The Cancer, pt.1

In September of 2008, I began feeling easily fatigued and light-headed.  I thought it was perhaps a blood sugar problem, but tests indicated otherwise.

Eventually, a gastroenterologist performed an upper endoscopy.  When I awakened from the procedure, I was shown a photo of a tumor located in the wall of my stomach where the esophagus connects to the stomach.   It had its own blood supply.

Pathology determined I had a GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor), a fairly rare cancer.

In October, surgery was performed and the tumor was removed.

Six weeks later, I began taking a targeted chemotherapy pill (Gleevec) on a nightly basis with its accompanying side effects.  For me, I had nausea, diarrhea, severe muscle cramps, dry heaves, hypopigmentation (skin color lightening), and teary and puffy eyes.  Over time, I determined by trial and error which foods and drinks worked best to lessen the severity of the side effects.

In April, another type of cancer was found in my bladder.  For the first time I cried and started to feel my situation was hopeless. I felt like I was a cancer-making machine.  I shook it off a few days later because it’s not my way to dwell on the negative.

By the end of January 2010, I was able to stop chemo after 13 months and my life returned to normal.

Unfortunately, on December 16, 2010, I began to have great pain and was unable to bend at the waist.  An ambulance transported me to the hospital where a CT scan showed innumerable tumors.   My cancer had metastasized.  Surgery was recommended but we were told I would not survive.

I was moved to ICU, and my wife and I said our final goodbyes.  She contacted family and friends.  Then we got practical, discussing bills and household matters.

Once we thought about the whole surgery deal, though, we realized it would be best to consult with oncologists before rushing to cut me open again.  The oncologists we consulted said that we should put off surgery and try bombarding the tumors with chemo first.  We liked that idea much better than certain death.

Over two years later, the tumors are still there but the chemo is keeping them suppressed. Research says that the first line chemo fails in 50% of cases after two years, so I have been understandably anxious with every new CT scan or PET scan.

Until just recently, I’ve lived with the knowledge that when the first line drug fails, it has meant I have about 24 weeks or so left to live.  Bummer.

A few days ago, though, it was announced that a third line drug had been approved which has been shown to add a median of 4.8 months of life (3.9 months on average).  Though that does not sound like a lot, it relaxes me to know I could still hang around 10 or more months after the drug I’m on fails.  Perspective.

I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a realist.  I hope for a longer life but don’t expect it.

Writing and experiencing reactions to my first novel serve as a welcome distraction from my worries.  Hopefully I’ll have enough time to finish a second novel, and maybe even see how readers respond to it.  I’m just trying to make the most of the time I have left.

Author: Lennox Randon

Randon, a writer battling metastatic GIST cancer (gastrointestinal stromal tumors), currently lives in Iowa with his wife Lileah.

13 thoughts on “The Cancer, pt.1”

  1. You are always in my thoughts and prayers and I keep hoping you can beat this thing. You’ve already shown a tremendous amount of strength and tenacity and I hope this new drug can fortify that.

    1. As I was telling a friend today, I call the last 2 years my bonus years, and feel very happy with what I’ve accomplished in that time, both for myself and others. I’ve had a pretty cool life so far, but I’m striving to squeeze out a bit more. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

  2. What courage! I don’t know if I would react the same way. And I hope that the new drug works. You are in our prayers. We will see you this summer – either in Orlando or CR or both.

  3. You will be glad to know that I do not get on my knees or do the hands thing when saying “prayers.”
    I think of it as a a possible means of channeling energy.

  4. I really appreciate you telling this story–it gives me more depth to the understanding of what you are going through, thank you. Do you want these entries to be shared?

    1. Sure! On a serious note, is there a way to be alerted to activity on this site or do you just have to visit it? I sort of am spoiled by Facebook but I don’t mind just making your website a regular stop during my browsing.

  5. Throughout his cancer ordeal, Randon has been courageous and the best role model. He doesn’t complain, and always tries to be upbeat. He likes to joke in a funny voice about using the statement “I got the cancer” as an excuse for things he doesn’t want to do. Sometimes we compare excuses and fall over laughing. Most of all, Randon’s making the most of life.

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