Let me start by sharing that Janet and I became grandparents on August 31st at 8:05 AM. Becca and Chris do not plan to post baby pictures on social media so just imagine the most beautiful baby you’ve seen and that’s a good place to start. Jacob Christopher Philip O’Hara weighed in at 8 lbs and 1 ounce with a perfect APGAR score. Yesterday we took a picture with his 94-year old Great Grandmother Sampson. With Janet, our son Christopher, and Jacob, that’s four generations in the same Picture. We are so proud. 🙌🙌
So my esophageal cancer metastasized in my liver and there is no cure. It was a lot to process emotionally and we needed time to discuss the future with our children, consider the best ways to proceed and share our decision with our Oncologist. Officially I am a Palliative Care patient with Stage 4 cancer now.
The options are:
- Do nothing.
- Start a moderate Chemotherapy treatment plan.
- Start an aggressive Chemotherapy treatment plan.
The basis of this decision wraps around picking quality of life or quantity (duration) of life.
Everyone in my shoes is unique so what I share below reflects what is typical and there are no absolutes. The time lines can be longer or shorter.
I feel healthy. I am gaining weight 74.4 kg (164 lbs) today. I eat everything I want. I am past the nausea I was having with milk. My upper body strength is starting to improve. We have a gym in our building that I will start using soon but for now I’m pretty active on the boat which is a solid workout.
If I do nothing, I will continue to improve for six to eight months and then as the cancer consumes my liver and spreads to other organs, my health will fail quickly and I will die. The upside of this option is the quality of my life will be the best until it’s not.
I case you don’t know, Chemotherapy is the administration of drugs which seek out and prevent the replication of cancer cells. These drugs also interrupt the replication of fast-replicating healthy cells such as hair, the cells lining the inside of my mouth and the cells in the stomach. Since I no longer have a stomach, I guess that won’t be a problem. White blood cells rapidly replicate so when the drugs kick in, they’ll compromise my immune system.
If I chose moderate Chemotherapy, the side effects will diminish the quality of my life as I experience side effects from the drugs. With a compromised immune system, I can expect to get sick more frequently and need additional treatment to combat infections. The quality of life will be impacted but if effective, my life expectancy could be a year or two. The drugs are taken orally and I’ll have scripts for nausea and to help with other side effects.
I decided to pursue the most aggressive Chemotherapy treatment. I can expect to be sick much of the time but if successful, it will extend my life for a couple of years. All the drugs are administered by IV and this treatment plan is the one with the greatest chance of success to interrupt the replication of cancer cells.
The Chemotherapy treatment, if effective, is continuous. I will learn to live with feeling sick all the time.
I am scheduled to have a Portacath inserted under the skin of my left chest on September 15th. This remains in me although it may need to be changed from time to time. Part of my Chemo treatment will be in the clinic. Then I will wear a pump for 46 hours to keep administering drugs.
I have one treatment day in the first week referred to Week 0 of a 6 week cycle. The next week, or Week 1 is a rest week, Week 2 is a treatment week, Week 3 rest, Week 4 treatment, and Week 5 is rest. And then the six week cycle starts over. I need to double check but I think the drug concoction with each treatment week is slightly different.
So that is what lies ahead. Between now and when treatment starts I plan to live large. If you’d like to sail or just hang out, this is the time while I feel so good and my immune system is in great shape.
Should I end up testing positive for COVID, I will not be able to enter the Chemotherapy clinic and my treatment will be terminated. This is also the case if I have to self-isolate for 14 days. It can restart but every interruption allows the cancer cells to replicate. As I’m sure you can appreciate, there is a lot of mask time in my future. I expect I’ll need to step up to hospital level PPE when out and about or when people to visit. We will be sanitizing a lot in our household. Good thing we have two bathrooms.
Obviously this is not a good news but as I said in my last post:
Clearly this sucks, but the best way you can help is to join me with Dignity facing the time ahead, Courage to cope with the next treatment and obvious eventual outcome of death, Humour as we reminisce about past and present times, Grace to share love freely and without reservation, and Faith in God when my time here comes to a close.From my post on August 28, 2020
As always, the support of all the family and friends at my side, and with God holding my hand is a source great comfort.
Peace, Love and Laughter