my mother in law and i watched the justin bieber never say never movie.
i did not pee between the hours of 8 am and 8pm.
i hugged dr. kim for cutting out my husband's cancer. he probably thinks i am a nut case.
all while he was sleeping.
the smile on his face when he saw me for the first time that night was something i will never forget.
out of surgery and adjusting to a new normal.
now the fun begins.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Wes completed his radiation treatment last Friday. I was able to go with him a couple of times. It was relatively easy to get this treatment done. They tattooed little dots on his body to mark where they were supposed to position him each time he went. They used those dots to lay him on a table, made him drop his trousers, and lay very still while they shot concentrated x-ray beams at his lower tumor from different angles.
He experienced some side effects. He was nauseous and had a bit of diarrhea. All normal. And nothing we haven't dealt with already over the past few months. He did not have a very big appetite after his treatments. He is already down about ten pounds since his colonoscopy. He didn't have much to lose before that so I am trying to fatten him up before he goes into surgery and loses another five pounds just from taking out the colon itself. Plus he can't eat until his small intestine starts working again after the trauma of surgery.
My skinny superman.
We took the girls with us to radiation one day. Like I said, it is fast so they had no problem in the waiting room. It is so interesting to be there. Most of the people waiting for radiation are older. I don't feel like we belong there. These people have lived a life and ours has only just begun. But then my heart goes out to them as I think that each of these old people is someone's mother, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather. They all mean something to someone.
Cancer does not discriminate.
Aren't my sweethearts just darling?
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Last night Wes and I called our best baby sitter Grandma and went out.
Just the two of us, all dressed up, and out for a nice steak dinner downtown.
We had so much fun.
And it was the first time I have ever ordered a steak.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Of course, cancer was a hot topic at the dinner table.
It's hard not to talk about cancer these days.
It's always there in the back of our minds now.
And honestly, I can't help but feel grateful for what it has done for our relationship and what it can do to us if we faithfully unite to beat this.
I've always thought people who are grateful for trials are crazy.
But here I am saying it and we've only just begun.
I am sure there are many hard days ahead full of different emotions.
Sadness, anger, worry, and fear to name a few.
But today we are feeling grateful.
Grateful to have an opportunity to treasure each other and see each other differently then we have in the past.
We have always been super close.
Best friends, turned lovers, turned husband and wife.
I did not think it was possible for us to get closer.
But in the days since his diagnosis we have come closer in different ways I didn't know possible.
Both of us feel so blessed to be able to go through this together.
To seal our marriage this way.
To walk through fire together and come out on the other end having forged a bond that you can't get any other way.
It is a bond that can only come when you truly have to walk through dark places together, whatever that trial may be and be there for each other.
Wes has always been my cheerleader.
Through school, pregnancies, births, sleepless nights, disappointments, you name it.
I have always felt like I have had to rely on him for strength.
Now it is my turn to be the cheerleader and the care giver.
He has given me a wonderful example to follow.
I hope every day that I can be enough for him as he was always enough for me.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
When we first met with a surgeon to discuss Wes's cancer she quickly told us this was a surgery she was not comfortable performing because it is so complicated and required a specialist. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a good surgeon and an oncologist that could essentially save my husband's life. My dad came to the rescue. Since he is a cardiologist he networked, asked around, and gave us names of the best surgeons in Salt Lake. Everyone seemed to think the top guy for this colorectal job was Dr. Kim. I called LDS hospital to see if he had any openings. I was told the man was completely booked until May (that's what happens when you're the best) and that I should try to find someone else because we needed surgery as soon as possible. We wanted Dr. Kim. My dad talked with his friend and set us up with an incredible colorectal oncologist, Dr. Whisenant. Before our appointments started for the week Wes had a vivid dream that Dr. Kim was his surgeon. Wes was promised long ago that his dreams would have meaning and direction (he dreamed we would have a girl when I was pregnant with Lily, and he dreamed he would marry me after only knowing me for a short time) so he was certain we would find a way to get in with him. Within the next two days Dr. Kim's office called us to set up an appointment to talk about surgery. Turns out Dr. Whisenant works closely with Dr. Kim and they all decided to fit us in to their busy schedules. Each time we have had to tell nurses or receptionists who our team of doctors is they have all said we have the dream team working on us. Dr. Whisenant wasn't even doing office appointments last week, but he met with us anyway. So we had doctors, some incredible doctors, and I barely had to lift a finger or stress about who is good and who isn't. Isn't my dad wonderful?
Last week we met with the oncologist and the surgeon. Dr. Whisenant was concerned because a) wes is obviously really young and b)his CEA blood count was pretty high, but said he expected to cure this cancer. It felt so good to finally hear someone in the medical field say something positive. The rectal tumor seems to be making things super complicated for us. Dr. Whisenant explained that they usually do radiation and chemotherapy before they do surgery to shrink the tumor. But, because Wes has another tumor farther up that the chemo would not even address for a whole month while we did that, he didn't feel good about letting that one just sit and grow while we tried to treat the other one. He told us about short term radiation they have used for years in Europe and how studies have shown Europe has been doing it right all along and America has only started doing it in the past couple of years. We had to make sure this was what the surgeon wanted to do, so we met with him the next day.
Dr. Kim walked us through all of Wes's tests and then started to talk about surgery. We were hoping they could cut out the cancerous portion of Wes's colon and hook him back up. Dr. Kim told us right away that we need to take the whole thing out. That's only a six foot long organ. Because he is so young and this is most likely a genetic type of cancer and the fact that there are two tumors they want it all out so there is absolutely no chance of cancer being found in his colon again, because well, he won't have a colon. He is certain he can take out the whole colon and then reattach the small intestine to what is left of the rectum. Wes's lifestyle will definitely change. It is not going to be easy. Recovery is going to be an absolute beast and his potty life will never ever be the same. He will have to learn how to poop all over again. We are on the hunt for adult superman diapers for those first few months! It was a bit overwhelming and slightly disappointing, but at this point we will do anything to keep Wes on the planet. Even though not tests were able to confirm that the cancer had spread to Wes's lymphnodes, Dr. Kim said he would not be surprised if they found some infected lymphnodes when they go in for surgery. They will not know how far it has spread until they go in and take everything out. If they do find some, Wes will need chemo after surgery for six months.
So the plan looks like this: Wes will start short term radiation next week. He will get radiation treatments for 5 days on his rectal cancer hoping to shrink it and reduce the chance of cancer coming back in his rectum. They will let his body rest for a week and then Dr. Kim will perform a total colectomy on March 23rd. Wes will probably be in the hospital for 5 days after that. He will come home with a poop bag coming out of his abdomen while they let his colon area heal. If they have found infected lymph nodes he will keep the bag for six months while he does chemo. If they don't find any spread after two months they will go in again and reattach his small intestine to his rectum and get rid of the bag. Fear not if all goes well, he will poop again! I get some anxiety when I think about caring for his wounds and caring for him at home, but we feel so good about this plan of action. Wes's humor through all this amazes me. When they told him they had to take it all out he joked that they could cut anything out, but he just wanted to keep his hands. What a long road we have ahead of us, but we sure are jazzed about getting this thing out.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The day after Wes was diagnosed with colon cancer his mother mentioned to us that March 2nd was a national wear blue for colon cancer day. Turns out the whole month of March is all about colon cancer awareness. The statistics are unbelievable. They say that 1 in 19 Americans will develop colon cancer. 90% of the time the cancer will appear in people in their 50's or 60's. If it is caught early, this cancer is treatable. It is recommended that you start to get regular colonoscopy screenings by the time you turn 50. However, if there is any family history at all of colon cancer it is recommended you start getting regular colonoscopies at age 30. There is even a genetic test that can be done to determine if you have the predisposition to develop colon cancer.
Wes's paternal grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 41 and later passed away from it. We knew we would get Wes a colonoscopy when he turned 30, but had no idea this cancer had already begun its evil work. We call his tumors satan's cave men and oh how I hate them. You can live with those nasty little growing cancer cells for years and have no symptoms. Wes did not start having symptoms until the end of last year. It is only when the colon is starting to be obstructed by a tumor and is becoming more advanced that you begin to notice changes in your body. We know now how important it is to be aware of any long term changes in bowel movements or any long term changes in simply how you feel.
Since it is colon cancer awareness month I am hoping to make more people aware of the signs and symptoms of this disease. When we first went to a doctor they told us Wes had hemorrhoids. A lot of young people with rectal bleeding are given this diagnosis. It is just impossible to believe that a 28 year old has cancer growing inside them. But, we were told if the symptoms continued, to get a colonoscopy and that it would probably end up being some type of colitis or inflammation. The symptoms of this condition and cancer are very similar. That's what we thought it was the morning we went in for his colonoscopy. After they found his cancer the nurse told us that 99% of the time young people experiencing these systems have polyps that can easily be removed before they turn into cancer, or colitis, or some type of tear (sure do love being that 1% that actually turn out to be cancer). The symptoms of colon cancer or other colon issues could be any of the following:
persistent abdominal cramping/pain**
unexplained weight loss
feeling that your bowels don't empty completely
prolonged diarrhea or constipation or change in stool consistency*
thin stools (called pencil stools)
*these were symptoms Wes noticed since last summer.
**these were symptoms Wes noticed since last September.
These symptoms really could be any number of things, but if you're unsure there is no harm in getting a colonoscopy just to be certain. Nobody knows your body like you do. Are you grossed out and freaked out? Don't be. There is a saying that goes, "I wish cancer got cancer and died." Oh how I wish that, but since it won't happen please be aware and get yourself screened. Colon cancer can be treated if caught early!
Happy pooping and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Monday, March 5, 2012
I have heard that some people don't enjoy reading blogs because they feel like people are just showing off. They supposedly show all the good stuff while hiding the bad stuff so their life seems perfect. In all honesty, my blog up until this point has been an accurate portrayal of what goes on in our home. It was not perfect, but to me it sure felt pretty darn close to it. Life was so good.
And it still is, it's just a different "so good."
Last Thursday was the longest day of my life. What started out as some concerning symptoms and pain over a few months led us to seek out a doctor who eventually recommended a colonoscopy. The morning of we couldn't help but feel hopeful. We thought a quick solution would be found for the pain and life would continue on. After the procedure the doctor came in and said three words that are engrained in my memory, "it's not good." And then he went on and on about polyps and lesions and appointments with a surgeon and biopsies and look at these pictures and your children need to get colonoscopies at age 17 and genetics and on and on. My brain was still back at "it's not good." He left and we sat in silence and all I could do was hold my sweetheart and cry. They had found polyps on the right side of his colon that they easily removed and two cancerous lesions, one in his descending colon and one down low in his rectum. There was no need to even wait for the results of the biopsy. All you have to do is look at the diseased tissue they discovered and you can clearly see it is not healthy. My husband is not in his 60's, he is 28. Who gets colon cancer when they are 28? I now know the heart is capable of physically aching and being in actual pain. We met with a surgeon that afternoon and tried to wrap our minds around this news. The surgeon told us the location of the tumors made surgery more complicated and we were referred to a colorectal specialist. It seemed we were walking around in a fog that day, just going through the motions. We have felt encircled with love since we received the news. We know we are in God's hands. As I drove Wes home from the hospital, one of the things he said was, "I just want to bear my testimony to everyone." The Comforter has not left us. So much love was sent our way that day as family and friends came to visit, called, and texted. We were in and out of reality and I found myself thinking more then once "is this real life?" It broke my heart to see my love so worried about his body, about me, and about our darling girls. We were overwhelmed by the spirit and God's presence near us that whole day.
Friday morning we were scheduled for a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread to other major organs. The turmoil my heart and mind felt that day made me physically nauseous. Seeing my husband cry as he got ready for the day and hearing him sob as he changed lily's diaper later on made me feel like my heart would split in two. We had to wait at least two hours while Wes drank a couple of bottles of the contrast dye for the scan. They wanted him to drink one cup every ten minutes. I decided we should play a drinking game. Each time he had to drink a cup each of us had to say one favorite/funny memory about Halle or Lily. Those girls have brought so much joy in moments of trouble as we were laughing at things they do and say and Halle's videos she records of herself. He had the scan and then came the waiting. Late Friday afternoon the surgeon called to tell us there was no evidence of spreading to any other organs. As I held my mother and cried I felt so much lighter as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Bless her for flying in to be with us. The peace I felt was incredible.
Saturday started out as a rough day. Reality began to set in about the what we were about to be taking on in the coming weeks and months. We had no appointments that day so we decided to see if they would let us into the celestial room of the Mt. Timpanogos temple. I knew there was no way I would make it through a session without being seriously disruptive to other people. They told us we had to perform at least one ordinance in order to sit in the celestial room. As I sat waiting for my turn I picked up a Book of Mormon and the only prayer I could come up with was simply, "I need help." I then opened the scriptures randomly to two places. Alma 15 where Zeezrom is miraculously healed and Mormon 9 all about how God is a God of miracles for those who put their faith in Christ. Interestingly enough my mother in law read those very same scriptures in a temple that day too! I met up with Wes in the celestial room and the peace and comfort that surrounded us there was real. This is God's will for us. This is definitely not the life we planned. This trial was given to us to help us learn and grow. It hurts so much, but we signed on for this hurt long ago, because we knew what we could become if we endured it well.
Sunday came and we "magically" (promised not to tell) were able to watch our stake conference from the comfort of our home. The theme was all about burdens. It was basically tailor made for what we were feeling that day. One gigantic tender mercy. I loved every minute of it.
Today was another big day full of tests. Wes was scheduled for a rectal ultrasound to determine how deep into his muscular tissue the tumors had penetrated, if they could perform the operation that would at least save some of his colon, and if it had spread to his lymph nodes. Wes's mom was able to come to this appointment and she told me how she woke up this morning full of joy and wanting to sing. I had felt this very same way since Friday when we got the CT scan results. Why would we feel this way if things were going to be bad? We decided it was Miracle Monday. And it really was. The doctor discovered the tumor had not penetrated the rectal wall, no lymph nodes were enlarged, and the lower tumor is just barely high enough to perform the surgery we want! A huge victory and we couldn't help but thank our Heavenly Father for this great blessing. I know all the fasting and prayers that were said on our behalf this weekend have helped us. Next up is a trip to the oncologist to discuss a plan of attack. Surgery first and chemo after or chemo first to try to shrink the tumors and surgery after. We are doing this.
All of your love and prayers and fasting have been felt this weekend. I really believe it is how we have been able to feel so peaceful all weekend. While we have definitely felt many emotions these past few days, the one we have felt the most is just plain grateful. Thank you Thank you. I don't think I will ever be able to say it enough.