On Thursday, February 9, 2018, Kirsten had an appointment with our general physician (Dr. Santi) to investigate some abdominal discomfort she had been having for about the last month or so. Along with that, she had some mild nausea, but it did not present itself as anything overly concerning as we were all still getting over flu-like symptoms from the previous few weeks. Our GP, Dr. Santi, said that Kirsten's abdomen appeared to have some fluid retention in her upper-right quadrant where she was uncomfortable and sent her to Central DuPage Hospital for a CT scan. Initially, our impression was that something was wrong with her gallbladder in which, these days, is a relatively minor, non-invasive procedure to correct. After returning home that evening from Gable's hockey practice, Kirsten shared with me that the results of the CT scan indicated some "spots" on her liver that resembled abnormal cellular masses raising concern they were cancerous. The responding radiologist at CDH contacted Dr. Kevin Dawravoo (Hematologist & Oncologist) at Northwestern and set up an appointment for us at 12pm the following day. Not sleeping more than a couple of hours that night, we arrived for our appointment at the Northwestern Oncology Center in Warrenville an hour early to see Dr. Dawravoo. To our surprise, he was in the room with us within 15 minutes of us walking in the door there.
Dr. Dawravoo shared the initial imaging results with us that indicated Kirsten has a substantially enlarged liver (approximately 2x its normal size) with numerous abnormal cellular lesions positioned throughout both lobes. In addition, he shared there was a significant thickening of cellular tissue around the cecum (a portion of the large intestine) that preliminarily appeared to him as colon cancer which has metastasized to the liver where it has advanced. He ordered an additional emergency CT scan of Kirsten's lungs to see if there were any blood clots as cancer patients are at a higher risk for pulmonary embolism. The CT of the lungs was clear of blood clots and we began to discuss plans for the upcoming week.
Dr. Dawravoo explained to us that he would be bringing our case to his oncology team Tuesday morning (2/13/18) for them to review and discuss what next steps need to be taken. He spoke with great confidence in his team, specifically mentioning that two other oncologists he works closely with are graduates of the top two oncology programs in the world (Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York). Kirsten also had a liver biopsy on Tuesday (2/13) as well as a PET scan on Wednesday (2/14). We were then scheduled for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Dawravoo on Friday (2/16/18) to discuss the results of the biopsy, PET scan and what treatment methods are most appropriate moving forward.
On Friday (2/16/18), Dr. Dawravoo informed us that Kirsten has Stage 4 colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver where it has advanced through both lobes of the liver. Because Kirsten had experienced increasing symptoms throughout the last week (nausea, vomiting, increase in fatigue, etc.), Dr. Dawravoo wanted to be sure there was no intestinal blockage as it would be a medical emergency and would need immediate surgical attention. An x-ray revealed that Kirsten did, indeed, have a bowel obstruction and we were sent to the emergency room at Central DuPage Hospital where we are awaiting further diagnostic imaging and surgery in the next couple of hours. Granted the obstruction can be alleviated, the current plan is for us to go to "chemo class" this coming week (starting 2/19) where we will learn about the medications, process and recovery, and then begin the first round of chemotherapy the following week. The current chemotherapy treatment course will be 2x per month for 3 months. Kirsten will begin the treatment for approximately 5 hours at the Oncology Center in Warrenville and will leave with medicine attached to her port where she will continue to receive 46 continuous hours of treatment until she goes back in 2 days later to have the device detached from the port.
As you can imagine, we are dealing with both the enormity of this news, the shock of this all coming within the last week, and certainly the pressing medical concerns about the bowel obstruction. We have received an indescribable flood of support within the last week which we are thankful for and are asking that it continue. Friends and family have come to watch Gable play hockey, have brought us meals, have helped with watching the boys, have assisted with transportation to and from hockey practice, and, most of all have come to pray with us. We know that, for whatever reason, this is a part of our story. We aren't sure why, and quite frankly, that piece doesn't matter. The only thing we can control is how we respond - in faith, love, care, and compassion for one another. We know that we have a long road ahead and we are gearing up for the fight of our lives. We are strong in spirit and you all are well aware of how tough Kirsten is......the fight is on.