Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Colon Update

Ready for another procedure.
It has been 3 months since my last chemotherapy cycle treatment for stage 4 metastatic colon cancer in my lungs. So far, the follow up tests have been very good. I have a monthly CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) blood test that is used to diagnose and track certain types of cancers, especially cancer of the colon. This tumor marker test has given me 3 normal scores. I also had a PET/CT scan at the end of August that no longer showed signs of cancer in the lungs. There are still a number of very small nodules but they are not lighting up as cancerous. My next scan is scheduled for next month. All in all, good news. However, the oncologist reminds me that the cancer will be back at some point in the future, she just can't predict when.

The biggest side effect that I am still dealing with is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in my hands, feet and mouth). Both my hands and feet continuously feels like I have been handling or walking on ice with no protection. I find it hard to walk or stand for more than a half-hour. The oncologist says there is no treatment cure for it. The best they can do is to ease the symptoms. In some cases the neuropathy is short-term; in others it can take years to go away. In severe cases it may never go away. She suggested looking into acupuncture. Many people have found relief with it. So far I have had a dozen acupuncture sessions. It is hard to say if they have made much of a difference.

In my case, the rectum has been removed and the
colon has been pulled down and attached to my anus.
Next on my health agenda is finally dealing with the anal fistula issue that has plagued me for over a year. The whole thing started last summer when a cyst formed in the scar tissue from my colorectal surgery of 5 years ago. The cyst became infected and abscessed while we were on a bike trip in France last summer. Last fall I had two operations under anesthesia to clean up the infection. At that time a seton stich was put in place. Wikipedia best describes it as: “The procedure involves running a surgical-grade cord through the fistula tract so that the cord creates a loop that joins up outside the fistula. The cord provides a path which allows the fistula to drain continuously while it is healing, rather than allowing the exterior of the wound to close over. Keeping the fistula tract open can help keep from trapping pus or other infectious material in the wound.”  The intention was to surgically remove the fistula at the beginning of this year after the infected area had healed. Instead, I was informed that my cancer had come back and spread to my lungs and that it would have to be treated first. I would have to wait and put up with its side effects until my chemotherapy treatments were through.

The two of us out and about.
The side effects of the anal fistula were not painful, just unpleasant and depressing. I had to wear a pad in my underwear 24x7 to capture leakage. I couldn’t swim or use a hot tub. Biking was impossible and running was difficult. It seemed like I was in constant cleanup mode. Despite this, I kept on going. I am not one to sit around home moping. We spent 2 weeks in Fort Lauderdale over Christmas/New Years, spent over a week in NYC attending Broadway shows, extended weekends in Ashland, Oregon (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Guerneville, CA (twice) and numerous weekends in San Francisco. So far this year alone, we have attended over 90 performances of plays, operas and ballets and went to the World Series.

This fall I have had two more operations under anesthesia to deal with the fistula (a fistulotomy, where the fistulous tract is surgically cut open and allowed to heal). My ass is a real piece of work. I am in the “wait and see” mode to determine how well things heal and solve my leakage and control issues. The surgeon and I are optimistic that the outcome will be good.

I leave you with some colon humor:

1 comment:

Jess said...

It's great that you're keeping your sense of humor and making the best of everything. I wish there were something more I could say that might help, but I at least can tell you I'm sending positive thoughts your way!

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