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One Mistake Led to Another (Part IV)

Lower Gastrointestinal Anatomy
Lower Gastrointestinal Anatomy
National Cancer Institute

Wednesday, June 18th was a busy day filled with all sorts of surprises, none of them good.

The Colon

Things got off to an early start about 8:00 AM, when Dr. Lee, the attending physician, came to my hospital room and briefed me on me the results of the endoscopy of my upper gastrointestinal tract test I’d undergone the day before.

Dr. Lee told me I have extensive damage to my stomach due to using aspirin and naproxen at the same time; and then he said that I never should have been put on aspirin and naproxen at the same time because that combination always causes stomach problems.

I didn’t have much time to digest what that meant, because I was scheduled to go for my colonoscopy in about 10 minutes.

Sure enough, right after Dr. Lee left an attendant came in and wheeled me up to the Diagnostic Imaging Department, where Doctor Sandeep Naidu performed the colonoscopy.

Because of the way I was stretched out, I could barely see Doctor Naidu as he worked. Doctor Naidu is a short stout man with a no-nonsense attitude, which is a trait I admire.

Maybe he sensed that, because at one point he stepped back so I could see him, and he said, “You have Colon Cancer.” Then he ducked back down so I couldn’t see him.

That kind of straight forward approach was okay with me, but I don’t think many other people would be comfortable with it.

When I got back to my hospital room, the nurses were amazed that I was so upbeat after finding out I had cancer. But the colonoscopy had answered the critical questions that had been driving me crazy: why am I so sick and why have I been sick for so long?

Now the questions changed to:

  • How bad is the cancer?
  • How far has it spread?
  • How long do I have to live?

It was suddenly a whole new ballgame.

Undoubtedly, some people will say that it’s going overboard to jump from why am I so sick to how long do I have to live?

But that’s the way it is when you’re wickedly ill and don’t know why and then you find out that you have cancer.

There’s a finality associated with the word cancer that food poisoning just doesn’t have.

To make matters worse, I didn’t know anything about Colon Cancer. I was familiar with how deadly Lung Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer are, but not Colon Cancer. I was grouping in the dark for answers.

I never saw Dr. Lee again. Once I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer, my case was transferred to Dr. Brian Teng, a Colon & Rectal Surgeon, who came to see me shortly after I returned to my room after the colonoscopy.

Dr. Teng told me that he had already scheduled me for a CAT Scan, later that day, because that would show whether or not the cancer had spread beyond my colon, and that he would see me again after he had seen the results of the CAT Scan.

Shortly after Dr. Teng left an attendant came in and wheeled me off to have the CAT Scan. Things were moving fast, and I got the feeling that things were moving along so fast because the doctors were concerned that I was seriously ill.

They weren’t messing around. They were doing what needed to be done as quickly as they could do it.

After dinner, while Chuck was visiting, Dr. Teng came by to tell me the results of the CAT Scan, and explain what Doctor Naidu had found in the colonoscopy.

He said there is “Extensive focal thickening of a long segment of the proximal to mid Ascending Colon extending for a craniocaudal length of 7.5 CM (~ 3 inches). This is concordant with the known diagnosis of a mass on colonoscopy.”

The Ascending Colon is the first part of the Colon, the part that connects to the Small Intestine. It’s the part of the Colon farthest away from the Anus.

Craniocaudal is the direction of entry of the x-ray beam

In short, I have Colon Cancer, no doubt about it. But he also said that the good news was the CAT Scan indicated that the cancer had not spread to my liver or any of the nearby organs.

When Chuck asked him if he could see some pictures of what the CAT Scan showed, Dr. Teng used the TV in the room to access the CAT Scan images on the hospital website, and brought one of them up on the TV screen.

It took him a few minutes to get the picture in focus, but when he did, it was a clear, bright image

Then Dr. Teng proceeded to show Chuck and I exactly where the colon cancer was and was not in my abdomen. It was quite a show. I never would have asked to see images, but I was really glad that Chuck had done so.

Dr. Teng even went out of his way to point out on the image that the cancer had not spread to the Liver or other nearby organs. He said he wouldn’t know the extent of the cancer until the lab had done a biopsy after the operation, but it was a very good sign that the CAT Scan showed that the cancer had not spread.

When I asked him about the long term prospects, Dr. Teng told me that the prognosis was good because the CAT Scan showed the cancer hadn’t spread, but they really wouldn’t know exactly what the situation was until they did the operation to remove the mass and then completed the biopsy of the mass itself.

Before he left that evening, Dr. Teng told me that he would schedule me for an operation to remove the cancerous mass in my colon, and that since he probably couldn’t schedule my operation for the next day that would probably mean they would discharge me and then readmit me on the morning of the operation.

Telling me that was a good idea, because it meant Chuck knew that he might have to give me a ride home the next day.

Sure enough, the next day Dr. Teng stopped by my room to tell me that the operation was scheduled for Monday July 23rd, and that I would be discharged once the paperwork was completed.

A nurse brought in some discharge papers a to me to sign, but I really didn’t have time to read everything that they included, although I did notice that the papers did not list my allergy to egg-based vaccines correctly, and that they included tramadol and heparin as medicines I was allergic to, which was news to me.

I mentioned it to the nurse, but she said it was too minor to worry about. Who knows what kind of paperwork nightmare it might have been to change that?

I was discharged on June 20th, as I waited for Chuck to arrive I read the discharge papers, which contained some interesting information, which I read after she left.

The Discharge Diagnosis section listed that I had a Colon Mass, Gastroduodenitis (an irritation of the stomach lining), and Anemia. But amazingly, the rest of the instructions pertained to almost exclusively to the Gastritis and the Anemia rather than the Cancer.

I thought that was very strange, especially since Dr. Teng had told me that the Gastroduodenitis was secondary.

According to the Discharge Medications section acyclovir, Vitamin D3, citalopram (for my PTSD), ferrous sulfate (for iron), omeprazole (an acid blocker to help with stomach acid), and tadalafil (Cialis). For some reason it did not list the Atorvastatin I take to reduce my Cholesterol.

The Additional Comments section noted that I have been taken off aspirin, and that I should avoid naproxen, ibuprofen, advil, alleve. But that it was okay to use tylenol (acetaminophen) as directed.

The Home Care sections stated, “Symptoms of gastritis can be worsened by certain foods. Limit or avoid fatty, fried, and spicy foods, as well as coffee, chocolate, mint, and foods with high acid content such as tomatoes and citrus fruit and juices (orange, grapefruit, lemon).”

Avoiding coffee was going to be a problem for me, but we’ll cross that b ridge when we come to it.

To Be Continued in One Mistake Led to Another (Part V).

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