Due to some changes in insurance, I was forced to get a new primary care physician (PCP) in 2016, so I started looking. Because my wife, Tina, is an RN with her BSN and she is in graduate school for nursing and education, I decided to go with a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP). Ultimately, that is Tina’s goal, and because of that it made sense for me to use a CNP as my PCP. Health wise I was doing good so I didn’t even setup my first appointment with my new PCP until mid year.
In July of 2016 I had my first appointment with my new CNP, Joshua Whitmer, and he naturally ordered a full blood panel. After a few weeks of putting it off, I finally got it done, and it showed a few questionable results. My hemoglobin was a little low and I had a slight iron deficiency. After a brief discussion about my family history, and the fact that my maternal grandmother passed away from colon and bowel cancer, Josh referred me to a doctor for a colonoscopy.
However, Tina and I had a seven night Caribbean cruise scheduled for our 24th anniversary from September 25th through October 2nd, so I put the colonoscopy off until after our trip. In hindsight, it was the best idea that we could have had, because the news that I got from the colonoscopy would have destroyed our trip. Instead we had a great time and were able to enjoy our anniversary without anything heavy on our minds.
On October 11th, 2016, I went in for the colonoscopy and also an endoscopy. The endoscopy was normal but during the colonoscopy a 5 CM mass was found in my lower colon. A biopsy was taken and three days later, on October 14th, I received a call from the doctor to confirm that the mass was cancerous. I was then referred to get a CT scan, to look for other potential masses in my body, and a surgeon to remove the tumor in my colon. This was a huge fear realized for my family and me, something that caught us way off guard, because I hadn’t had symptoms of any kind.
On Monday, October 17th, 2016, I went for a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvic areas. Tuesday, October 18th, 2016, I met with the surgeon, Dr. Bosio, about the surgery. He also went over the results of the CT scans with me, and showed us that masses were found on my liver and in both of my lungs. Dr. Bosio said that, due to the size of the tumor and the possibility of my colon becoming obstructed, he wanted to do surgery as soon as possible. Dr. Bosio referred me to an oncologist that he had worked with a great deal in the past, and who was a personal friend, Dr. Phinney. He also sent me for a PET scan, which I had on Wednesday, October 19th, 2016.
On Thursday, October 20th, 2016, I received a call from Dr. Bosio’s office to let me know that they scheduled me for surgery on Friday, October 21st, 2016, to remove the tumor from my colon. Later that same Thursday afternoon, I met with the Dr. Phinney and he went over the PET scan results. Unfortunately the CT scan results were confirmed and the lesions on my liver and a couple of the lesions in my lungs lit up like a Christmas tree, indicative of being cancer. It was at that point that I was given my diagnosis: stage four colon cancer with metastases to the liver and lungs.
I have to say that my wife, Tina, and I had a great deal of respect for Dr. Phinney from the very first time that we met him. He is a straight to the point kind of person who didn’t mince words or beat around the bush. He gave it to us straight and that is something that both Tina and I needed. He even stayed in his office until after 6:30 that evening just to go over everything with us and answer our many questions. I couldn’t recommend a doctor more, he is both caring and candid in his approach and we are lucky to have a doctor like him caring for me.
Friday, October 21st, 2016, I had the surgery to remove the tumor from my colon, which was successful. During the surgery, Dr. Bosio found a hernia, which he also repaired. I was in the hospital for six days recovering, and then I was released to go home, where I slowly got to feeling better over the next few days.
Dr. Phinney had recommended that I get a second opinion and referred me to a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic. On Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016, we went to the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH, and met with Dr. Penney for a second opinion and to see if I was a fit for any of their clinical trials. Sadly, the diagnosis was confirmed by Dr. Penney, and he said that they did not have any clinical trials that would benefit me. He recommended the same treatment that Dr. Phinney had recommended and we decided to stay with Dr. Phinney.
On Thursday, November 10th, 2016, I went back to see Dr. Phinney at the Toledo Clinic Cancer Center, and per his recommendation, we decided to start chemo therapy. FOLFOX is what we determined was the best first level option, and I started chemo on Monday, November 21st, 2016. I continued with FOLFOX, with Oxaliplatin and Avastin, for twelve rounds, every other week. I then continued with FOLFOX with Avastin, but without the Oxaliplatin, for another six weeks, making it a total of eighteen rounds of chemo. Throughout all of this, I was working full time, with at least 40 hours per week, as the Director of IT for a national transportation company.
The CT scans showed improvement in January, 2017 and again in April, 2017. By April, the lesions on my liver were either gone or too small to see on the CT scan, and the nodules in my lungs had all started shrinking, except for one. Both scans also showed no evidence of new disease. Things were looking promising and, while the chemo was rough, I felt like it was worth it because of the positive results. We were really seeing an improvement and felt like I had a solid chance of beating the disease.
My next CT scan was on August 7th, 2017 and we were excited to see the results because we were doing so good. Unfortunately, the scans showed anything but good news. The scan on my chest showed that the nodules in my lungs had multiplied, and two of the existing nodules had nearly doubled in size, the largest one now measuring 11 mm. There was also a new mass in my left upper lobe, which measured 3.2 cm. Also, multiple nodules were seen within the right lower lobe increased in size from prior study. The abdomen and pelvic scan showed a new lesion on my liver, measuring 1.2 cm, and one of the lesions that we thought had gone, based on the April, 2017 scans, had come back and was about 1 cm.
I am waiting for my appointment with Dr. Phinney on Tuesday, August 15th, 2017, to find out what he thinks about the latest scans and what we are going to do next. At that meeting I am also going to do what I said before I would never do: I am going to ask his opinion on my prognosis and what time he honestly estimates that I have left. Before this last scan, I didn’t want to know the answer to those questions. Not at all. But, since the cancer has already started fighting back with a vengeance, I think it is time that I get real with the situation and make some plans.
I’m not going to give up and will continue to fight until the very end, but if that end is likely to come soon, there are some things that I
want need to do before it’s too late.
Because my story is ongoing, I try to keep this page up to date on a regular basis. Typically I will update it about every couple of months, or when something major occurs. The last update was on August 11th, 2017.