In hindsight, my symptoms were prevalent long before I gave them the attention they needed.
I excused what I was enduring to being a new mom. JJ had only turned one when my symptoms became too obvious to explain away. In the time before that I had achey legs and chalked that up to exhaustion from keeping up with my newborn, the occasional spot of blood I explained away as a post-pregnancy hemorrhoid, abdominal cramping was just my body getting back into shape after all it had been through and a sick stomach after meals was just the norm, I had been battling that my whole life.
But when I started to spot mucus in my stool that then progressed into blood, it was time to explore with a doctor.
Below is how it all played out. I hate to think about this, but I imagine that this timeline will continue to evolve, so I’ll add to it with each and every scan and significant event.
Initial Diagnosis & Treatment Timeline
Initial Meeting with Internist
Discovered suspicious “mass” and referred me to Gastroenterologist
I was advised to stick to the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) and a Colonoscopy was scheduled. The doc ventured Ulcerative Colitis or some other auto-immune disorder.
Colonoscopy & Preliminary Diagnosis
Prep was brutal but Jeff went with me for the procedure.
We had a preliminary cancer diagnosis before we went home. I remember sitting in the waiting room where a patient cried to a supportive friend. She had JUST learned that she had cancer. I thought to myself that surely I wouldn’t also be getting that same news that very day. What were the chances?
The colonoscopy imaging showed a mass on the interior of my anal canal right at the dentate line, where the anus meets the rectum.
Otherwise (and much to my surprise) the rest of my intestines looked to be in great shape. How could that be after all of the years of bloat, IBS and general discomfort?
Oncologist & Radiation Scan
The Gastroenterologist referred me to a nearby Oncologist. Jeff recognized the name as sharing an office with Dr. Fischer who had treated him back in 2013. I called and requested Dr. Fischer. We met immediately and set the schedule to begin the Nigro Protocol ASAP. I was relieved to learn from Dr. Fischer that this cancer
That same day, they fitted me for the radiation cast and gave me the three little tattoos to line me up.
Begin Nigro Protocol ChemoRadiation
2 rounds of Chemo – 5fu + Mitomycin. 5 day infusion in a to go pack.
30 doses of Radiation to Pelvic Tumor
My symptoms again appeared as passing a small amount of blood clot. I called the surgeon’s office. They indicated that it was unlikely anything to be worried about, but to keep an eye on it. Since it only worsened in time, I called and scheduled another anoscopy.
APR Surgery with Gracilis Flap
Post Op Scan
Begin Chemo & Immunotherapy
Carboplatin & Taxol with Keytruda
I fasted for this first and all subsequent chemotherapy infusions.