My Story So Far: Detection to Pre-Chemo

About Me:Hi I’m Mike. I’m a 46 year old male living in Tucson, AZ. I work for a large software company from my home. I do technical support for developers.Symptoms:For about a year, I had intermittent blood in the toilet after going #2. I thought this was hemorrhoids as I’ve had issues with them in the past. In June of 07, I went to the Mayo clinic in Rochester MN for a wellness visit (my wife and I were there for her surgery), my wife encouraged me to get a colonoscopy since they offered them there. I talking with the NP, she said they likely my insurance would not pay for it because I was under 50, was not presently presenting symptoms, and I had no family history of colon cancer [more on that later].During a regular visit with my PCP, we talked about the blood and he asked me if I would like to do a colonoscopy. I said yes since I wanted to find out what was causing the bleeding.Colonoscopy:On January 31, 2008 I had the colonoscopy. The doctor was 30 mm in and found a 2 cm bleeding lesion. He called my wife’s cell phone in the middle of the procedure telling her what he had found. A few days later the lab confirmed it was cancerous. The Dr. advised that I get this removed ASAP. I talked to two surgeons, one in Tucson and the other at the Mayo clinic in Scottsdale, AZ (about a 2.5 hour drive). Genetics:The doctor in Tucson that likely this is genetically related because 1) I am relatively young in getting colon cancer and 2) my Grandfather died of liver cancer. They surgeon pointed out that liver cancer rarely starts by itself, and that that typically cancer spreads from another region (the colon) to the liver. My Grandfather never had a full work-up to determine the cause of his liver cancer.Surgery:On February 21, 2008 I had a ‘sigmoid resection’ at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. They removed the entire sigmoid colon. (Sigmoid means ‘S’ shaped. It’s the very last part of the colon and connects to the rectum. ) I went with the Mayo since they were the most positive about doing the surgery laparoscopicly. Indeed they were able to do it that way and my recovery has been relatively quick: I was able return to work three weeks after surgery. Stage IIIc:As is the normal procedure, when they removed my sigmoid colon, they also removed the blood supply going to it. On the blood vessels are the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are like filters that collect and destroy ‘invaders’ to your body like bad bacteria and viruses. The lab counted 6 of 14 lymph nodes as being cancerous; this puts me at stage IIIc of colon cancer.Chemotherapy:The doctor said they I need chemotherapy as an ‘insurance policy’. This was not that comforting since no one could tell me to the degree that I have cancel in my body. There is the CEA test, but it is not reliable as there can be false negatives and false positives. They doctors said that the best way is to check in regularly with a physician where they will be looking for symptoms in addition to doing more regularly colonoscopies (1 year after surgery and then ever 3 years after that).  They will also do regular CAT scans. I will start FLOFOX on March 19th. My schedule is premeds (for nausea) and then 1.5 hours of oxaliplatin with leucovorin (a B vitamin that helps the effectiveness of the oxaliplatin). Then I will have a pump attached for a 46 hour infusion of 5-FU. This repeats every other week for six months. I go back after two days to have the pump disconnected. I will also have my blood drawn every Monday prior to treatment. The doctor will review my blood counts and determine if it’s safe for me to have my treatment. I will also have Neulasta injections as needed to help improve white blood cell counts. On March 17th, I will have a Porta-Cath installed. This port makes it easier to give me the drugs and feeds the drug via a catheter directly to a major artery of my heart. This allows the drugs to more effectively circulate through my body. The port will be like a bottle cap underneath my skin.