Slight hiccup in plans

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog. Back in May, I started suffering from severe abdominal cramping. A trip to the Emergency Room and a CT Scan led the doctors to preliminarily diagnose me with Diverticulitis. I was released with antibiotics, and for a few days I felt great. Then the cramping returned. I once again went to the ER, and had a second follow-up CT. The pain was intense, so bad that I couldn’t keep down the CT contrast I had to drink, and led to a tube being shoved down my nose and into my stomach to suck out the bile. Talk about misery!

The second CT scan showed a severe blockage in my large intestine. I was brought into the operating room immediately for surgery. Ultimately, I had about 14 cm of my large sigmoid colon removed, and was set up with a temporary ostomy.

The pathology on the blockage came back a few days later – stage three Colon Cancer. Wow! I am only 42, with no family history of cancer. I am healthy and active, do not smoke or drink. In a sense I was very lucky, because had I not come down with the side effects, I would not have had the cancer diagnosed possibly until it had gone stage four and possibly terminal.

In the months since the surgery, I have learned to live with my temporary surgery. Followup CT scans and a PET scan have shown that I am most likely clear of any spread of cancer, but with five positive lymph nodes in the removed section of colon, the seeds of future tumors may have been spread. To help prevent this from happening, I started six months of chemotherapy in June.

The Coast Guard has been incredibly supportive through all of this. I am currently on limited duty – meaning my primary job from now until early January 2014 is to get chemo and recover – and to return to full duty which is my plan. I am receiving treatment on Guam, which allows me to remain on island, which I preferred for a number of reasons.

The chemotherapy I am receiving is called XOLOX. I receive an Oxaliplatin IV drip on day one of each three-week cycle. Also, during days 1-14 of each three week cycle, I take oral Xeloda medication which is converted into the anti-cancer drug 5-FU in any cancer cells still living in my body. My side effects from the Xeloda are minimal, fortunately, but the Oxaliplatin, a platinum based drug, has some pretty severe side effects including nausea, tiredness, and a wicked cold sensitivity in my mouth, hands, and feet. This means no cold drinks, and even room temperature drinks are unpleasant when consumed quickly. It requires me to wear gloves when taking something out of the refrigerator. Fortunately, these side effects wear off after about a week, and during my chemo recovery weeks (days 15-21 of each three-week cycle), I can enjoy ice cream although I still have to wear gloves when grabbing the container.

At this time, I am a couple days into my 4th round of eight of chemotherapy. I hope to finish in time to recover slightly for at least a part time effort in the WW SSB contest. During November, I will be exercising heavily, to get some of my fitness back, and hopefully a full effort in WW CW. In early December, I should be receiving a second surgery to reverse my ostomy, and to return my digestive tract back to it’s normal path. After a few weeks of recovery from this second surgery, I should be returning back to full duty, and to continue my Coast Guard career, transferring somewhere in the summer of 2014 as previously planned.