So far so good
I was diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer 13 months ago. Today i feel great. The initial diagnosis was quite a shock. Otherwise I was in good health and very active.
I had symptoms for two months before my diagnosis. Difficulty eating a preference for wet foods. I thought I had acid reflux but as it turned out it was much more serious. The disease spread to my brain before the initial diagnosis.
After two months of trouble eating I saw a gastroenterologist who prescribed a barium swallow test and an endoscopy. The barium swallow test indicated a growth near the junction of the stomach and esophagus. The endoscopy included a biopsy which confirmed cancer. The week before the endoscopy I began to have slurred speech. The day after the endoscopy I had a Cat scan. Later that day I developed nausea from headaches and vomited blood. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
At the hospital the results of the Cat scan were coming in and things didn't look good. One tumor in my stomach and three more in my brain.
At that point I didn't think I would survive much longer.
Then things started to change.
The neurosurgeon's office showed me a 3D image of the brain and the tumors were 1-2cm each and locates in spots that could be treated. We scheduled emergency surgery to relieve the pressure from two tumors and the surgery went well. I survived it with full function. One tumor remained because it was difficult to reach with surgery so I was treated a month later with stereotactic radio surgery to eliminate the third tumor. Again I maintained full function.
Then I set about trying to eliminate the gastric tumor which the doctors would not treat while the brain was worked on.
Finally 7 weeks after diagnosis I received my first chemotherapy treatment- Folfox and Herceptin (the tumor was Her2 positive).
Two months later I had a petscan and the reading fell from 20 to less than 3. which indicates the medicine was impacting the tumor in a positive way. I continued this treatment for 7 months.
I saw 4 oncologists during this time. My primary oncologist was successful treating the tumor with the chemotherapy but my prognosis was still poor so I searched for a long term solution.
I saw 4 oncologists from NYC to Houston.
All the doctors agreed that surgery was the only cure. Some doctors recommended to stay with medicine and that surgery would be ineffective. They were hesitant to operate on the gastric tumor because I was stage 4. The other three doctors varied in possible surgical options but all wanted to wait from 6 to 12 months. Surgery would only be an option if the brain tumors did not recur and no new tumors formed.
I prayed for more time as I love my life. My prayers were answered. The power of the medicine worked. I had brain mri's every three months and I went nine months without the tumors recurring. At the same time my Pet scans were showing the tumor was limited to my stomach. One set of doctors felt that was enough to risk surgery to attempt a cure if that was my choice. I felt strong and wanted to improve my chances of a long-term solution. I had a gastrectomy three months ago.
It's been challenging learning how to eat without a stomach. But my quality of life is good and I would do it again.
I am in my 50's and have been able to work except for five weeks following the gastrectomy. I am back in the gym and feel like I am 35. With no detectable disease.
I hope this serves as an inspiration to seek the best medical care you can find. Take care of yourself. Keep a positive attitude. All we can do is give ourselves the best chance that we can. We all die sometime. Your time may not be for many years.
When I first got sick I put my things in order in case I only had a few weeks to live.
Now I am making plans months in advance with hope that they are achievable.
When I woke from the initial endoscopy more than a year ago the doctor said I should expect the diagnosis to be cancer the nurse wished me good luck and said it would be a long rode. She was right. There have been moments that were physically difficult and many more that were emotional difficult. But one thing has remained true.
I have always felt the love of my family and felt that life is precious and I am determined to enjoy it as long as I can. So far so good.