The day I found out I had cancer I informed my family. The next day I had two important phone calls to make. The first to my hematologist/oncologist to give her the news. I didn’t leave a message for her to call me back. I waited for her to be paged and pick up my call. I explained that I had seen a new GI and that he said I had adenocarcinoma of the small intestine. I felt like my announcement knocked her off her feet. She immediately wanted to make arrangements for surgery. I told her I would be having the surgery at the hospital that the GI practices out of and not the hospital that I had been going to for all my iron intravenous treatments where she practices.
My second phone call was to the oncology surgeon that my GI doctor recommended. I set up an appointment as fast as I could get one. On a chart on the wall in his examining room he pointed to the location of my tumor. It was in the duodenal, which is the beginning section of the small intestine. It is relatively rare compared to gastric cancer and colorectal cancer. He explained how he would cut the tumor out and do a resection of my intestine. He was the best in his field at this hospital so I felt I was in good hands. My GI and hematologist/oncologist were in touch before my surgery so everyone was on the same page.
On March 29, 2006 the surgeon removed a foot and a half of my small intestine. He also removed 12 lymph nodes for biopsy. We were all hoping the cancer hadn’t metastasized (spread). When I woke up in the recovery room I was in excruciating pain but I was alive. I was crying and telling my husband and the nurses the amount of pain I was in. They said they couldn’t give me anything until more of the anesthesia had worn off. My mother and sister had also been waiting with my husband so the surgeon met with all three of them afterwards to tell them the surgery went well.
The next day my GI doctor paid me a visit to see how I was doing and to tell me that all 12 lymph nodes were clear. The cancer had not metastasized. That was great news! I asked him if he just stumbled upon the tumor when he did his endoscopy. He firmly replied, “No. I knew exactly what to look for.” Thank God I had switched doctors when I did or I wouldn’t be here sharing this with all of you right now. My last GI did a colonoscopy and endoscopy the previous December and couldn’t find it.
When I was released from the hospital a week later I had a big basket of Mrs. Fields’ cookies and brownies sent to my GI’s office for him and his staff to enjoy. I was so grateful! I met with the surgeon after two weeks so he could take a look at the incision site. It was fine. He told me it was a slow growing cancer and I was very lucky it hadn’t spread. He suggested I get chemotherapy just to be sure. He sent me on my way and told me to gain weight. Of course, I contacted my hematologist/oncologist after the surgery and gave her the news. From now on I’ll just refer to her as my oncologist. I set up an appointment with her soon after. We agreed I would have the chemo treatments at her hospital so she could monitor me along the way. I scheduled an appointment to have a Porte catheter surgically put in my chest in which to receive my chemo treatments.
In the meantime, my oncologist placed a phone call to a doctor she knew at Memorial Sloane Kettering for a second opinion. After that doctor discussed my case with other doctors on a panel, it was decided that I didn’t need chemo. 1) The fact that the cancer hadn’t spread. 2) The fact I was so sick with my body starting to shut down prior to my surgery, played a big part in that decision. They didn’t think my body being in the condition it was in would handle chemo very well. The Porte catheter didn’t go to waste though. I needed more iron intravenous treatments to get my iron levels up to where they should be. So… they did the treatments through my port. That gave the veins in my arms a rest because they had pretty much collapsed as a result of all my previous treatments. Before my surgery, the nurses couldn’t find a good vein to use anymore and had to start using veins in my hands. I hated that because it really hurt!!!
Like I’ve said before, I don’t want to throw a lot of medical jargon at you. I’m telling you in the simplest of terms that we all understand. It’s important to find a GI doctor who knows what he is looking for when presented with the symptoms. If you aren’t happy with his findings, move on to someone else. It could be a matter of life and death.