Hi! Yesterday, we heard the words we did not want to hear. Following our visit with Dr. Richards this past Friday, my strength continued to decrease significantly. We returned home on Sunday, the remainder of which I spent in bed. By Monday morning, I was so weak I needed Kelly’s assistance to get in and out of bed, walk to the bathroom, even kick off the covers. Kelly called the palliative care team at Froedtert, and the nurse said to bring me to the ER.
With help from my Dad and brother-in-law, Kelly got me loaded into the van and drove me to the ER. We checked in, and the nurses and doctors started their examinations immediately. They poked, prodded, measured, tested, x-rayed, and questioned me for several hours. Finally, the palliative care doctor, Dr. Marks, came to meet with me and Kelly. He said it appeared the cancer had progressed to the point where treatment was no longer possible. He also said I would stay in the hospital until I was strong enough to return home or make arrangements to stay in a hospice facility. He said—because I finally asked—the prognosis for someone with progressive cancer like this is generally measured in terms of weeks or months.
This was obviously not the news we wanted to hear, although it was not particularly unexpected. I knew I had been feeling progressively worse for quite some time. I could feel the lumps inside me, feel my swollen liver, my swollen kidneys, my throbbing subcutaneous nodes, my declining appetite, my growing fatigue and weakness (in case anyone wonders, I would associate fatigue with physical energy and weakness with physical strength).
Before sharing the news with anyone, we wanted to confirm Dr. Marks’ remarks with Dr. Richards. We called Dr. Richards’ office this morning and received his response rather quickly. He confirmed that the benefits of treatment—even a single chemotherapy with minimal side effects—would not outweigh the risks if I were so weak that I could no longer care for myself. Frankly, I agree with the assessment. I don’t want to be hooked up to tubes surrounded by nurses in a cancer ward when the end comes, nor do I want to hasten my death by pursuing treatment that will likely cause a fatal infection, fever, pneumonia, or some other harmful side effect.
Nevertheless, this has been hard news to hear, especially for Kelly. Ever since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve told Kelly that she has the heavier cross to bear. Today was one of those days when the extent of that weight began to reveal itself. Please pray for her when you can. We told the kids, and they took the news quite well. They have shown remarkable resiliency through this entire process. Their innocence protects them, I think; this is their childhood and they have nothing with which to compare it. Please pray for them, as well, as the coming months will be extra difficult for them I’m sure.
I will post another blog when we know more about what we’ll do when I get out of the hospital. If anyone wonders, I am in room 4NW-20 at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa. My direct room phone number is 414-805-3400. If you want to visit, I recommend calling first and then planning to come between noon and 4:00 pm. My mornings are filled with doctor visits and my evenings will be preoccupied with visits from Kelly and the kids.