Esophageal Cancer Update September 2022

I haven’t written about my wife’s struggle with cancer lately. I wanted to provide an update for at least two reasons, first, it’s been over a year since her diagnosis and secondly, she just spent a week in the hospital because of cancer related reasons.

At the end of August, the wife and I went to our house in Idaho. Our mission was to frame interior walls and get rough electrical and plumbing figured out. I did get both bathrooms framed as well as some other walls, but it took way more time than I thought. I found that the house framing was not ready for insulation and covering the walls. Nailing edges were not installed anywhere and that took lots of additional cutting and attaching.

The air compressor that we bought at Home Depot was broken when it came out of the box. As a result, we had to return it and buy a new one. I decided to try a different brand. Word to the wise—skip the Dewalt 6-gallon compressor. Getting supplies was a slow process, especially, when mama decided on a major design change in the midst of the build.

Partway thru the week, my wife got sick. Typically, she throws-up about once a week but this time was different. She usually is her happy-go-lucky self by morning but not this time. She had a fever and continued to barf up everything, including water. The next night she woke me up because she was shaking the bed. She complained of being cold and couldn’t stop trembling. I gave her my half of the blankets on the bed. I offered to take her to the Emergency Room two blocks away, but she refused. Her shaking lasted for about 45 minutes before subsiding.

She spent the next day in bed. It was clear that as it related to construction, I was on my own. The following day I strongly suggested that we skip the remainder of our vacation and go home. It was only one day early but she agreed. I drove the thousand miles from our place in Idaho to California in one day. I don’t think I did more than two potty stops on the whole trip. My wife was miserable and did most of the trip with ice packs on her head.

That night we showered and went to bed hoping tomorrow would be better. Sadly, that was not to be. The next day was Labor Day. By that evening, I finally got my wife to let me take her to the hospital.

She had three major issues, she was dehydrated, vomiting, and had a horrible headache. Just so you know, it seems nobody wants to go to the Emergency Room on a three-day weekend. We were seen almost immediately. OK, technically she was seen, I was exiled because I didn’t have a Covid vaccine card. Newsom has never released his grip on the medical community.

After sitting outside for a while, I read the Covid rules. It said that if I did a home test that I could go see her. I verified this with security, and they said my understanding was correct. Trying to find a Covid test at nine o’clock at night on a holiday is really a booger. I had to go four places to find one. Believe it or not, I ended up at Safeway in Elk Grove. They were the only place that I could find them. Shortly after 11 PM, I had two in hand and headed to the hospital.

Oh, just as I was walking out the door of Safeway, the ER doctor offered me a Covid test so I could be with my wife.

My wife spent a horrible week in the hospital. The IV solution took care of the dehydration. The docs thought she had “aspiration pneumonia” and put her on antibiotics. She has shadows in her lungs, and signs of an infection. Everyone assumed it was because her vomiting had been inhaled. The lab tests showed she did have an infection, but the white cell count didn’t improve as a result of her treatment. In fact, her blood chemistry was an indescribable mess. All sorts of seemingly unrelated things were low. Towards the end of her stay, the doctors decided the only logical thing was that these symptoms were the result of her immunotherapy.

Let me explain. Immunotherapy is supposed to encourage your body to fight-off infections. Since it is administered one per month, it must be stored in your body and released slowly over time. This means it’s probably related to your liver. When you get sick, your body can release a large quantity of the stuff into your system and overload your body’s systems. This appears to be what happened.

My wife has been out of the hospital for about a week now. She is weak and lacking energy. She has improved a bit but seems to be stuck in a lower gear, if that makes any sense. I have to help her walk long distances and her stamina is definitely gone. She is taking multiple naps each day and has a very limited reserve of energy. Also, her food intake is minimal, some days just a few hundred calories. She has lost about 80 pounds since being diagnosed with cancer and her weight is continuing to decrease.

Many follow-up visits to various doctors have been planned and each visit seems to have lab work associated with it. My wife hopes to resume immunotherapy in October, but I think the doctors will consider ending the treatments. Perhaps lowering the dosage and going back to twice monthly sessions will be considered, but the problem with the twice monthly idea is that the FDA approval of this drug may not allow this as an option. I know a certain number of people cannot complete the course of immunotherapy treatment but none of the literature that I can find says why. Perhaps this is what my wife is going thru now.

I do know that none of the tests run in the hospital found any cancer in her body and they did look. This recent hospitalization makes me wonder if the cure for the cancer is almost as bad as the disease. On good days you say, “No,” on bad days … well, you hope there aren’t many until things improve.

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