It ain't good, folks. Wife has cancer. But I am sober.




 
--
Boots
 
September 22nd, 2011  
AZ_Infantry
 
 

Topic: It ain't good, folks. Wife has cancer. UPDATE PAGE 2


Long post ahead. Tired eyes beware. And, yes, this thread is about my personal real life. I know that meets with disapproval from many, so feel free to click that funny little link of your choice that navigates you away from this particular thread and carry on.

My wife's results are in, and she has cancer. This thread is to keep you all updated on the happenings if you are interested. Consider it my outlet thread, not a whining thread, please. I'm sure I will have my bouts of whining, but...

One thing to know before this seeming dissertation erupts is that, 32 days ago, I gave up the bottle. No VA, no help. Just decided I was tired of it. Now I know why God gave me such peace in my decision.

Most of you know that I could be facing the same thing, but thus far everything seems to be checking out with me. I have another test upcoming, but they believe the problem "down there" with me is a non-prolapsing hemorrhoid that is pretty easy to remove. I guess that can cause severe testicle pain. <shrug> I am no doctor.

My wife, unfortunately, has not fared so well. In a way, this has made our relationship stronger than it ever has been. We used to treat our marriage as granted - we've both done our share of walking away from each other only to come back. It's different this time, but not for the cancer reasons alone. There has been a spiritual change in both of us of almost epic proportions, and we are both completely floored by the severity of the transition. Both of us believe that God has His hand in this; that offends the sensibilities of some here, and that is ok to just agree to disagree and leave it at that. For us, there are far too many coincidences to assign random chance to the situation. For those of you who believe in Jesus, you understand when I say that we are just 100% convicted that He has, once again, shown us that His plan does not always happen in our time desires. For those that do not or choose not to understand, the only way I can describe it is as if some force opened our eyes to truths we should have known but subconsciously chose to repress.

Tough times make for tough people, I guess. But even the toughest man needs an outlet, and you all, be it fortunately or unfortunately depending on your give-a-damn meter, are it.

Fifteen years ago, Brandy was diagnosed with uterine cancer-positive polyps. This means, basically, the simplest form of cancer: the polyps are growths inside the uterine tract or the uterus itself, and they snip those off to test them in an outpatient surgery. It is little different than is a colonoscopy in terms of a little snake thingy with a camera they insert up your... well, you know. This one has a small set of shears and *SNIP* and off goes the polyp. They remove suspected ones and test others to ensure they are benign (cancer free) and that it that. Catching cancer early enough results in this procedure.

Brandy's, unfortunately, is back with a ferocity. She gets regular tests every six months, the last being six months ago almost to the date. It was positive. The last was negative. It took everyone by complete surprise.

Over the past few months, she's been undergoing further testing. This is a huge part of why she left me, though unbeknown to me at the time - she couldn't handle the stress of that coupled with living with a drunk any longer. For those speculating, that is not the reason I got sober a month ago. That was for me and only me. But I am blessed to be over one month sober and here for the woman I love more than life itself. That Brandy is also a recovering alcoholic/addict only adds to the timing and importance of support of my decision.

Anyway, the identifying battery of tests concluded Sunday with her final CT Scans and X-Rays and all that other crap. I've spent more time in waiting rooms at the VA (Veterans Administration) than I have at home this last month, it seems (not true, just seems like it). Here is the verdict in, as far as we know right now, its totality:

Brandy's cancer is again uterine. Cancer of the uterus. She will be going in for a full hysterectomy, which is different than a partial as they remove the ovaries, as well. The good news with that is that she will avoid early menopause, which is not the joke us men make about it (Brandy is 35). Imagine someone cutting off your testicles, guys, and you losing all your testosterone-making ability. And that is the bad news: because they have to remove her ovaries, she can never make estrogen again, meaning she'll be on estrogen treatment for life. She's already had a tubular, so there isn't even any good news for me about unprotected sex - we've been having that since we met.

Unfortunately, the bad news didn't stop there. Sunday's tests positively concluded the following in the next post, as this is too long for a single post:
September 22nd, 2011  
AZ_Infantry
 
 
Brandy has one Left Ileum Lymph Node that is definitely metastatic and metabolic. Put into medical-for-dummies vernacular, metastatic cancer means a cancer that began somewhere else, entered the blood stream and "made" new cancer elsewhere. In her case, it began as a recurrence (came back) of her uterine cancer from fifteen years ago and then spread through the blood to create a polyp in her Ileum (basically, the end of the small intestine). Ileum cancer has five types, each of differing severity, and we don't know which type yet because we have been flooded with information we've gotten confused on. For instance, there is Ilium and Ileum cancer, which we were originally unaware of and researched only Ilium cancer, and they aren't even close to the same: the Ilium is your hip/pelvic bone, whereas the Ileum is the small bowel.

There is also another lymph node they identified that, due to the swelling inside of Brandy because of the Conical Biopsy she had, could be metastatic (more spreading) or reactive (inflamed due to the internal swelling). We won't know about that one until the 29th, which I'll discuss next.

Like me, my wife is a veteran of the United States Army. In America, for those civilians who may not know here, a veteran of any military branch who receives a discharge that is NOT dishonorable is given free medical care for life through the Veterans Administration hospital system. There are restrictions to this care such as vision and dental stuff, but this isn't the thread for those here.

Now, in some things the VA is top notch. Their mental health experts are highly rated, for instance, as are their substance abuse success rates. Their cancer center, frankly, leaves much to be desired. I do not trust the VA to handle my wife's case, and we've been pushing for a non-VA clinic that the VA will pay for. And we got it.

As of last Sunday, the VA is out and the University of Texas Southwestern is in. We have an appointment there on the 29th in which they will give us a much deeper understanding of EXACTLY what Brandy "has" and the time line for the procedures she will undergo. At the very least, we're looking at a full hysterectomy and one month of radiation treatment. Unfortunately, that is the least likely scenario.

Because this is a recurrence, and because it is metastatic, and because it is metabolic (been absorbed into the blood stream) and because at least one other polyp is affected, we're likely looking at a very serious... invasion? I don't know what else to call it. It feels like my heart has been invaded. It feels like Brandy's body has been invaded. It feels like life itself invaded the harmony we work and pray for, the happiness we all wish for and seem to so seldom get. What this means to us we don't yet know. The doctors are less than forthcoming, which I can understand: the sensitivity incurred when one hears "cancer" shouldn't be something doctors bitty over with their patients, filling their heads with speculation and what-if scenarios. Still, the idiom of not knowing being the worse position is true in this case. We want to know, and we want to know now. One of the biggest things we both hated about the military was their hurry up and wait policy. Neither of us minds hurrying, as we work great under pressure. Waiting? Not so much so.

One thing is for certain, and that is that Brandy and I and our family are never going to be the same. Once cancer recurs, there is NO way of ever completely removing it. Once it is metabolized, you always have it. Whether or not it remains in a stasis state of dormancy is another thing, but you can no more cure it than we can cure diabetes.

Saturday, the day before Brandy's final VA tests, we sat the kids down with her ex-husband, their biological father, and explained what we knew. We haven't said anything about the new news, and we won't until I am satisfied I have full disclosure and a complete prognosis from the oncology team, the OBGYN and her primary care physician.

Thankfully, Paul, Brandy's ex and the kids' biological father, is here in Texas and is caring for the kids for us. They live here on the property, but Brandy lives in my house and they in hers. It's help that is both very much needed and very much appreciated. That he expressed a desire to be a part of his kids' lives again, completely ignorant of Brandy's condition, is yet one more "coincidence" to the slew of factors that have come together to strengthen this family to go through this together. Sadly, they haven't fully accepted his return with the fervor he had hoped and tend to take advantage of his kindness and desire to integrate slowly, forcing me to still be the discipline monster of the village coalition.

I can say it here, but I'll never let on to Brandy: I am tired. Physically, emotionally and spiritually just exhausted. I am thankful I have here as an escape.

All in all, it could be far worse. Not by much, but just when you think you have it bad... well, someone out there is suffering far worse. As I mentioned earlier, Brandy and I are trying to stay positive in that our new-found strength is bonded by trials we'd never wish to go through alone. There is more love in this family than I could ever describe, a love that no one ever could describe despite their prowess as a wordsmith.

For those of you that pray, please pray for His will for this family. For those that do not, please keep us in your thoughts and well-wishes.

I'm willing to try and answer any questions or clarify anything to anyone who is interested. Otherwise, I'll just be updating information as we get it. If anyone else out there is going through this, please feel free to send me a PM - I am never too tired to support friends. We get wide shoulders in the Infantry. I have no problem giving out my phone number or, if you're a female and wish to support Brandy directly, her's as long as I speak with you first (I am very protective of those I cherish).

Thanks to you all and this site for allowing me a place to just sit and chat. I know everything will work out, but beating back the fears takes an energy I find myself in short supply of these days. As stated, question or comments are welcome. If you took the time to read this, then thank you.

"What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain..."

Edna St. Vincent Millay, What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
September 22nd, 2011  
rattler
 
 
Godspeed!

Rattler
--
Boots
September 22nd, 2011  
42RM
 
Damn!

AZ, I had to read your post twice and I still dont know what to say.
My thoughts are with you and your wife and I can only express it like this:

Do you believe in angels? The kind that heaven sends,
Tonight you are surrounded by angels. To you, they are known as friends.

And you have many friends here.
Although we dont know each other personally, then the fact that you and your wife have worn uniforms makes you two my brother and sister. So whenever you feel a need to talk, Ill listen.

So, soldiers - keep on fighting.
Sincerely, Chris
September 22nd, 2011  
grey shadow
 
It grieves me
I will pray for you both

Ihulim Levaviim (Best wishes)
September 22nd, 2011  
Yossarian
 
 
In my thoughts and prayers as well, take the best of care.
September 22nd, 2011  
senojekips
 
 
These happenings make me feel physically ill, and although they are occurring too often, I never have managed to work out what to say.

So I guess I'll say very little, but you do know that both Shirl and I are thinking of you both, we send our love and encouragement, hoping that it may offer some small comfort to you in the times ahead.
September 22nd, 2011  
roamsk
 
 
Hi, AZ Infantry. Please consider, if you have not done it already, to take some time to browse through the complex site of the MD Anderson Cancer Center. There's lots of information, even books & blogs to read. I am linking one page which has support links for patients & their families. Although the diagnosis is serious, do not lose hope. One lymph node is just one lymph node. It does not mean metastasis. The doctors will stage the cancer more precisely once they do all the necessary tests.

In regards to your internal hemorrhoid surgery...I hear it is a piece of cake ! My grandmother had this type of surgery done when she was 80 years old, and she was literally back on her feet and in her beloved kitchen the next day. But then she was a really tough lady. I don't know about you...just kidding here a little, hoping you can take it.

Also, since you mentioned a problem with alcohol, and since these are really stressful times, I say it wouldn't hurt, if you agree with this concept, to try to find an AA sponsor of your own. AA groups could be a bit too tiring or overwhelming in your current situation, but try to give them a call to see how you can get about getting a sponsor. And if the first one doesn't feel like a "good fit", which is always a possibility, as some of them may kind of repressed not very touchy feely mothering or supportive type of guys, don't give up on them, try to find another.

If you have any other questions or thoughts, don't hesitate to write about them right here. We are here for you.
September 22nd, 2011  
AZ_Infantry
 
 
Everyone,

I cannot tell you how much the support means to both Brandy and to myself. I've been a member here for, oh, almost 4 years now, and I have never failed to see all the discontent we sometimes share disappear in a flurry of support and love when one of our own faces something in real life.

It may seem strange to some -- how can you worship a god who let this happen to your most cherished thing in life? -- but we are in good spirits through lots and lots of prayer and a good helping of levity. We have a little running joke: when something isn't going right, we'll look at each other and, in unison, say, "Hey, it could be worse. It could be cancer!" It's what helps us get through.



Quote:
Originally Posted by roamsk
Hi, AZ Infantry. Please consider, if you have not done it already, to take some time to browse through the complex site of the MD Anderson Cancer Center. There's lots of information, even books & blogs to read. I am linking one page which has support links for patients & their families. Although the diagnosis is serious, do not lose hope. One lymph node is just one lymph node. It does not mean metastasis. The doctors will stage the cancer more precisely once they do all the necessary tests.

In regards to your internal hemorrhoid surgery...I hear it is a piece of cake ! My grandmother had this type of surgery done when she was 80 years old, and she was literally back on her feet and in her beloved kitchen the next day. But then she was a really tough lady. I don't know about you...just kidding here a little, hoping you can take it.

Also, since you mentioned a problem with alcohol, and since these are really stressful times, I say it wouldn't hurt, if you agree with this concept, to try to find an AA sponsor of your own. AA groups could be a bit too tiring or overwhelming in your current situation, but try to give them a call to see how you can get about getting a sponsor. And if the first one doesn't feel like a "good fit", which is always a possibility, as some of them may kind of repressed not very touchy feely mothering or supportive type of guys, don't give up on them, try to find another.

If you have any other questions or thoughts, don't hesitate to write about them right here. We are here for you.
Roam, I do have a few things to address specifically with you, if'n you don't mind.

First, my sobriety isn't even in question. I went through an inpatient treatment program for alcoholism, also through the VA, and graduated about 18 months ago. I started drinking again, obviously, but I think I wasn't fully committed the first time. I was homeless, and ending that was, subconsciously, my priority. But I still have contact with all my AA peers, my sponsor, and all the therapists, counselors, etc. in that hospital. I know this time is different because this time it feels different. I had no reason to stop drinking this time. I just decided to.

Next, we are putting in a consult for MD Anderson. I have heard nothing but excellent things about them, and if U of T will approve it, I'd prefer she go there.

Now, I have a few questions that I would appreciate help with.

We were told by the VA team that it WAS metastatic. That it began in her uterus and had spread to her ileum. They didn't leave any room for doubt there. The doubt was the second polyp - it is not yet known if it is reactive or metastatic because Brandy is still swollen from her conical biopsy

We were also told that, in addition, the cancer was metabolic.

Now, after a good deal of research, I understand this to mean that Brandy has cancer in her uterus and in her ileum; that metastatic means that it has already spread (the one positive polyp in her ileum); and that metabolic meant that it was in her blood stream. Am I reading that wrong? It's all medical mumbo jumbo to me.

Anyone who can shed any light on what this all means... it would sure be appreciated.
September 22nd, 2011  
jillyz12
 
 
God bless you both, AZ. I'm glad you have your faith to lean on. And don't forget to avail yourselves of all of the services and help that the American Cancer Society has to offer. They are wonderful!

You're both in my prayers.
 


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