Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Valerie: health update, and an exhortation

Last June, I told you here and there and the other place about my Valerie and her cancer surgery.

Since that time, we saw an oncologist, whose assessment was encouraging. We previously had the impression that it was a Stage 2 cancer; Doc Onc said it was Stage 1, which is better. (You will understand that "better," in any sentence with the word "cancer," unless attached to "than not having," is a very relative statement.)

Another doctor had suggested we simply dive into chemotherapy "just in case" — which struck me as a really bad idea — but the oncologist suggested no such thing.

The big test in our future was the colonoscopy. Ugh.

In the surgery, the doctor discovered and removed cancer, but found the lymph nodes to be clear. Yet this did mean that part of her colon had cancer. Was there cancer in other parts of her colon, as-yet undetected? This was the concern that lurked dormant at the back of both Valerie's thoughts and mine, in the intervening months — as she slowly but surely recovered from surgery, planned our trip to the UK, and then went abroad with the boys and me.

All that time, we knew we were coming back to the first real big test, and uncertain results.

It was a dread behind all of both of our thoughts, which we didn't share with the yowwens or with many other folks, but on occasion spoke of with each other.

Monday was the big day. Poor Valerie had to fast for some 36 hours, then drink gallons of a laxative. Then, 1pm on Monday, the colonoscopy.

First, after Valerie was taken off to the exam area, I was put in the tiny room (now full of people) in which I'd spent some of the most miserable centuries of my life that night last June. I was led to think the doctor would come talk to me after the exam. Then I was moved to the endoscopy recovery room to wait. Then out came Valerie, smiling, and she told me the news: all clear! No problems, not even a polyp. Praise God, praise God.

We talked with the doc, who affirmed the good news and confirmed what we already knew. She'd get another check in a year, and then if that's all clear, the tests would becom more spaced out.

So... whew! That's a relief, one dark cloud blown away. Valerie has a clean start. There is lingering concern because her colon has formed cancer in the past; but now we know that at present, that was all the cancer she had.

Valerie thanks you all for your concern and for your prayers. She's deeply grateful to all of you who prayed, as am I.

Now the exhortation: if you're at that magic age, man or woman, get your colonoscopy. I've had mine, and will tell you I remember next to nothing. It wasn't a trauma. A friend just had his; same story. And now Valerie would agree: the worst part was the fasting and the laxative, and even that (given that it had to happen at all) was quite bearable. The test was just about nothing.

Plus, this kind of cancer is eminently treatable if caught early. But check those words: if caught early. Valerie has lost two coworkers to colon cancer. It's a killer, it's not to be messed with. As unpleasant as the test may seem, it's nothing compared to the surgery, or the cancer. (You might refresh your perspective with Dave Barry's hilarious yet on-target personal reflection.)

Now our kids will have to get their tests at 40 instead of 50, that's one unpleasant side-effect of it visiting our family. But don't assume that the absence of cancer means you're a statistical shoo-in. Valerie did not have a family history of cancer; I did. Yet it tagged Valerie.

So trust and pray, but be wise, too.

Get your test.

I don't have any "spare" readers.

37 comments:

Meghan Smith said...

Praise the Lord. I need to start testing. Cancer practically gallops in my family.

DJP said...

That's good, Meghan.

As unpleasant as a colonoscopy sounds, just think of how much more unpleasant anything to do with cancer is.

Robert said...

So is the magical age 50 unless you have a history of cancer? I'm coming up on 40 and trying to keep my ducks in a row...

GrammaMack said...

Thank you for sharing the great news. Praising God with you!

DJP said...

That's my understanding, Robert. It was my doc's 50th bday present to me, whee! But if a parent (?) had it, you get a bonus round. That's my understanding, as I say; but I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV. So do ask yours.

Persis said...

Praise God, Dan!

I lost an aunt to colon cancer, so I've already been through one. The prep is worse than the procedure. Thankfully with the sedation, you don't remember anything afterwards.

Jessica said...

I'm so glad to hear the test was clear - what wonderful news.

Robert said...

Thanks...I am planning to go through a round of questions with him during my next physical (the last one before 40, so a good time to ask).

Very glad to hear that everything came out good with this follow-up. Just another reason I am looking forward to Christ's return - the eventual elimination of sin and its effects on creation (including cancer). How wonderul will it be to see God's glory shining through in Himself and the new heaven and earth He will bring forth.

christianlady said...

So glad things are clear! Thank God!

Pastor Pants said...

FANTASTIC NEWS!!!!!

Really, really happy for you all!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hallelujah! That is SUCH good news! Now having met Valerie (and experiencing her wonderful hospitality and chili) I am even happier to hear that all is well.

Kerry would second the assessment of the prep being worse than the procedure. Ahem.

Praising the Lord for the good report,

Julie

Mizz Harpy said...

Thank you Jesus!

tobekiwi said...

Thank you for the update, so very glad for the good report!
Praise the Lord!

Scooter said...

I knew it! Hospitals do have time-dilation machines installed in all rooms!

Praise God that your wife was given a clean bill of health!

Robert said...

I hope you don't mind, Dan, but I'd also like to add a word of advice to tag along with yours. When you go to the hospital and have procedures done, don't be shy about making sure that the doctors and nurses ALWAYS clean their hands before examining you or doing any procedure. Nosocomial infections (stuff you get from being in the hospital and getting an infection there) can cause all kinds of problems...staph infections being one of them. I only learned all of this from my loving wife who was in nursing school for a couple of years (she quit to stay home with our boys).

Kay said...

Tremendously pleased by this news. I have a few years yet before I'll need a colonoscopy, but I have had one in the past, and they're not likely to become recreational any time soon.

DJP said...

Since Valerie does HVAC design for hospitals, she and I are aware of what filthy places they are. As I prayed for her, one of the topics was that she be protected from nasty bugs in the air and anywhere else.

Jonathan said...

Thank you for sharing this, Dan! God is awesome!

My father died in August of 2000 of colo-rectal cancer. He was "old school". No doctors for the majority of his life, and an almost unearthly threshold for pain seemed to guarantee the cancer's spread to his spleen and liver.

If he had just gone to the doctor when he first started having trouble, and he did have trouble
but ignored it, then he may very well have survived his cancer. Only God knows.

I was told to go for my first colonoscopy by my father's attending physicians when I reached 38. That was 3 years ago and I nearly didn't go. My wife insisted, so not wanting to be injured (j/k) I went along and was found to have one pre-cancerous polyp, which was of course removed. I am now, as a result of that finding, due for another 'scope (every 3 years) sometime this year.

If you've got history with cancer, family wise, or if you are at that age, I concur with Dan: Get the colonoscopy! ;o)

DJP said...

Thanks for sharing that, Jonathan. Really good emphasis.

Sorry about your dad, that is sad. Mine similar, except more infuriating: he did go to a doc, and the doc diagnosed him as having arthritis. A year or so of suffering later, he died... of bone cancer.

Good for your wife for getting you in. Inconvenient test => treated polyp = better than cancer.

Hope your testimony combines with ours to get some folks in.

Pierre Saikaley said...

Glad to read this good news of your wife. I was wondering about her status since we prayed for her.

My wife and I will still keep you guys in our prayers with thanksgiving.

I'll be honest though-I'm kinda "girly man" when it comes to getting checked for cancer. I guess I'll just have to man up and get it done...the alternative is less appealing.

Just Jules said...

Absolutely smiling at this good news. And, yes to the exhortation. My brother died from colon cancer at the age of 31. My 50th is in February, so you know how I'll be celebrating :)

Kim said...

This is just so cool! I was just praying for Valerie THIS MORNING!! Praising the Lord with you! Thanks for the update.

Rachael Starke said...

Wonderful news about a wonderful lady.

My dear husband got his first a couple years back. Only the promise that he'd likely sleep through the indignity made him willing to even think of it. Imagine his surprise when he turned out to be one of those lucky folks whom some sedatives just go no worky.....:)

But he did think the full color pictures were cool.

Frankly, I've been having the kind of week where not being able to leave the confines of my bedroom/facilities for a few hours, perhaps accompanied by a book on a helpful subject like, oh, skillful living in the fear of Yahweh, would be wonderful.

Mrs. Bones said...

Oh, praise God for such wonderful news! :D

Continued prayers for continued good health. :)

Marla said...

Excellent news Dan! Thanks for sharing. So happy for you and your dear wifey. :)
I'm approaching the age of testing...blah...

Susan said...

YAY VALERIE!! :D

And now you make ME want to get an colonoscopy, Dan...and I don't mean "want", if you know what I mean. Considering I won't be turning 50 any time soon, I'd that's a pretty good scare....

CR said...

Excellent news, Praise God.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Good news; what a relief. I've recently become the go-to person for an elderly neighbor who has had part of his colon removed and has a bag to change for the rest of his life. He was infamously stubborn about not wanting to see a doctor as well.

Makes one appreciate the way God designed our bodies; even though the colonoscopy is uncomfortable to deal with, better that than dealing with one's bowels up front, in a bag on the side!

slightly angered Christian said...

Thank God your prayers were answered.

I had a colonoscopy last week due to age and family history. Just polyps.

The worst part of the entire exercise was forcing all the liquids down, that was it.

Rita Tomassetti said...

praise the Lord I had been wondering when we were going to get an update on Valerie, praise God for a clean colon! :)
I also had one too and don't remember a thing, I only remember when the anesthesiologist said start counting and then when I woke up! :P
I vouch for what Dan says, don't be afraid of going to the doctor! my 15 year old cousin has had to battle cancer for the past year and a half, and her outcome would've been much better had she seen a doctor as soon as the lump appeared on her leg, but she didn't she finally went to the doctor 9 months after the lump appeared on her leg, and only because the cancer had spread so much, it was compressing her larynx and making her cough incessantly. By God's grace she is clean now, no cancer, but she's not out of the woods yet. so pray for my cousin.
And DON'T hesitate to go to the doctor for ANY reason! Examine yourselves at least once a week, see that you don't have a weird spot, or lump or wart that wasn't there before, if it changes size or color. OR any strange symptom! Or pain even!

Rita Tomassetti said...

For the men here get your prostate glands checked regularly(once a year) also after the age of 50! Prostate cancer is easy to treat if caught at an early stage.

Thomas Louw said...

Glad to hear the news.

Barbara said...

Such wonderful good news!

Just an FYI from a nurse's point of view - the one actually pushing those glorious drugs into your veins: I remember a woman who was so anxious about the procedure, rolling her in she was even a bit combative. Gave her the drugs, procedure completed, gave her the drug to reverse what I had given her and we proceeded to roll her out to recovery. As she was rolling to recovery, she asked us if we were ever going to get around to getting her procedure done! Imagine her shock to hear that we had just finished. :) All that anxiety for nothing.

May God grant you many more years with your dear wife. All praise to Him for His mercy.

lee n. field said...

"I've had mine, and will tell you I remember next to nothing. "

Ditto. The worst part is drinking the foul Koolaid until your gut is clear.

This is all assuming you have insurance to pay for it. I mostly don't.

DJP said...

Did you have yours a long time ago? I think what I drank was foul, too, years ago. Valerie's wasn't so much.

Bike Bubba said...

Yay!

Regarding when; if you have family history, ten years prior to the diagnosis of your relative or at age 40, otherwise age 50 unless you have family history. And a colonoscopy is nowhere near as bad as morphine drip in a hospice. Trust me; at times the latter does not even seem to dull the pain for the sufferer.

Good news on this front as well; Mayo is developing a test that works with the DNA in the stool to see whether certain kinds of malignancies can be seen. Some early tests indicate it's about 85% effective at detecting colon cancer.

lee n. field said...

"Did you have yours a long time ago? I think what I drank was foul, too, years ago. Valerie's wasn't so much."

Two or three years ago. Maybe the state of medicine isn't as advanced in flyover country.