Days of Chemotherapy

person holding laboratory flask
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on

-Dr. Wang and the entire staff in the Cancer Center at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Missouri is wonderful.  Everyone is patient and acommodating and at the time I was volunteering in the infusion lab.  Watching those people progress, regress and smile all the way, made a believer of me. Faith was the answer. Everyone had some belief of a Power working in their lives.

Care and compassion and lots of smiles!

There is a lot that goes on with chemotherapy that we would soon learn. First the consultation, then the surgery to place the port for the infusion because he has very small veins. At last, the same day the surgeon placed the port, it was down to chemotherapy for the first infusion.

The cancer drug is not ready until a blood test is done to make sure all the blood numbers are good.  When that is approved, the chemo will be made. The excessive cost of the drugs prohibits the making of them until it is a GO.  Next he and I would sit for a hour of infusion, but he loves crosswords and he always amused himself.  Yes, he would rather have been playing golf, but he accepted what he needed to do and all went well. He would tell me throughout his time of treatment that life is too short to be overly concerned with things that can’t be changed.  Did he wear out the Serenity Prayer…

Still playing golf about 3 times a week, he did need a nap in the afternoon.  That was no big deal. I was estatic that he felt so well.  A few bumps in the road–a nasty little rash and losing a little hair but not all.  Pretty good I’d say.

There would be chemo once a week for 3 weeks, then off a week.  That schedule continues for 6 months and I will tell you that every 3 months there was another cat scan and another CA 19-9 test done by blood draw.  That is a cancer marker that will show cancer and not to be relied upon as a total indicator but is used with other diagnostic tests to show progress of the cancer.

Radiation began but for only 2 sessions.  A newly found report from the surgery in St. Louis indicated the extent to which the cancer had already metastasized even before the beginning of Chemo.  Reports got mixed up somehow and now the radiologist spelled out the problem with continuing to radiate the tumor in the pancreas. If those little growths found during surgery developed, they could not be radiated if he received a full treatment.  Just so much radiation is tolerated in one area.

The first CA 19-9 had a reading of 238 and at one point during the second 3-month session it lowered to below 50.  At the end of the 6 months of chemo, the doctor sent my husband on a three month Chemo Holiday!IMG_1095(1)

He he is with his two daughters in Destin, Florida in December 2018 just 9 months after diagnosis of Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer non- resectable. Looking really good and enjoying life.

When that 3- month holiday was over, Dr. Wang told him to take another 3 months off. This was exciting and the tumor seemed to be minutely smaller. Hooray!

In February 2019, the scan now showed a spot on the spleen. Oops…something new and the CA 19-9 was at 1248 and that was a terrible hop up. What was the next step in this whole process?

Day 1…Tumor Can’t Be Removed

While the doctor explained the situation to me, my mind tried to open up to understand every word he was saying.  He drew little pictures which I now know I misunderstood (he is the surgeon and I am the stunned wife with only Dr. Google to rely upon). We both were doing our best and I just wanted to see my husband but was assured it would be a little while as he was waking up in recovery.  Were these all the answers to my questions about his disease? Never, but it would have to be enough for now.

What seemed like forever came to an end and I went up to the floor of this modern hospital and glanced out the windows when the elevator doors opened.  The storm during the night had rattled the nearby hotel we had booked, but now the day looked bright and sunny.  I was trying to hold on to the faith I profess and knew that God would make all things right when I surrendered to whatever His will might be.  So the sunshine was a pleasant answer from Him–everything would happen as it was supposed to happen.

I saw my husband lying in a bed with tubes running here and there–the nose tube was the one that looked the most uncomfortable and it would be there for a while the nurse reassured me. It’s purpose was to drain out the mucus I guess. The catheter was  collecting the urine and that bag was hanging on the far side of the bed. Better there than to be visible from the door and hall. At least there could be a little dignity for the patient that way. All this may seem pretty graphic for some of you, but that’s the way it is when a person is recovering from surgery. The room was huge and the bathroom was well stocked with toiletries and towels.  (It was for my use as well and I would appreciate it for the night to come.)  It would not be shower time for a while for this patient, but the nurses would let him know. Just sponging off for a few days would have to be okay for him.

The tubes running here and there were signs that he had just had major surgery, but the smile he managed told me he was fine. Faith and acceptance is his mantra.

That night was a nightmare with nurses running in an out, but I was happy to be at his side just because.

Whatever that doctor said to him in the first few days was lost in the fog of leftover anesthetic and I tried to remember everything I could.  He is tough, but the most important thing to remember these days has been his handicap and most recent golf score…don’t ask him because he will deny that’s true.  Maybe he doesn’t need to analyze every single word like I do because he accepts what God has in store is God’s business.  What faith!

Where did I go? Part 1

Yes, it’s been a while since I have posted anything for the readers, and I’m going to fall on an excuse.

In April of 2018 my husband was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  He was scheduled for surgery and we went to St. Louis from our home at Lake of the Ozarks and he entered the operating room in anticipation that the tumor would be removed. The doctor explained how long the operation would take, and I understood that. There is a board in the surgery waiting area that tell which stage the surgery is in and I knew the surgery, including the exploratory part, would take a total of 4 hours.  I was given a buzzer like the ones in restaurants and would be notified when there were updates by checking the surgery board in the surgery waiting room.

I sat down to have my first cup of coffee and began thinking about my husband and what he would have to do to recover from this surgery. Probably no golf for a week or two and he would probably have a little pain from the surgery just because the docs poked around. He’s a tough guy and even though his golf is the be all and end all of a day, he’d survive. He would be glad to have the cancer under control.

My buzzer sounded. The board displayed the completion of the first part…the exploratory part of the operation. This was indicative the surgery would proceed to the tumor removal because the surgeons had located it. Three hours to go and hopeful and praying for the surgeons.

My sister had arrived by now after her half hour drive from Granite City to Missouri Baptist Hospital in Creve Coeur.  I began explaining all that I knew thus far and we sipped fresh coffee provided by the volunteers. We were in for a long day and we planned to have lunch on the main level where a great little bistro-like area provides snacks, sandwiches and soft drinks.

Out of nowhere my buzzer sounded and I went to look at the board.  “SURGERY COMPLETED” was listed next to my husband’s patient number and I didn’t know whether to feel hopeful or scared. What happened with the tumor and why finish 2 hours early.  The doctor was on his way down to speak with me.