...Just Some of My Story – Bravelets

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...Just Some of My Story

Posted on December 22 2014

...Just Some of My Story
I have been taking Nexium for acid reflux for years, but now I was experiencing trouble swallowing food. Because I was being treated for acid reflux, it hadn’t occurred to me there could be anything else wrong.

I was scheduled for shoulder surgery in April, 2013 and decided I would have the shoulder surgery and see my gastroenterologist after my shoulder started to heal. After I completed the shoulder surgery and it healed a little, I decided to go get my esophagus stretched (since I had done it years prior), therefore, I made an appointment with my gastroenterologist. Upon waking from my twilight, I was told that my esophagus could not be stretched and I needed to make an appointment with an oncologist because it was “suspect of cancer”. That hit me like a ton of bricks.

For the next 2 weeks, I went through test after test (biopsies, CT scans, blood test & PET scans) and finally was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer on July 11, 2013. It was horrendous news and blew me away, for weeks I couldn’t eat or sleep, but I knew I had to get myself together because I couldn’t afford to lose weight or get sick. I knew I had a hard battle ahead of me.

On August 26, 2013, I began my radiation treatments at the Zangmeister Center and my chemo treatments at the Columbus Oncology and Hematology both located in Columbus, Ohio. Radiation was Monday thru Friday for 6 weeks and chemo was EVERY Monday for 6 weeks.

After going through radiation and chemo for 6 weeks, I finally completed my last treatments almost a week after my birthday on September 25, 2013. Although the side effects of the radiation and chemo were minimal, I still was having trouble swallowing and my doctors told me that was from where the radiation was being targeted during treatment.

On Saturday, September 28, 2013 my husband wanted to get me out of the house, and I remember it was a beautiful sunny day. We stop to get a bit to eat at the mall, but I was having trouble eating, swallowing food was still a problem for me. We arrive home later that evening and although I knew I had to eat something I didn’t feel like putting myself through the “eating process”. My husband made me some soup and I was still unable to swallow even the broth from the soup.

On Sunday, September 29, 2013, I woke up as usual and my husband fixed me breakfast, (grits & bacon) was one of my comfort foods. After trying to eat my breakfast it felt as though something was stuck in my throat and after not really eating anything the night before my stomach was totally empty. Therefore, I began to dry heave, I couldn’t even swallow water…needless to say, I ended up in the emergency room with esophagitis and dehydration that the radiation caused during my treatments.

After my little setback, by the Grace of God it didn’t take me long to bounce back. Now I was in the waiting period…I was scheduled for an Esophagectomy on November 6, 2013. Everything leading up to surgery was going well, I wasn’t feeling sick anymore from chemo and radiation and I hadn’t lost too much of my hair.

I went in for my Esophagectomy on November 6, 2013, but found out later it was not Esophageal Cancer, but Stomach Cancer, which resulted in a Gastrectomy. My husband later told me that the doctor came out of the operating room after he had opened me up and informed him that he found a tumor in my stomach and need to remove my entire stomach. I never realized that a person could live without a stomach. I also learned that Gastrectomy surgery is when doctors take your stomach away and attach the end of your lower bowel to the bottom of your esophagus. My husband told me it took about 6-7 hours for my surgery and when I woke up in ICU I was hooked to all type of machines with a feeding tube. I had to have several blood transfusions because my pressure dropped. I wasn’t in a lot of pain and I know through all of that, God was watching over me the whole time. My doctors and nurses management my pain very well and I am so appreciative of the whole ordeal.

The operation went well, but I was told after the healing process I would have to go through another round of chemo.

My chemo started two months after my surgery. It was done through IV because I opted not to have a port, but unfortunately this round of chemo was very painful and hard to get through, “BUT GOD”. The nurses administered what you call a PUSH, which caused so much pain in my arm…my entire arm was sensitive to touch and I was sensitive to cold, which lasted about 3 weeks giving me enough time in between treatments to heal. In addition to the IV drips and PUSH I had to take 6 chemo pills a day.

Again, with much pray and praying from my husband, family and friends, I didn’t have too many side effects from the chemo. The main side effect was feeling absolutely exhausted, nauseated and unable to eat. The doctor told me I would lose all of my hair after the first week of chemo, so I had my hair cut short and it only got really thin.
Eating after surgery took a lot of getting used to. The feeding tube was left in for 17 weeks, just in case my weight dropped and I needed to be fed on an IV pump that my husband administered every day. Although I was fed every day through an IV pump, I still had to learn how to eat again. Swallowing food was a very difficult initially, but I eventually learn to slow down and chew longer, it was almost like a fear of swallowing. I kept forgetting that swallowing whole was no longer an option and had to learn to swallow in smaller amounts because of the scar tissue, so choking was a constant for a while.
I felt sick a lot at first because I would get full after only a few bites. Now, however, I eat more, but seem to maintain a body weight of 130 when before the operations I weighed between 160-180, my surgeon told me I would probably plateau out at my “original” body weight when I was younger, which was about 135. I can eat a full sized meal again and looking at me, no one would know I’m living without a stomach and that’s by the Grace of God I survived stomach cancer. God said, “By His stripes we are healed” and he healed me of stomach cancer.

Lastly, the changes in my bowel movements are different now because I don’t absorb fat and everything looks different and feel different. Initially this can be a little stressful because of the change that has taken place in your body. Therefore, I worried that something is wrong and wonder whether it’s the cancer coming back.

Currently, I see my oncologist every 3 months; my next CT scan is Monday, October 27, 2014 and I am still confident and believe God has healed me of cancer by giving the doctors the wisdom to administer the correct treatment. I give all the praise to my God and Savior Jesus Christ and I am so thankful and appreciative for everything in my life. I feel better now and everything is great! I continue to lean on God and my faith to get me through it. My husband was a great support and he was always there for me, never once did he say, “let me take you to chemo or radiation”, it was always, “we have chemo and radiation on Monday”. He reassured me we were in it together and he never left my side. He truly went through it with me.

Cancer definitely gave me a new outlook on life and made me see more clearly what I already knew was, and the important things are family and friends.

I firmly believe that the reason my life was spared is because God still has work for me to do and one of those things is giving hope to other people.

Since I completed treatment and continue to heal from surgery, I have enjoyed some incredible moments in my life. My first grandchild (granddaughter) was born on January 20, 2014, my husband and I celebrated 9 years of marriage on August 20, 2014 and I celebrated my 50th birthday on September 21, 2014, where I got to enjoy a surprise party from my husband, family and friends.

I’m healthy and feel great, I still worry every so often, but I know there is nothing I can’t handle after going through what I have in the last year. I take nothing for granted and I thank God every day for my life, family and friends!
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