Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What Would You Do?

This blog post is going to get extremely personal.

Some of you that read my blog regularly I have spoken to on a more personal basis and you might know some of this, most of you I am sure do not.

Nevertheless, I have been quiet about this for quite some time and it has gotten to a point that I can be quiet about it no more.

A few years ago, June 2006 specifically, the family and I had just moved to Oklahoma City from the Seattle area. We had not yet even gotten settled into the house we moved into. One early morning in June (very early, like 3 or 4 in the morning) my wife Jesica woke up in terrible pain. She was in so much pain that we woke the kids up, got everybody dressed and headed into the emergency room, where they initially just pumped her up with pain killers while they tried to figure things out.
After running several tests they had determined that a cyst on her ovary had ruptured and they had to do emergency surgery to get it all out. So they took her into the operating room, where they ultimately had to remove the entire ovary itself.

A few days later, however, after running pathology on the ovary and cyst, we got the news that it was not a cyst after all. This thing that had ruptured was indeed a cancerous tumor. They ran more tests to try and determine if there was anymore in there. They were unable to find any.

She was assigned to a doctor at the University Medical Center's cancer division. We saw him a couple of times but Jesica was not very comfortable with him. He did not seem to have much of a personality in my opinion. Problem was that for her type of cancer, there were only about 3 doctors in the state. They did, however, find her another doctor that she was a little more satisfied with.

The next year, almost to the day as when we first found the cancer, Jesica, at the suggestion of the oncologist, had a full hysterectomy done in order to prevent the spread of anymore cancer. During the surgery, they did some searching around and determined that there was no more cancer but would continue running tests for another month just to make sure.

In July of 2007, we were given the all clear. There was no more cancer. Or so they thought.

After that we led a life in Oklahoma (for the most part) free of stress.

But January rolled around and she began having pains in her abdomen. Not terrible pain but pain nonetheless. She even went on a trip by herself with the kids to visit her mother and her new nephew while I stayed behind.

Come February the pain got worse so we called her oncologist, expecting the worst. And the worst came. The cancer was back. Another surgery to remove the cancer was performed and after the 6 week recovery period they began chemotherapy.

After one regiment of chemo, the doctors determined that it was not working and decided that they would start her on a new one. This was also right about the time we were having problems with our mortgage company (see How to Lose a House).
At this point, with so much going on and how much stress was going on at the time, we decided to pack up and move back to Washington. If we were going to have to deal with cancer and chemotherapy treatments, we needed to do it somewhere that we had a better support base.

So once in Washington, we ended up taking her to one of the best cancer hospitals in the nation, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where they ran some more tests and went over all of the medical records that had been sent to them from Oklahoma. The doctor (who I have to say was, is and has been one of the best doctors we have dealt with during all of this) told us that the cancer was gone as far as she could tell and there was no need to continue chemotherapy treatments. Awesome. Or so they thought...again.

This was in July of 2008. October rolls around and guess who came back. That's right. The cancer came back. Another surgery. Another 6 week recovery period and more chemotherapy treatments after that.

Since that time, we have been on a roller coaster of emotion and of stress and of news.

The doctor all along has been convinced that she and Jesica were going to beat this cancer but as time went on, and multiple treatments attempted, we all became less and less optimistic that this cancer was going to go away.

Fast forward to about a month ago. Jesica was having some more pain. Keep in mind at this time we already knew that there was more cancer in her body but the attempts to remove surgically had ceased (this was decided because they did not want to further expose the cancer to open air and risk it spreading further). She went in to have some tests run and of course, there was more cancer. Also keep in mind that this visit took place in between chemo treatments. She was still in the middle of treatment, and the cancer not only was not going away but new ones (a bigger one even) were growing.

At this point, the doctor gave us the bad news that there really was nothing more that they could do and the doctor herself told Jesica to start putting her affairs in order. So this was a little shocking. Had they given up? Was there seriously nothing else that could be done?

They had decided to try one more type of chemotherapy but informed us not to get our hopes up about it because this type of chemo has time and time again proven ineffective against Jesica's type of cancer.

Ah, that reminds me, let me rewind a bit to talk about the type of cancer Jesica has. I am not going to even attempt to try to pronounce the biological names of this type of cancer and I might be a little off on the specific details and some of the numbers I will mention here but this gives you an idea of what we were up against.

First of all, ovarian cancer is rare anyway. Of all of the types of cancer that there are out there, ovarian cancer might show up in, let's say about 8-10% of the cases. On top of that, ovarian cancer does not normally show up in people at such a young age as Jesica is so we are already looking at Jesica's cancer as being closer to a 6-7% (if that high) range of all ovarian cancer.

So when they tested this cancer, they initially told us it was a type of cancer that I will call Cancer X. In all of the cases of ovarian cancer that have been found, Cancer X only showed up in 5% of the cases. So we were dealing with a rare form of a rare form of cancer.
However, after looking at it more, studying it, researching it, they determined that it was only biologically built like Cancer X. In other words, it physically looked like Cancer X. But they realized that it more closely resembled a type we will call Cancer Y.
Cancer Y itself only shows up in about 0.5% of all ovarian cancer cases. Great, even more rate than we originally thought.
Ah, but wait, it gets better.
Because it was biologically built like Cancer X but performed and was showed the aggressive nature of Cancer Y, that it was actually Cancer Z, a type that they have NEVER seen before!

So essentially, the doctors are dealing in what we can basically call guess work. They have no idea what they are up against. But these are smart doctors, I am not trying to belittle their intelligence or what they know. Just making a point that they are dealing with a rare situation.

In any case, they are trying this new type of cancer that they are about 99% sure is not going to work. Best case scenario with this chemo is that it will help manage her pain but easing some of the pressure that one of the tumors is putting on her internal organs.

So a few weeks went by after we got the news that there really was nothing more that can be done and were told to get her affairs in order. At that point, we really had no idea how long Jesica would still be with us.

Well, that question was answered for us just recently. This past Wednesday Jesica went to see her doctor to get a lot of questions answered and maybe determine if there were any other steps that might possibly be taken.

The bad news is that there really truly is not anything else that can be done. All options have been exhausted, save this "pain management" chemo.

But that isn't it. There is more bad news. We were informed that due to the nature and aggressiveness of the tumors, it is unlikely that Jesica will live past 6 months.

(Long sigh)

6 months.

What do you do when you are told your wife is going to be done within 6 months?

What do you do when you realize that in 6 months you are going to be the single father of 3 kids? An 11 year old girl. A 5 year old boy that just started kindergarten. And a 3 year old girl that was only 5 months old when the cancer was first diagnosed and has known nothing of a healthy mother.

What do you do with the knowledge that sooner than later you have to start making funeral plans?

What do you do?

Well, if you ever figure out that answer to that question, would you mind letting me know because I don't have a clue what to do with this information.

I am going to be blunt about this. I am, for lack of a better way to put it, terrified for what lies ahead.

I am, to be quite honest, a little co-dependent. Sometimes I do like to be left alone in my thoughts and to have some peace and quiet to be able to read and that sort of thing. But truthfully, I can't really function all that well without someone else around. The only time I have truly ever lived on my own, that is, lived by myself with nobody else in the house, apartment, dorm, whatever, was the last 2 years I spent in Alaska when I was in the military.

The fact that I am going to be losing somebody that for all intents and purposes has taken care of me for the last 8 years of my life, and the fact that I am ultimately going to be responsible for taking care of myself now, is frightening.

The fact that I am going to have to raise 3 little ones (1 of which will be a teenage girl soon) practically by myself is pretty scary.

Well, that is about all I have to say about it for now. I really just wanted to get this stuff off my chest because I felt like I have been silent about it long enough.

But I do have to ask. What would YOU do with this information?


  1. Oh dude, I have no idea what I would do with this information. This is worse than when my step-brother and then later his father both got sick and died. Like Jesica, they were both full of shit, ornery, funny, wonderful human beings. I believe that my world is a better place for having known them and I think I'm a better person for knowing Jesica as well.

    Part of me wants to scream and yell at Jesica for getting sick in the first place, but of course it isn't her fault. I can't concieve of being in your shoes and I hope that the doctors are wrong and Jesica will kick this cancer. Maybe it's silly to think that way, but you know me, I'm not always known for being normal.

    As with my mom when Willy (my step father) was sick and then passed away last year, I really don't know what to say to you, but perhaps sometimes just being here as best as I can is more than enough words.

  2. Anonymous10:20 PM

    I think that you are on the right track -- just now! Talking out loud about how you feel. Yes, talk to Jesica - about your feelings too (she would rather be treated like she is matters, I am sure). And do what the preacher said last Sunday: Pray and listen to God... and a few of his friends.

    I am already praying for you. Okay. That is what I'd do!

  3. Admittedly, I'm not sure what I would do in your shoes. I would probably become a blubbering mess and cease to function.

    I agree with Anonymous that talking is a great first step. This is going to be the hardest thing in the world for you, but you are a strong guy and I have been extremely impressed with your ability to cope with this horrible situation so far (you are doing a lot better than I would).

    You will come out of this mess a stronger person and Jessica will always be with you and watching over you. I have faith in you and if you need anything I’ll be there for you.