Our History

The continuing purpose of this blog is to put into words the lessons learned from Jim before and after he passed away.  I am going to be as open as possible so you may learn from my journey, and hopefully become more prepared for your or a loved one’s future.  I’ll discuss dreary things such as life insurance, titles and being organized.  But, I’ve been surprised by the way I’ve felt about certain things, so I’ll share that too.  If you have any questions about anything in particular, please let me know.  I’m sure there are others out there wondering about the same subject.

Jim’s Cancer History

On June 4th 2010, Jim had an endoscopy done for what everyone thought was a bad ulcer.  However, it turned out to be stage 4 esophageal cancer.  The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, liver and bone marrow. 

Jim had blood work done in November, and nothing looked odd.  He only had symptoms for about three weeks in May.  He had trouble swallowing and a rapid decrease in weight.  The radiologist said if we had done nothing, he only had six to eight more weeks.  This is an incredibly agressive cancer.  But, that makes the cancer “eat” chemo really well.

Three doctors gave him the textbook six to 12 months, but we aren’t going with that prognosis.  First of all, Jim is one of the youngest they have ever seen with this type of cancer.  He should be in his sixties or seventies to have this.  And secondly, Jim just got his baby girl, so he has a lot to live for. 

Jim really wants to be the “exceptional patient.”  The patient on the good side of the statistics.  The chemo he is taking right now is the most he can take for his body weight.  On relatively normal days, we have radically changed our eating habits to almost vegetarian, and vegan when it’s an option.  But, on bad days, it’s whatever Jim wants to eat.

Get this, not only does his chemo give him the “normal” chemo symptoms, which are awful, but he’s also allergic to it! So, he has to treat that with steroids and Benedryl.  However, the chemo is working better than expected.  It’s nice when your oncologist is trying to pour cold water on everyone, including himself.

Jim was in remission for about five months.  He was able to go back to work during that time.  It was a nice spring.  Then, we had a PET scan done in early June 2011.  It showed two little “hot spots” that were probably cancerous lymph nodes.  The doctors and we decided it would be best for Jim to have an esophagectomy, plus remove the top third of his stomach, and take out those two lymph nodes.  The surgery, in July 2011, was a success.  But, Jim’s back pain was his biggest complaint the whole time he was in the hospital.  Everyone assumed it was the beds. 

When Jim came home, he did not have enough pain medicine.  I called our GP at the Fredericksburg ER, took Jim to the minor emergency in Austin and finally called our oncologist because I knew he would fix Jim.  He had an MRI, and we barely made it home when the doctor called us back to his office.  The scan showed cancer in his spinal column, in the area of his sacrum.  The tumors wrapped themselves around his nerves, and any movement causes friction and pain.  The treatment includes five days of radiation to stop the pain, followed by more chemo.

On the last day of radiation, he had an MRI done on his head since the headaches were puzzling.  Unfortunately, it showed tiny tumors in his head also.  It was acting like menengitis.  Jim was already taking steroids, and they seemed to be helping.  But, then he started retaining water.  It made him look healthier than he was.  The swelling of his feet bothered him the most.  Jim had started taking chemo again, but the second round initated a seizure.  Then, after a week of Xeloda, his white blood cells dropped to near zero.  From the beginning, we were warned that chemo does not work well in the spinal and crainial fluid.  Jim was starting to act odd at times, his balance was getting worse and he had a hard time reading.  (I accidentally figured that out when he was reading a book to Sarah.)

I can’t discuss the last two weeks.  They were the worst of my life.  It was like watching him sink in quicksand and trying to pull him out the whole time.  Jim passed away on September 25th.  See “Heaven is a little brighter today.”

  1. June 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Nicely put. Appreciate it.

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