The faculty of making stupid discoveries by accident. The name of my first Fantasy Football Team. Neither of which have anything to do with this blog. I just like the word. Deal with it !!!!!!
6 Years and Counting Part One
On August 28, 2004 I had my very first scope. After a couple of months of not being able to swallow my food and an unrelated (or was it?) trip to the ER I was referred to Dr. Sean McIlreath, a specialist in Endoscopies. He became the first in a long line of Doctors who would be instrumental in saving my life!
In a nutshell, I was diagnosed on October 28, 2004 with Adenocarcinoma of the Esophagus – in layman’s term, Esophageal Cancer. At what felt like a snail’s pace back then I had a CAT scan, saw yet another surgeon, Dr. Ted Young at St, Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton and was scheduled for surgery in November. On December 30, 2004 I had life saving and altering surgery. The surgery, which was supposed to last about 8 hours, didn’t and when I hit the recovery room I was a little smart assy with Dr. Young so he sent me straight to step down instead of ICU – he told his nurse that I didn’t need ICU and did so laughing, a rarity for Dr. Young I’m sure. Into a regular room in 2 days and out of the hospital in 7 days (It would have been six but there was an ice storm and it was easier for me to stay than to get home). I had been told that I would probably be in the hospital for 12 – 15 days. I was Dr. Young’s poster girl for EC back then Each time he came to see me in the hospital (at least twice a day) he would ask me “How’s the pain?” and each time I would answer “What pain?” He would smile and say “That’s my girl”. It’s probably wrong on so many levels but I do truly miss Dr. Young!!!!
Although he left a roadmap of scars on the outside of my body, reduced the number of organs on the inside and left a flotilla of shiny clips as a beacon to the treatment to come, his most important legacy (aside from saving my life of course) was the imprint he left on my heart. If not for the amazing surgical skills of this man and his awesome team I would not be here today!
I spent the next 6 weeks at my Aunt’s home in Burlington. A home filled with love and compassion and a short distance from Dr. Young and St. Joe’s Hospital in Hamilton if the need arose. Thankfully it didn’t, my only return visit was a week after surgery to get the results from the pathology tests of my removed innards during surgery and to plan the rest of my recovery. I thought I was scared before the surgery – it was nothing. I slept through that and then spent the next week so stoned that I barely remember much of it. My trip to see Dr. Young a week after the surgery was the scariest ride I had ever been on. Until he saw the pathology report he couldn’t tell me how advanced my cancer was, nor could he tell me what I had to look forward too.
Well, as luck (?) would have, all of the 50+ lymph nodes he removed were clean – my cancer was contained in the orange sized tumour he removed from the base of my esophagus. Along with the tumour he removed my entire esophagus, approximately 12 inches leaving a 2 inch stub at the back of my throat in which he pulled up the remaining 1/3 of my stomach (he removed 2/3 of my stomach for good measure) and attached it to the stub. Dr. Young recommended that I undergo radiation and chemotherapy as “insurance”, in case any pesky little cancer cells got away or were hiding just waiting for an opportunity to strike back. I readily agreed. I could go home (to Brighton) and have my chemo and radiation in Kingston which was closer to home than staying in Burlington.
Now, let’s be real here – I loved staying in Burlington. I was pampered, taken care of, had every need and want catered to by my Aunt Joy, a woman who words cannot even begin to describe…If I could ever nominate anyone for sainthood – it would be her! But I digress (yet once again). I chose Kingston. As much as being taken care of was awesome, I needed to go home.
The first oncologist I saw in Kingston would be the doctor who administered my chemo drugs. I would be given a cocktail of Cisplatin and 5FU (a drug so aptly named it is not even funny). It would be a 4 round protocol. One week on (with concurrent radiation – the radiation helped activate the drugs) 3 weeks off the chemo but continuing the radiation, one week on during the last week of radiation. The last 2 rounds of chemo would be administered even closer to home in Belleville. The second oncologist was Dr. Falkson, my radiation onc. He went through the radiation process with me and then told me that I should go home and think about it…HUH???? What was there to think about? I was 44 years old, in good health except of course for the cancer. I had nothing to lose, everything to gain. Now, I guess this is where I should add that the stats on Esophageal Cancer are not good, at best. Back then, the average mean time of survival was 27 months after diagnosis. 27 MONTHS!!!!!! However, mine had been caught in early stages so I had a “better” chance of survival past the 27 months. So I asked him point blank – If I walk out that door now and never come back what are the odds. He replied about 15%. So, I ask, what if I stay. His reply about 45%. So I say – Let’s do it!!!!
And so it began…
(If you have read this far, I thank you. I didn’t realize when I started to type how long a story this condensation of the story really was. I suppose I am giving away all the good stuff so you won’t have to buy the book, should it ever come out! You can thank me later.)