Marc's Battle with Cancer Fund
Hey everyone, my name is Marc Simyak and I am a 38 year old lover of life. I've been told I'm funny, sassy, good-natured, caring, empathetic, quick-witted, open-minded, carefree, loving and very appreciative of life. At the beginning of 2016, I was living a normal, productive life and so excited for the year ahead of me. I was celebrating such things like finishing my education, my nephew Marshall's 1st Birthday, and my Dad's offical retirement. These memorable occasions were definitely the finer moments in life. Little did I know that my life, my health, and my world were about to be flipped upside down.
Many people ask me, how did this whole situation all begin? In January of this past year, I was having some digestive issues. At first, I thought it was just the typical growing pains, eating the wrong foods, or a stomach bug. After taking some over the counter medications that did not work, I decided to visit my Primary Care Physician who was concerned. He ordered a CT scan of my abdomen and the results had shown some sort of mass or tumor in my recto-sigmoid colon. I was then referred to a Gastro-intestinal Doctor who had ordered a colonscopy. During the colonscopy, the GI doctor biopsied a part of the tumor.
I will never forget those words "You have stage 4 colorectal cancer" on March 3rd, 2016. I was at my follow up appointment with the GI doctor with my Dad when I had heard those life-changing words. My Dad of all people. Let me explain...he had lost his Father, his Brother, and his Mom all within the past 2 years. He hid it well, but I'm sure this was the last thing he ever wanted to hear: now his oldest Son was sick.
From this point forward, I began the most difficult journey I have ever been on. I got to know my Oncologist, his staff, and Nurses very well. He said "the next year of your life will be the most difficult., but we'll get through it." I have had multiple CT Scans, multiple MRIs, mulitple PET scans, and many other procedures that aren't exactly comfortable. I also had a chemotherapy port installed under my right clavicle so that I wouldn't have to have my chemo injections done through my arm veins (for fear of collasping).
My treatment plan since last March consisted of the following:
3- Surgeries (There will be 2)
4- Final Chemotherapy
I am currently at step 3, and my first surgery is Friday, 12/2. This will be the most difficult and challenging of all the steps, both physically AND mentally. After I am healed from the surgeries, I will then begin my last rounds of chemotherapy. Hopefully, when that is completed, I can be pronounced "Cancer free".
My purpose of starting this GoFundMe account was to create awareness about my health through updates on my treatments and progress. Regretfully, I will not be able to work for at least 2 months due to the nature of the first surgery and the recovery time involved. I am hoping by starting this account, it will help ease the financial burden by missing so much work. My goal is set to raise money that will assist me with my health and medical bills. We all know that even with insurance, healthcare costs can accumulate over time, especially with someone battling Cancer.
After reading my GoFundMe page and you are considering donating, please remember that no donation is too small and anything is very much appreciated.
I want to thank everyone in my life for their kindness, love and phenomenal support throughout my Cancer journey. The good in people really shines in someones' time of need. I am so blessed to have such amazing family, friends, and coworkers by my side. I especially want to thank my Partner Angelo, my Parents David and Janice, my Brother Matt and his wife Kayla, my niece Lexie and nephews Marshall and Graysen for being the best support system anyone could ask for! YOU ALL are the reason to keep fighting! Thank you everyone for taking the time to read my page. #SIMYAKSTRONG
I am going to go back to last Spring, about 6 months ago. After my liver resection surgery in December, my body was clear of disease. Following a scan that was protocol in February, my Oncologist found a few small tumors that had popped up in my liver, as well as a few in my lungs.
Instead of proceeding forward with traditional Chemotherapy, he wanted to wait and see if I could get into an Immunotherapy Clinical Trial. Immunotherapy is the newest form of treatment where medications boost your immune system to help kill cancer cells. My cancer is slow growing to begin with, so he and his team thought that I could "buy time" and try to get into a Trial. In the month of May, I made it into a Clinical Trial for 2 medications, and began the qualifying process. A biopsy is performed, another CT scan is done, and medically they want to make sure you don't have any other health issues, etc. that would deter from you continuing forward. Once you start the infusions, if you get sick or if you have a CT scan that presents progression of disease, you disqualify. What's the point of continuing with an experimental drug if it's not working? I started my Immunotherapy Clinical Trial infusion the last week in June and completed 2 rounds (2 months- 1 round per month). The past two months that I was involved with my Immunotherapy medications were very rough for me and my body. I didn't know from one day to the next how I was going to feel. I started to develop pain in my stomach, abdominal area, and back. Plus, breathing became a challenge as well (just mostly short, shallow breaths). During that time, they take note of EVERYTHING, because you are like a Guinea Pig and they need to focus on the trial and it's results. At the end of your first two rounds, they do another CT scan and biopsy to see if you cancer has regressed or progressed. If you have a regression of disease, you keep going as long as the doctors feel you are in good shape to do so.
This brings me to today. Last week I had my CT scan, my biopsy, and my follow up with my Oncologist. Because I had all that pain during the process, I knew something was wrong with my body and it wasn't going to be good news.
My Oncologist and his team informed me last Friday that my Cancer has progressed and progressed quickly (which explains all the pain). They think that the Immunotherapy medications may have hypo-progressed the cancer in my liver instead of "killing it". For those of you that don't remember, I have Stage IV Colon Cancer with spread to the liver and the lungs. The lungs and 3 lymph nodes are still showing disease, but stable, so they are not worried about it just yet. I went from having 3 tumors in my liver to well over 10, and it looking like a piece of Swiss cheese.
With that being said, I immediately started Traditional Chemotherapy last Friday after my follow up with my Oncologist. Every 14 days, I will be given 5 medications through IV in my chemo port in my chest. It's abbreviation is called FOLFIRINOX plus Avastin. It will be the most I have ever had before to try and get this under control. I was told that I will probably be on some sort of Chemotherapy for the rest of my life to control it, with some breaks in between. The doctor has ordered at least 12 rounds for now, with scans in the middle to see hopeful progress.
As you can imagine, it has been an emotional couple of days for myself, Angelo, my Parents and my Brothers Family. No one likes bad news of any kind and this is just about the worst. I am just going to take it one day at a time and hope for the best. I like updating friends, family and supporters because that communication helps people understand the severity of my situation. As I have stated so many times before, thank you so much for all the love and support. It would be an even more of a difficult journey if I had to do this alone and I'm so grateful that I don't have to. If anyone has any questions about what's going on, please feel free to message me directly. I will try my best to get back to you. Thanks again everyone!!! #SimyakStrong #AmericanCancerSociety #StandUpToCancer #coloncancer #coloncancerawareness #savethebutts
Since my last update, I had my ileostomy reversal surgery and then a PET scan to find out if there was any malignancy anywhere in my body. It was revealed through the PET scan that the colorectal cancer that metastasized to my liver had returned, but that was the only place where it existed in my body. Through an additional scan, an MRI, we had found out that the cancer hadn't returned, but never actually went away in the first place. See, certain scans can miss certain things during treatment, giving someone a false sense of hope.
Becoming depressed with this awful setback, I decided to switch Oncologists (for other various reasons). I now attend the UF Cancer Center at Orlando Regional Medical Center in downtown Orlando. I am so far really happy and impressed with the professionalism, dedication, understanding and empathy of my new team. My new Oncologist first wanted to start me on a different Chemotherapy regimen, believing that if I completed a full set, it would possibly be the best course of action. With that being said, I completed two rounds of chemo and then met with my new Oncologist again for a follow up. After reviewing my case with his colleagues, they had decided that surgery would be the best route to take at this time. This resulted in stopping my Chemotherapy to prepare for surgery.
This brings me to now. Tomorrow, I am having a liver resection with an intra-operative ultrasound with possible ablation. This procedure is to tackle 4 liver tumors during a lengthy 4-5 hour long surgery. First, they will perform an intra-operative ultrasound which is where my Surgeon, will get a better understanding of what he is dealing with. To clarify, the second scan revealed that they are of various sizes. It also revealed that some are and are not showing signs of malignancy. He won't know for sure until he goes inside for the ultrasound. Then, he will try and remove the 4 tumors, and if he can't, he will try and ablate (burn) them. One of the tumors is fairly large, and is unfortunately resting right next to a major artery that runs right through the middle of the liver. He will also remove any other suspicious cysts, lesions or tumors not reported on any previous scan.
With all that being said, this surgery is extremely difficult to perform and dangerous. With any major organ and surgery, there are lots of risk factors that play into the situation. And there's the fact that this isn't a guarantee that it will get rid of the cancer. All of this is weighing on my mind and heavily, creating such unbelievable anxiety.
Over the last 4 to 6 months, working as much as I could, has been a blessing. As we know blessings come in disguise but with cancer, no one can be prepared for the many obstacles that get thrown at you. It's nearly impossible to stay mentally and financially grounded. As I stated before, I was going to close my GoFundMe account, but I decided to keep it open to update my supporters on my Cancer Journey. At the same time, I wasn't anticipating ever having to meet my GoFundMe goal. With tomorrows' surgery and countless medical expenses that come with Cancer, I find myself hoping I can make it to my end goal. Myself, my Partner Angelo, and my Family appreciate all of the past donations given and any future ones we may receive more than you will ever know.
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my update. I will continue to keep my supporters, family, and friends updated until the very end. The amount of people who have shown me love and support in many different ways is so astonishing. To be honest, it's been a rough road, a very rough road. I am really hoping that one day I can look back and reflect on all this. I want to think about how far I've come and how far I'll go. I know deep down though that in due time, things will play out for me and I will be the ultimate Cancer warrior. Thanks again everyone for all the love, support, and prayers...I am eternally grateful for you helping me beat this awful disease. #blueribbonwinner #cancervivor #SimyakStrong
TOMORROW, August 1st, is my ILEOSTOMY REVERSAL surgery that I have been waiting 8 long months for.
As part of this Cancer Journey, back in December, I had 14 inches of my large intestine (or colon) removed due to a tumor that was found there. I had chemotherapy last Spring, as well as radiation to the infected area. Even though the tumor had shrunk considerably, and was showing "negative for malignancy" on PET scans, the doctors felt it still needed to be removed from my body. Included in this surgery and healing process, was an ileostomy bag on the right side of my body that would allow for me to go to the bathroom.
Most of you that were able to come in contact with me probably did not realize I had an ileostomy bag because there are wonderful ways of concealing such a hinderance. However, I could still see it every day. Every. Single. Day. If you have ever had any sort of insecurity, well you better let that all fly out the window. If you've ever taken anything for granted, you better regret that decision you made. For me, and for most colorectal cancer patients, your ileostomy or cholostomy bag is something that is inevitable. For me, it made me more insecure and but it made me grateful for my "old body" (minus the cancer).
On the contrary for most patients, having it "reversed" is something can be promising, but not many get to partake in it for a multitude of reasons. I am one of the lucky ones that gets to have it taken away and "reversed".
So, tomorrow is my lucky day and one that I will probably remember forever. It will be a milestone, like many of the significant chapters of my Cancer Journey. We have to be at the hospital at 7:00 am, so I probably will get a horrible night sleep tonight in anticipation. The surgery lasts an hour and I will be in the hospital for about 4-6 days depending on how things go. My nerves are shot, and my anxiety is through the roof...but I am so thankful that I get to have this operation.
As I have stated many times before, I am so eternally grateful for anyone and everyone who has sent a text, a card, called me, called my parents, called Angelo, mailed something to me, posted to my Facebook or Twitter, written me an email and lastly...made a donation. Please know that any continued donations will help pay for continuing Cancer related health care, including my hospital stay, upcoming PET scans, any future treatment and also outstanding medical bills. Please know that my GoFundMe page will become inactive on September 1st, 2017 to welcome any very helpful final donations.
I will continue to post updates to my social media sources. I still have 2 more PET scans that will determine my cancer prognosis. At the reveal of the one in November, they should then tell me if I am in remission finally.
Saying the support was overwhelming is an understatement. The support has helped myself, Angelo, my parents, and many close people around me. We are all so appreciative of what you have done. I will always be appreciative of every single person helping me through this process. The people around me, a little luck, and God have let me come this far and will let me go even further in life.
My Oncologist decided to not proceed further with chemotherapy and any form of radiation at this time because my health was absolutely in poor shape at the beginning of May. I was what they call Neutropenic meaning that I was susceptible to all kinds of illness in any way shape or form. It basically had come to a point where my chemotherapy was doing more bad than good to my body. Thus, the stomach ulcers, hernia, and heart issues.
They decided to proceed with a PET scan to see where and if I still had cancer in my body and we would go from there. The PET scan had actually come back completely clear, so the stopping of the chemotherapy had turned out to be a good thing. Now, just because I had one clear PET scan didn't mean that I was cancer free. I have to wait a period of 6 months and a total of 3 PET scans every 3 months in order to be "in remission". So, my next one is in August, and then I have another in November. If these are clear, then I will be officially in remission.
Since then, I have been dealing with these stomach issues and heart problems which have caused me to either not work, be sent home from work due to getting sick. With all the medications I have been on to control it (or lack of controlling it), it makes it very difficult to live a daily life that I once did. I haven't been able to gain weight or maintain a solid weight because all the food I eat either makes me sick or creates such pain in my stomach. I currently weight 148 lbs and have maintained that for about 2 months. In my circumstances, this is not a good situation, because I should be bouncing back at some point.
I've had countless doctors visits with GI doctors, Pulmonologists, Cardiologists, Oncologists, and others to figure out how to handle my current situation. Because of my intense chemotherapy, it will take my 3x the amount of time to heal compared to a normal person. This is in regard to my stomach issues and my heart problem. Both should bounce back and get better, but I still have a long road ahead of me. Going to work and my daily routine are still very difficult tasks due to a lack of energy and not eating properly.
Despite all the challenging times, I do have that PET scan coming up in a few weeks as well as my Ileostomy Reversal Surgery. For those of you that didn't know, I've had an Ileostomy bag since December. Let me just tell you that I can not wait to put on a bathing suit and jump in the pool without ANYTHING attached to the outside of my body. I know that it's been for the good, and has helped me heal during my cancer journey, but I'm ready to shower, swim, and just LIVE without it.
I am really looking forward to hopeful positive news with my 2nd PET scan and REALLY looking forward to the ileostomy reversal surgery.
I will be out of work for about 8 weeks, so my GoFundMe page will stay active until about a month after my next surgery. I will keep it open until September 1st and then no one will be able to donate any longer. I want to to thank everyone so much for all the love, support, and donations. Seriously, you have helped myself, my partner Angelo, and my Parents so much!!! We appreciate anything and everything everyone has done for us, and we will are eternally grateful! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me direction via FB messenger or my cell at 321-945-1177. Thanks everyone! #SimyakStrong #BlueRibbonWinner #IWillAlwaysBeTheFaceOfCancer #Cancervivor