July and August 2016
July and August 2016 will be one of those times in our lives that we will always remember. July began with anticipation of our first visit to the United States in a year. Our plan was simple. Steve would fly out first, land in Chicago, attend an aviation law conference, then the children and I would fly into Chicago and we would all go to the EAA AirVenture air show. When Steve picked us up, he was tired and not feeling his best. We chalked it up to jet lag and went on to Oshkosh the next morning. The next evening, Steve felt even worse. After some discussion with two of our medical friends, Pat, a nurse and Michael, an ER doctor, they helped me convince Steve to go to the ER. A new friend, Wayne, took us to the ER and stayed with us, even entertaining Lizzy. The ER found Steve to be severely anemic, which meant he was losing blood somewhere. Follow up visits were made in Oshkosh and in Alabama with our friend and Doctor Tom Perkins, who arranged more testing, including a colonoscopy. A mass was found in Steve's colon. A CT scan followed and then surgery. The surgery removed 18 inches of his colon, including the mass and about 12 lymph nodes surrounding that area of his colon. After testing of the mass and lymph nodes was complete, we learned that Steve has stage 3B colon cancer.
I'm sitting again in a waiting room of a hospital while Steve is having a port placed in his chest through which he will receive his chemotherapy each time. As Steve has said several times, this has been the worst vacation ever.
Or it's been the best...depends how you look at it. I believe in people are put into our paths for a reason. Steve wouldn't go to the doctor when I asked him to go. But he listened to Pat and Michael. They've been our friends for 20 years and this year, they helped save Steve's life.
An astute and caring ER Doctor in Oshkosh woke up a hematologist at 11pm on a Saturday night to discuss Steve's situation. That hematologist was the first person to lay out a plan for diagnosing Steve and he was the first person to discuss the possibility for colon cancer. This spurred Steve into action and he called Tom Perkins, another friend and physician in Alabama, who began making plans for Steve before we even got to Alabama.
Once he arrived in Alabama, Tom did lab work and arranged an endoscopy and a colonoscopy for Steve the next day...the NEXT day.
Steve had his colonoscopy and endoscopy with Dr. Mehra and before we left the hospital Dr. Mehra's nurse had scheduled a CT scan for the next day and a surgical consult for the next week.
Upon completion of the CT scan, we decided to walk over to the surgeon's office and leave the disk containing the CT scan...the sweet secretary listened to us and began looking through her magic computer and found Steve an even earlier appointment with the surgeon. We met with the surgeon and surgery was scheduled for that Monday.
In 13 days, he had a colonoscopy, a CT scan, lab work twice and had to prep for both the colonoscopy and then the surgery. He is exhausted. I am tired, but he has been and continues to be a good patient and very brave through all of this.
We met with Dr. Lakhanpal, an oncologist. His recommendation is for Steve to have 12 chemo treatments over 24 weeks. He will have one treatment every two weeks for 24 weeks and then he will be done. The specific drug combo for treatment of colon cancer is FOLFOX. It is three drugs, 5FU, leucovrin, oxaliplatin. He can be considered cured after 5 years, but if he has no reoccurrence after 3 years, the incidence of relapse goes way down. Steve wants to pursue treatment in Hong Kong using the same protocol as prescribed by Dr. Lakhanpal. We have reached out to all our Hong Kong friends for help in finding the best oncologist for Steve's type of cancer. Our wonderful Hong Kong friends have sprung into action and are calling and emailing all their medical professional friends to find us the best oncologist.
We are so grateful for how this unfolded. I am exceedingly grateful for all the medical staff we have encountered. Pat and Michael at Oshkosh, our friend and excellent nurse, Laura Stanley, the ER staff in Oshkosh, Dr. Tom Perkins, Dr. Mehra and his nurse Gina, Steve's surgeon, Dr. Heinzman and his staff, and Dr. Lakhanpal, the oncologist, plus the kind and competent nurses working Outpatient surgery and general surgery at St. Vincent's East. Of course, our family's and friends have been so supportive and helpful to us. Steve's parents, my parents, our aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, cousins, church family, and friends from Hong Kong to Alabama have taken care of children, rallied around us, are praying for us, and are standing in the gap for us. One after another, God placed the exactly the right people in our paths and has continually made the rocky places smooth for us.
And now, this is my public service announcement space.... If you are 50 years old, have a colonoscopy now. Don't wait. And if you have a family history of colon cancer, start sooner. Our children will begin colonoscopies at least by 40. Take turmeric. Daily. It is good for cancer prevention and helps with improving/delaying dementia. It is cheap and easily found in capsule form.
I do not know the exact path we will take from there, but I know God knows and I am trusting in Him completely.