It’s Stage IV Colon Cancer

This is the email I sent to friends and family on July 17.  Josh couldn’t bring himself to write an update to his previous email because he couldn’t write that his wife had Stage IV colon cancer (with all that that implies).  So I took it upon myself to do so since I didn’t want to leave people hanging with worry.

***

Hello All,

First of all,  I wanted to thank everyone for their emails, voicemail messages, phone calls, flowers, care packages, assistance with taking care of my daughters and so much more.  My hospital room smelled like a flower shop, and all the nurses and doctors remarked over and over again that I must be very loved.  Indeed, I certainly feel very blessed to have all of your support.

Some of you already know the latest, but many of you do not.  I had a hemicolectomy last Wednesday, during which my mid colon was removed, together with the entire tumor and many surrounding lymph nodes.  My upper colon had been so obstructed that it had grown to the size of a football with waste and such.  My doctor was impressed that somehow my body had managed to hold everything together for indeed my colon was very close to rupturing, which would have been a disaster.  Because the surgery was done laparoscopically, the recovery has been relatively quick.  I was discharged on Monday and feel pretty good, although at this point even little activity proves exhausting.  We will be in LA for another couple weeks so that I can regain my strength and put on some weight.  Then we’ll be heading back to New York briefly before going to the Outer Banks for a week in August for a vacation we had planned months ago — the doctors are urging us to keep these plans as an important step towards recovery from the surgery and mental preparation for the chemo that begins immediately after our return.

During the surgery, they found a little pea-sized nodule of the tumor that had migrated to the area right above my bladder (technically, this tumor was attached to the inside of the peritoneum, which is a garbage-bag like organ that lines the stomach; the way of thinking of this is that the entire cancer was inside my abdominal cavity).  Because there was spread of the cancer outside of the colon, this technically is categorized as stage 4 colon cancer.  However, as the oncologist said, this is not a “classic” stage 4 case, because there wasn’t spread to the liver or any other organs.  CT scans on Monday revealed that there are no growths in my chest or the upper portion of my lungs (the areas that were not visible during the surgery).  These scans also revealed no evidence of cancer in my liver, pancreas, kidneys, or any other “scannable” organs (basically, everything below neck level).  Thus, all visible signs of cancer have been removed.  I’m the most cancer-free that I’ve been in years.

With the above said, we must presume that there are microscopic cancer cells floating around, thus the need for chemotherapy.  The treatment, whether the cancer was stage 3 or 4, would have been the same — 6 months of aggressive chemotherapy that will begin a month after surgery.  Everything now hinges on how my body and my cancer cells respond to the chemo.  While age and my own physical strength will help me tolerate chemo better, these factors will have no impact on whether my cancer cells respond to chemo.

The fact that the success of chemo will depend on my unique physiology, something over which I have no control, is frustrating to say the least.  But I will continue to work out as much as possible, eat well and otherwise maintain a healthy lifestyle.  I will marshal all the strength I possess, physically and otherwise, to fight this.  I will endeavor to have long conversations with my body.  Ultimately, I must put faith in myself and in a higher being who I have always felt was watching over me from the day I was born.  Your support is so critical to all of this, so please continue to keep me, Josh and our daughters in your thoughts and prayers as we continue the fight.

Love,

Julie

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. aileen
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 15:59:00

    I love reading your blog. Keep writing and fighting!

    Reply

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