It's time I got back to writing. It's been two very long and painful weeks, but now I must continue with life as it's been handed to us, and that means I need to get back to writing.
Two weeks ago today, Tom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
It's a very difficult cancer to battle. It usually doesn't show symptoms until it's in advanced stages. The treatment is brutal - or as our new oncologist says, "I'm going to really beat you up before treatment is finished."
It starts with daily radiation for at least six weeks, combined with chemo every other week. The program is designed to shrink his tumor as much as possible before surgery, which will remove the lower end of his esophagus and then reconnect the remaining esophagus to his stomach. It means chemo ports and stomach feeding tubes, since the radiation to the esophagus will cause extreme pain when Tom tries to swallow.
We have a good oncologist, one we like very much. He doesn't sugar-coat anything, and told us the truth - the prognosis isn't very good. But he also is strong on pointing out the good stuff - that Tom actually looks healthy, isn't a smoker or drinker (both major causes of this cancer), and has a very positive attitude. His blood tests this week were all very strong. Those are all in his favor - and Tom's not a quitter.
He's ready to fight.
Spending hours and hours on researching this uncommon cancer, I came across a trial study that is being held at U of Michigan hospital, about 1-1/2 hours from here. It's being directed by a nationally-known doctor who specializes in this cancer, and is testing a drug now currently being used successfully in the treatment of advanced colon cancer. Since colon cancer is similar in many ways to e-cancer, there's a strong belief that this could prove to be a significant drug. I gave a copy of the trial to our oncologist, and he almost fell out of his chair in glee!
Turns out he'd done his homework before meeting with us, and had already lined up some local trials for us to consider. He said that usually he has to talk people into trials, as many do not want to be a guinea pig. And here we were, shoving this piece of paper into his hands, asking - begging - to be considered for that trial. He hadn't been aware of this particular trial, and feels that it would be very good for Tom, so he's sent a referral asking for Tom to be admitted. Now we're just waiting to hear from the trial study . . . waiting is hard.
Tom's now lost 70 pounds since May. Since he was overweight, originally he could afford to lose weight. Now we're battling to keep his weight stable so he can get through treatment. He cannot eat much solid food, but can tolerate soups, scrambled eggs, fruit smoothies and similar soft foods. We should own stock in Ensure, because it's the bulk of his current diet.
Over the last couple weeks, the valleys have overtaken the hills, and it's been tough, but we're getting used to it. At least now we have some direction, when before we just knew it was bad but didn't know what could be done. It's the unknown that really screws your head.
We are both the patient - although Tom's getting the worst of the deal, I'm right here beside him every step of the way. We have a long and hard fight ahead, and we're ready for it. Well, we're as ready as we can try to be . . . and we are trying really, really hard.