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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

So, things are OK for now. Dave went to the Radiology Department this afternoon and they took a look at the feeding tube site with some sort of scanning/xray device. Apparently the VON nurse yesterday removed the sutures improperly, which basically pulled the stainless steel pin that keeps the feeding tube in place back into Dave's abdominal wall until the suture finally broke off from her tugging so hard! They said it's actually embedded right now, but should work it's way out like a sliver. Unfortunately there is also a risk of infection, in which case they'll need to operate again to remove it. (sigh...)

Dave hooked up to the feeding pump when he got home this afternoon without any difficulties, so we're back on track for now!

We'll be heading over to a friends home this evening to celebrate New Year's Eve. Can't wait to hang out with good friends again! And the New Year holds the promise of Hope!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Will this this year never end?

Well, we've encountered an unexpected snag today. The VON nurse came today to remove 2 stitches from the feeding tube. Apparently you're just supposed to snip them and the part of the stitch 'inside' just falls back into the stomach and is expelled. She didn't know this and tried to pull it out after snipping it. It was very painful and the stitch itself actually broke off from the pulling. (Apparently she was pulling very hard!) Dave called the appropriate contact at the hospital, and they said that they basically caused unnecessary pain, but everything should be fine.

Dave left to visit with his friend up north after lunch today. When he tried to hook up to the feeding unit later this evening it was extremely painful. Fortunately they gave us an after hours # to the Radiology unit and he was able to contact the right person quickly, rather than panic & have to spend the night in emerg in another town where they likely wouldn't know what to do anyway. They told him to skip the feed tonight, take a couple of Tylenol 3's, and he has an appointment to see a Radiology doctor to check the feeding tube insertion tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully the nurse hasn't pulled something out of place... I really hope he doesn't have to be admitted on New Year's Eve. :(

So, today's prayer is that this is a minor and uncomplicated problem. We're really hoping to ring in the New Year with friends!

Goodnight and I'll update tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Since our first visit at the Cancer Clinic I have been pushing every nurse & doctor that we've dealt with about getting Dave started with Chemo ASAP. (This is thanks to both my sisters. I was likely walking around in a bit of a daze after the first visit on the 21st, and they basically told me to snap out of it and start pushing. What they're offering isn't good enough!)

Questioning and pushing (and of course lots of prayer!) last week got his consult with the Medical Oncologist moved from Jan 6th to Dec 24th. And they also arranged for the PICC line to be put in Jan 4th, which he requires before starting Chemo. (I have already come across a very unhelpful nurse, so I made a point of tracking down a nurse that had been particularly helpful over the phone earlier in the week and thanked her in person on the 24th.)

Well, apparently the squeaky wheel gets the chemo! I called again this morning and was told they're trying to fit him in but are booked solid and still couldn't confirm a date. They called me back later this afternoon and Dave starts chemo on January 6th. Hurray! Thanks to everybody who's been praying for this for us.

This evening Dave is a little tired, and in some pain. (The tumor does cause him chest pain, and the feeding tube site is still a little uncomfortable.) Hopefully he wakes up feeling better tomorrow. He plans on heading up north to visit a friend overnight and is really looking forward to it. Don't worry. He's not driving himself, and the friend is married to a nurse, so I'll allow it. :)

I had to go back to work today, so it was nice that Dave had some company throughout the day and of course a few phones calls. It certainly helps Dave to feel loved.
Thanks you guys!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dave's Birthday & Christmas

Dave was admitted to hospital at 6:30 am on his 45th birthday, December 23rd, to have a feeding tube put in. We were originally told that he would be in for a couple of days. After pointing out to anybody that would listen that it seemed particularly cruel to hospitalize him over his birthday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. He was discharged on Christmas Eve afternoon which we're thankful for! Also, the nursing staff on the 5th floor Thoracic Unit were awesome!
Dave had a bunch of good friends and family come to visit him on his birthday. That night he couldn't sleep because of his loud roommates snoring etc.., and the nurses let him use the ward COW (computer on wheels) to go online and answer some emails etc... which was great! Christmas Eve he was home but really tired. We spent Christmas Eve in front of the fire. :)

The procedure to put in the feeding tube went smoothly. Dave was a typical clown when I first saw him afterwards. He was still sedated and one of his first comments was, "How's my hair?" Then he made a silly comment about his newly shaved chest/stomach. Then, after dozing in an out, he said, "OK. I think if I HAD to drive, I could probably do it, but I might be a little bit all over the road.." That's my Dave! Always making me smile!

The feeding tube is to keep Dave from losing weight. Dave hasn't been able to eat solid food like meat for about a month or so and is starting to lose weight. (He's lost about 15+ lbs in the last month.) He can still eat yogurt, protein shakes, soft cheese, soups, pudding, etc... Although he was able to enjoy a little turkey with his mashed potatoes & gravy on Christmas Day, and some roast beef on Boxing Day!

So, right now Dave hooks up to a feeding tube pump each evening for about 12 hours to keep his weight on. The pump is a little noisier than we'd like, but Dave has since been waking up each morning feeling really good. Boxing Day morning he got up and said, "I feel great! I wish I could go play a game of hockey right now." That's my Dave!



Our first visit at the Cancer Clinic was Monday December 21st. We saw a Radiation Oncologist, who confirmed a poor prognosis and said he would start treatment after chemo. He showed us a print out of the catscan and explained the tumors and cancer a little more in-depth. He then referred us to a Medical Oncologist (Chemo doctor) for January 6th.

After leaving there we were disappointed in the fact that we were wasting time waiting for another consult and not starting treatment, and not even a date to start chemo. I made some phone calls to find out how to speed the process up. My sister contacted Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto to look into somehow starting chemo there over the holidays. It didn't work out as hoped, but we did set up a referral and plan on going there for a second opinion ASAP in the New Year.

I have pushed for chemo to be arranged ASAP, rather than wait for the Jan 6th consult and THEN make arrangements and it seems to have help. While Dave was in hospital to put in the feeding tube, they were able to move up the Chemo consult from the 6th and he saw the oncologist on December 24th am at the Cancer Clinic. (We're so happy to see things moving and know everybody's prayers are helping so much!)

Dave will get a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) on Monday January 4th. (This is similar to an IV line in his arm, which he'll receive the chemo through.) We don't have a firm date yet for Chemo to begin, but the nurse we spoke with at the Cancer Clinic is trying to get us in for Jan 5th-6th. Please pray that this happens.

Dave will have Chemotherapy for 3 or 4 months, with Radiation starting halfway through. Chemotherapy will be administered at home 24/7 through the PICC line with a small pump on his belt so he will be able to come & go. He will also go into the Cancer Clinic regularly for additional chemo and for the PICC line to be checked.

Please pray that this isn't too hard on Dave and of course that the chemo shrinks the tumors significantly. We have stressed with every doctor & nurse that we've spoken to at the cancer clinic that we want them to be aggressive. Dave is younger and healthier than the typical esophageal cancer patient and with the prognosis they've offered we can't afford to hold back.

In addition to getting the chemo started, we have also been praying for guidance as far as what else we should be doing and if there was anything in Dave's diet he should be adding. We connected with a woman who runs a natural minerals store (whom we found out after talking for a while, was a Christian), and have added additional minerals, and supplements to Dave's diet, like digestive enzymes, and better quality acidophilus yogurt etc... The doctors and hospital don't suggest any of this, but it really does make sense when you think about it. (They do however recognize anything that's not medical science as a 'complementary' therapy, and don't discourage it though.)



Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal Cancer on December 14th. This is something that has obviously shocked us and has come on very quickly & unexpectedly. Unfortunately Esophageal Cancer is asymptomatic, meaning that there are no symptoms, until it's very advanced.

(FYI. Your esophagus is basically a large muscular tube that propels food from your throat to your stomach.)

About 6 weeks before the diagnosis he was feeling fine and actually just renewed his gym membership. Within about a week or so he wasn't feeling well, having difficulty swallowing and having intermittent chest pains. The first doctor he saw (4 weeks before the diagnosis) initially thought it was scar tissue at the bottom of his esophagus from past acid reflux/heartburn and would require surgery to be removed. He was scheduled for further tests including a barium swallow, then a catscan and finally saw a thoracic surgeon on December 14th. The surgeon reviewed the catscan, determined that he has advanced esophageal cancer that has also spread into the esophageal lymph nodes, and it looked like cancer in his liver as well. He said they wouldn't be operating and he would be referred to the Cancer Clinic for treatment. A further ultra-sound confirmed the cancer in his liver, and a biopsy was done on the tumor in his esophagus.

As an awareness opportunity, I'll share the cause of this cancer. The surgeon said this cancer is the result of chronic acid reflux/heartburn. Stomach acids back up into the esophagus causing constant irritation and eventually change the lining of the esophagus. This is called 'Barrett's Esophagus' which is a pre-cancerous condition. Not everybody that has Barrett's Esophagus goes on to develop cancer, but it greatly increases your risk of cancer. Dave apparently had Barrett's Esophagus, which went undiagnosed, despite the fact that he had gone to our family doctor many times for heartburn over the years. If you have chronic heartburn, you should talk to your doctor about being tested for Barrett's Esophagus.

Dave has taken the rest of the school year off. We're obviously overwhelmed at this point but are staying positive and are realizing that our new normal will be fighting cancer. Dave is keeping a positive attitude and has surrounded himself with family & friends. We're determined to beat this despite the poor odds. Dave is young and otherwise healthy. If anybody can do it, he can.