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I had cancer… wait… what?

Wow… what a start to 2016!

West Lincoln Memorial HospitalOver the last weekend in January, I fainted three times at home. It freaked my wife out (she found me all three times), and it freaked me out too. Over the course of that weekend, I felt increasingly sluggish, tired and in need of sleep. Things finally came to a head on Monday January 25 when my wife called an ambulance to take me to our local hospital (West Lincoln Memorial Hospital).

The doctors identified an internal GI bleed as the cause. I spent 3 days in ICU that week and received 2 units of blood (I lost almost half my blood volume during this time). They were unable to find the source of the bleed during my hospital stay (they did a scope in my stomach while I was in the hospital), but they felt confident that the bleed had stopped and that I could go home to recover.

I had a colonoscopy at West Lincoln Hospital in late February to see if it could uncover the source of my GI bleed. No luck. The doctor was unable to find a source of my bleed via colonoscopy.

By the last week of February, my blood level recovered sufficiently for me to return to work. So, I went back to work for 1 week (4 hours per day).

Juravinski HospitalOn the weekend following my colonoscopy (Feb 28), I had some new bleeding. This time, we went to Juravinski Hospital on the Hamilton mountain (my family doctor recommended I go here as I had exhausted the tests that West Lincoln was capable of performing). We spent the day in emergency, arguing with the ER doctor and the GI specialist about running further tests on me. They didn’t feel that I was “emergent” enough to be treated and they wanted to send me home. Julie and I were persistent enough for them to agree to admit me overnight and monitor my blood levels. If my blood level dropped overnight, they would admit me the next day and run additional tests. The next morning, my blood had dropped significantly again, and they admitted me and conducted a more in-depth scope of my stomach and small intestine. They did see some fresh bleeding in my small intestine, but their scope was unable to reach deep enough to find the source. A follow up CT scan identified the source of the bleed: a tumour in my small intestine.

They operated on me on Tues Mar 1 and took out a small tumour (approx 2 cm in size). The doctor told me that there was only one small tumour and no other signs of tumour growth in my intestines. They sent the tumour off to be tested for cancer (yep, that freaked me out!). They said results would be available within a few weeks.

I went home from the hospital on Fri Mar 4. I was sore and tired, but was looking forward to recovering at home. Over the course of the weekend, I kept getting bloated and feeling more uncomfortable as gas built up in my stomach.

I went back into the hospital on Monday morning (Mar 7) after some severe vomiting. I spent the week in the hospital being hydrated and undergoing some additional tests. The doctors determined that I had a condition called ilieus, which is an obstruction of the intestine. Rest, fluid intake and time cleared the obstruction. I returned home on Friday afternoon (Fri Mar 11) to rest and recover.

While I was in the hospital, I received the results of the biopsy that was done on the tumour that was removed from my intestine a couple of weeks prior: the tumour was cancerous. The official term for my tumour is a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, or GIST. Luckily, the doctors were able to remove the entire tumour and no cancer cells were left behind in my body. This result is freaky to me. I’m still a bit stunned that I had an operation to remove cancer from my body. But, the doctors said that I do not require any further treatment and they say that I have a low likelihood of a recurrence of this issue in the future.

I have been at home resting and am now well enough to return to work. I am hopeful that this is the end of my hospital visits for the foreseeable future (apart from checkups with my family doctor and the specialists). My next step is to continue to rest and build up my strength again so that I can get back to normal as soon as possible.

So yeah… it’s a been a brutal couple of months. But, I think that this is finally wrapping up and that I am getting better.

So yeah… that’s the story. Cancer. At 41. Crazy.

Have you dealt with cancer? What’s your story? Please share in the comments below.

Todd