about it. It would only last a couple of weeks at most. I did notice within the last year that the girth of my stools had changed slightly, just smaller. Not the “ribboning” as is classic with a colon obstruction. It’s good to make note of any consistent change I guess. I think I ignored a lot of symptoms that should have been obvious, had I taken my family history into account or even just been aware that this could be a possibility in future. Clearly something had been going on for a number of years in order for this condition to be as advanced as it is. I was told it could have been present for the last 8-10 years, possibly.
3) What kind of treatment are you undergoing?
I have started chemotherapy (with an antibody) and will hopefully be a candidate for surgery in future.
My treatments right now are every other Friday. They last about 5 hours. I am set to have 4 treatments over 2 months and then undergo a scan (PET or CAT?) to check and see how it is working. The goal is to get the cancer under control. First, to stop it from the possibility of spreading or creating new tumors and stop current tumors from growing. Next, we hope to see the current tumors in my liver start to shrink (small ones should hopefully disappear-via magic and smoke and mirrors of course). If they can get the tumors to shrink I could possibly have a couple of surgeries to remove most of my liver (don’t worry, it regenerates) and part of my colon.
4) How long will you undergo treatment?
There’s no real time frame on treatment, it will all depend on how the cancer responds to the treatment. Everybody is different and every case is unique. There are other options if they are not achieving the desired result. I will know more after each two month treatment plan.
5) Will you get sick from your chemo or lose your beautiful hair?
Side effects from chemo are all different, based on the type of chemo and then also on the individual. People can have no side effects or all of them, or somewhere in between. It all depends on how an individual metabolizes the drugs. It also can take time for the drugs to build up in your system, therefore side effects can be worse later in treatment. As for my sweet, sweet hair, I should be fine. It may thin a little. I don’t have much to begin with, but the type of chemo I’m on doesn’t usually cause patients to lose their hair (even though Compton REALLY wants to shave her head).
6) Can I buy you a drink?
Heck yeah! Non-alcoholic ONLY. I’m crying on the inside. Not really. I’ve had to basically stop drinking completely (aside from a drink maybe once a week or so). My liver is working overtime, having to work harder than ever to filter it’s regular workload. The liver filters and breaks down foods, medications, pretty much anything that goes into the blood stream, I think. It is obviously easier not to add insult to it’s injury, as having to break down alcohol is not it’s priority right now.