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I own the last Wauquiez Centurion 42  (hull#55).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

And you thought this was only a sailing blog...

I was asked fairly regularly before our trip why we were going to do Mexico.  I always said, "My dad and uncle died relatively young from cancer.  I might get it, so we are going now."  Prophetic. 
So back from Mexico, starting to get our lives all back on track and I had a problem.  Since May I was experiencing some bleeding from, well, my butt.  No leaking but when I felt I had to pass gas, I'd sometimes pass blood.  I have a history of hemorrhoids and didn't think much of it.  Till it never went away.  We didn't have insurance so I knew I'd have to wait until I started work.  Started work, started school and waited until insurance kicked in.  October starts and we heard nothing from the insurance company.  Couple calls later and we are all set.  Except I'm scared.  Google rectal bleeding.  Google rectal bleeding no pain.  Cancer comes up.  I have a family history of "stomach cancer" (grandfather) and both my dad and uncle died of lung cancer (smokers).  Mom had cancer of the uterus.  Cancer don't run in our family, it gallops!  Still, the stomach is a long way from the large intestine.  Unless back in grand-dad's day, "stomach cancer" is actually colon cancer.  End of October...still no visit to the doctor.  The day of my birthday I promise myself to see the doctor.
Appointment made and followed through.  Blood work and stool sample.  Maybe I got a bug in Mexico.  Maybe I have irritable bowel syndrome.  Maybe...
All labs are normal.  I'm still bleeding.  Colonoscopy scheduled for December 2nd. Did the bowel prep which wasn't as bad as you heard.  Till I wiped a bit too much and then it was awful.  Use very soft toilet paper and be gentle to yourself.
I get picked up at my house by my step-father Z. If you ever have to go through something like this, it helps to have such a great man by your side.  Thanks Dad.  Love you.  Head downtown Seattle for the scope.  IV placed, Fentanyl and Versed given and I'm out.  Till I'm not.  Doctor wakes me and I can see inside me.  Why?  Doctor says, "You have to see something."  Pretty large bleeding mass right where the rectal area ends and the colon proper begins.  Biopsy taken and also they found 2 8mm polyps.  Those are removed and biopsied also.  Oh and one hemorrhoid.  Non-bleeding.
Immediate CT scan order of chest, abdomen and pelvis.  Colorectal cancer spreads.  Mainly to the liver.  If that happens it gets ugly. I have more blood drawn.  This time they add a bleeding profile.  I know that is for surgery.  I get scared.   I also have a fear of needles.  By the end of the day, I could care less about them.  Of course I was still drugged and sleepy from the meds given during my colonoscopy.
Wheeled into CT and they start another IV.  Why they couldn't use the one that was placed for the scope is never really explained all that well.  She digs around and finally gets it.  I have sent many a patient to the CT.  Never had one.  They inject dye into your body so the CT can see everything.  This dye gets removed by the kidneys.  The RN gets more blood and runs a creatinine clearance which shows if my kidneys can handle the dye.  They can.  Hands above head.  I slid into the doughnut and the dye gets injected into me.  If the cancer don't kill you, I think the cure will.  Warm flush feeling everywhere.  And I'm done.  Go home and wait for results. My mom is told the news and in typical German fashion, wipes away a tear and starts getting information on who can help us the best.  I start thinking maybe I should pray.  
That night was rough.  I'm very scared.  I learned to never, ever Google colorectal cancer survival rates.  Ever.  Especially with the "mets to liver" added.  Can't sleep, eyes burning from crying so much.  My wife and I talked about it while we should have been sleeping.  I am almost inconsolable.  I worry about my family and how they will take it,  having a colostomy bag, and dying.  In that order.  Jen told me that Ben came to her in tears and was worried about me.  That started another round of crying.  Getting dehydrated from crying.
I have a 4 year old little girl, a 9 year old son, a 17 year old step-son, a beautiful wife, and I get cancer.  I take care of people all day, every day in the ER that have much less and they willingly try to kill themselves with booze and drugs.  They don't get the killer, I do.
Woke up in the morning and I hear our 4 year old calling out from her room, "Is anybody out there that can give me a hug?"  Or something like that.  I'm not sure because I broke down and sobbed for 15 minutes.
December 3rd was spent with me holding my phone close by and waiting for the CT results and pathology report from my GI doctor Stan Lee.  I picked him out of a group of GI doctors because of his name.  They all were highly recommended so I picked him like I pick wine.  
Phone rings.  Heart leaps, tears flow.  I know, I know.  I am such a crybaby.  Always have been.  I cried once during a particularly touching Mercedes Benz commercial.  It is Chase Bank wanting to get to know me better.  Grrrrr.
I go with my wife and mother-in-law to Trader's Joe and notice something.  I notice everything.  Colors, sounds, warmth of sunlight on my face, my wife's smile...I even tip the guy playing violin outside of the store.  
Phone rings.  Ugh. OK.  I can do this.  It's the colorectal surgeon's office calling to set up an appointment.  Things feel little bit like they are leaving my control.  I don't have results but here I am making an appointment for a surgical consult.  Backtrack a bit.  I have great friends and many of them are in the medical field.  Jon works at Swedish and we ask him to recommend a surgeon and an oncologist.  Dr Laura Gladstone and Dr Pollock for surgeons and Dr Gold for the cancer doctor.  Gladstone's office is on the line.  Dr Lee talked with her and he set this in motion.  Dr Pollock is the one I am interested in though.  Robotic surgery.  Good hands also.  Don't Google "robotic surgery outcomes and colorectal cancer."  Appointment made for this Friday.  1010 in the am.
Phone rings.  It's the office of Dr Ragulick (or something).  They are scheduling an colonoscopic ultrasound that will tell us what stage cancer I have.  Yeah.  Google that.  Appointment made.  This Friday at 1:50 in the pm. I have to do the bowel prep again.  I start crying again.  RESULTS!  I WANT MY RESULTS.  I know how this works.  We do CT scans all the time.  Results are back in 20 minutes,  It has been 24 hours!!!!!!
I pick up my daughter at Pre-K and get home.  Phone rings.  It's Dr. Lee.  My liver is free of cancer as far as they can tell.  That is very good.  Reduces my mortality rate.  I have a chance of getting liver cancer in the future but I don't have it now.  I do have swollen lymph nodes surrounding the mass in my rectum.  Not so good.  Pathology report is still not back.  Dr. Lee says it is a HUGE longshot that this turns out not to be cancer so we should get things moving.  And we do.  Like a freight train.
So this is where I'm at.  Friday is ultrasound of the invasive nature.  Then I start radiation.  Jesus...
I will say this. I am lucky.  Always have been.  You need to look no farther than who I married to know that I am one lucky son-of-a-bitch. Others have dealt with more than I have and I am grateful for what I have.  I will fight.  One look into my kids room while they are sleeping gives me all the steel I need to support myself.  I might not win but I will fight.
This reminds me of the old joke.
Hear about the guy with rectum cancer?
Rectum?!  Damn near killed him...


  1. You are a strong aware fighter with many blessings around you. I added some tears to your sea, better to let them out than keep them bottled up. Your sense of humor and German disposition are formidable - get mean on the disease, take it easy on the nurses. You are someone I want in my corner when things get rough and I know you will meet this challenge without compromise. My friend, continue to be strong and brave and lucky.

    1. Thanks for writing Andy. Jesus. What a week that was. I am doing better and hopefully I can continue to rally and roll right on past this funk.
      Thanks again for the warm comments!

  2. Beautiful written . I am always in your corner, it is going to be crowded in there.

  3. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Marcus! Keep that fighting spirit, get mean on the cancer. You can beat this and the appreciation for life, family and friends, and the small things like smells and colors will stay with you forever.
    Go Marcus! We are all pulling for you!
    Love, Carol Prange

    1. Thank you Carol. I am starting to get the fighting spirit and letting the anger do a useful thing. This will suck but the support I am getting has been unbelievable. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

  4. This news hit me hard Marcus. I am glad you shared this with us, and we will be pulling with you during this struggle. All our best wishes to you and your family. Mike Roberson

    1. Mike,
      Thanks dude. I am getting better in dealing with this. I get down still but I think I'll be ready to rally and get this thing knocked out.
      Thanks again,

  5. Marcus: Germans are strong, smart and brave.
    You can do the (opening line of the) Star Trek voyage in one shift!
    Sail on my son!
    Your Night Watchman loves you and your family. Like the Coast Gard: He won't let you go.