Long journey still ahead’

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is the second in a series of personal experiences from area cancer survivors who wish to educate the local community by telling their stories’stories of hope, determination, will power and faith.) I remember the first symptoms well. It was October 1998, and the stomach pain was excruciating. Little did I know that was the beginning of a misdiagnosis, a long journey I am still on and the “C” word. My name is Kathy McAda, and I have metastatic carcinoid cancer. By the summer of 1999, after many tests, reoccurring stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, I was diagnosed with Crohns disease. All tests and colonoscopies seemed to agree with the diagnosis. I was on treatments for this, but my disease was not getting any better, and by January 2001, I was in the hospital with a small bowel obstruction. After several days in the hospital to combat the dehydration and malnutrition I was experiencing, I was taken in for surgery on Jan. 9, 2001, for a resection. When the surgeon got in there, however, a mass that was 6.7 centimeters in size was discovered on the outside of my small bowel at the ileum. The surgeon knew it was cancer and removed it, plus 2/3 of my colon and some of my small intestines, plus 20 lymph nodes, some of which were cancerous. My family and I were completely shocked to learn I had cancer. It wasn’t Crohns after all. After the surgery, we learned that carcinoid is a rare, neuroendocrine cancer that is slow growing; therefore, conventional chemotherapy doesn’t work. At the time, the surgeon and oncologist felt that all of my cancer had been removed, and therefore, I was ‘cured.’ I believed what I was told and went on with my life. I was thankful for all of the support I received from family and friends. I became closer to God. In 2002, I entered nursing school and graduated and received my license as an LVN in 2003. I was happy, working as a nurse, but still, every once in a while, I would have flushing (redness in the face and body), severe diarrhea and pain. Tests I had in 2004 were all negative for Crohns, cancer, etc. By January 2006, I was worn out, flushing often, having the diarrhea, sweating profusely at times and just felt bad. I entered the hospital in February 2006. After numerous tests, the doctors gave me the news: my cancer had returned and it was in my liver. In July 2006, I went to M.D. Anderson for tests and to learn my options. I was not prepared for the options I got. My doctor informed me that I had ‘numerous’ tumors in my abdomen, left ovary, uterus, diaphragm, peritoneal lining, omentum (the fatty layer in your abdomen) and liver. He explained that I had too many tumors for them to operate. Chemo wouldn’t work and radiation would not either. There is no cure for carcinoid cancer. I return to M.D. Anderson every three months to check the tumors. So far, they are all stable. I don’t think in terms of ‘How long do I have to live’ After all, the doctor at M.D. Anderson doesn’t know me and he must not know my God, because I already have the victory. I get to spend the time with family and do things I normally would not get to do. I have more good days than bad days. My story is to educate. Carcinoid is a rare neuroendocrine cancer, meaning the tumors themselves release serotonin ( a hormone) which causes the flushing, severe diarrhea and can cause heart damage. I am on high blood pressure medicine because of it. There is a shot I give to myself several times a day called sandostatin, which helps with the symptoms and could help keep the tumors from growing. I have an awesome carcinoid cancer support group that I talk to and get information from. Most of them were also misdiagnosed. Crohns, IBS and diverticulitis are often the diagnoses when all along it is carcinoid. There are tests specific for carcinoid, like an octreoscan, or a 5HIAA urine test. As I said, I am still on a long journey. It has been a learning experience and a definite test of faith. But I know God is good, and I am up for the fight. I have no doubt that there will be a cure someday for cancer’all kinds. So keep the support coming’ it’s people like you that help the American Cancer Society continue to give cancer patients hope. * * * The money raised through the upcoming Relay for Life event in Brady goes directly into the American Cancer Society’s lifesaving programs. The Brady/McCulloch County area can help fund more of these applications by participating in the ACS’s Relay for Life scheduled for April 28 at Bulldog Stadium. More funding means more cancer breakthroughs and more lives being saved. To learn more about the Relay for Life event in Brady or to organize a team, contact Tammy West at 597-6016 or Becky Sorola at 792-0183.

Leave a Comment