Sunday, January 31, 2010

First Post

Welcome to my blog. Why start a blog now you ask? The following email, which I sent out to my family last Monday, explains why:

By now, most of you have heard the news about my health. In a perfect world, I would have been able to tell everyone the news myself, but stuff like this travels fast. I'm sending this email so that everyone knows what's going on and where things stand today.

The news is that I've been diagnosed with rectal cancer. Fortunately, it's not life-threatening. They're calling it Stage III cancer because it appears to have reached a few lymph nodes next to the tumor. Thankfully, there's no sign that the cancer has spread to any other organs. That would be Stage IV. Stage IV is not good. The diagnosis is based on two separate biopsies, so I'm not questioning the diagnosis that this is cancer.

They're recommending the standard treatment for this type of cancer: 6-8 weeks of chemo and radiation, 6 weeks of rest, surgery to remove the tumor, then four months of chemo. I have an excellent surgeon lined up and am in the process of selecting my radiation and chemo docs. Once that is done, which should be in about a week or so, I'll start treatment.

I have every expectation that a year or so from now I'll feel just as healthy as I do today, with the only difference being that I have a slightly shorter colon. But, I'm being realistic and also expect that this fight will involve some tough struggles. Being only 40 (the median age of people who get this cancer is over 60) and in relatively good shape, I think that bends the odds in my favor. They have to. All the data that's being thrown out at me is based on people who were much older than me.

So, all in all, I have a pretty positive outlook on things. I've been told over and over that having a positive attitude is important to having a good outcome. I'm going to be doing what I can to keep everyone in the loop on what's going on and how I'm doing. My thoughts are that I'll do this via a blog. I'll let everyone know when I have that all set up.

Thanks everyone for their thoughts, support and love.

Love,
Doug

So, yeah ... cancer. To say that I was shocked to hear the "C" word is a gross understatement. That was two weeks ago and it still hasn't sunk in. Right now, it doesn't seem real because all it is, is information. I'm in no pain and feel just fine. One silver lining is that they caught this when they did - during my annual physical. Having just turned 40, the doc checked the ol' prostate and found the tumor. I'm thankful he had long fingers.

Needless to say, the past two weeks have been draining. I've spent a bunch of time getting up to speed to deal wit this situation. I love planning and organizing things, but things are moving quickly and there's so much to learn - about the cancer, how it's diagnosed, what the standard of care is, researching and visiting doctors, looking into clinical trials, what color wristband to wear (blue), figuring out what insurance covers, reading trustworthy websites, etc. It's been a full time job. By the way, I do *not* recommend blindly Googling any type of cancer you've just been diagnosed with - there's too much "bad" information (horror stories, etc.) out there that will completely freak you out in about 15 minutes.

I've assembled my local team (surgeon, medical oncologist (chemo guy) and radiation oncologist) should I decide to get treated in Portland, which is my preference. They're all pretty damn good, I feel comfortable with them, and I trust them. The working plan is radiation daily for 5 1/2 weeks and chemo delivered via an infusion pump that delivers the drugs 24/7. Short term side effects should just be lethargy/fatigue and maybe some hair loss (but only in the pelvic region). Since they're blasting my keister with radiation, there are important man parts nearby that are likely to get hit as well. They've explained some of the consequences of this to me, and I'm taking Lance Armstrong's approach and opened a bank account at the local fertility clinic to put some of my liquid assets into deep freeze.

Even though I'm all set here with the doctors here in Portland, I'm heading out to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN on Thursday to get a second opinion. The Mayo Clinic is a national colorectal center, so their team is quite experienced. I need to hear what the leading experts say about my case for my own piece of mind. In general, my case appears to medical professions as a pretty run of the mill case (although it's hardly that to me). However, the degree of surgical difficulty is raised due to location of the tumor. The tumor is located in, shall we say, a delicate position. One purpose of doing the chemo and radiation therapy up front is to reduce the size of the tumor so that the odds of saving a certain muscle at the end of the digestive tract are increased. They're saying that there should be some response to chemo/RT, but it's tough to predict because everyone is different. I could have a complete response and the tumor could melt away entirely, or it won't

All of my friends here in Portland, back home, and elsewhere have been great. Work has been incredibly supportive and I feel very fortunate to work for the law firm that I do. Everyone has been beyond wonderful and it is very reassuring knowing that I a whole slew of people have my back on this.

So, this is what is going on my life. It's pretty much going to dominate things for the next nine month or so. If you shoot me an email or text and I don't get back to you right away, you'll have to forgive me. Things are still pretty hectic. Once treatment starts, I should settle into a schedule quickly and be able to do a better job of keeping up with everyone.