May 01, 2009 - 11:30 pm
I'm a 59 yr. old woman, diagnosed with Stage IIIA anal canal cancer in Sept. 2008. The original tumor was the size of a large green olive and was joined to a lymph node that was golf-ball sized. There was spread to a second lymph node (small sized) outside the colon, but no spread to the groin lymph or anywhere else.
I completed treatment (30 days of radiation and 2 cycles of mytomycin & 5-FU) in Dec. 2008. I tolerated the treatment very well until the last week, when I ended up in the hospital for 11 days, neutropenic and with mucositis throughout my GI track, causing persistent watery diarrhea. Add to that the severe radiation burns. Ugh. All told I was out of work for 3 months during treatment. I have an extraordinary employer and tremendously work colleagues; they supported me in every way possible and carried my workload during those months. I am unspeakably grateful. My husband and friends have also been steadfast, full of humor and compassion.
I'm now 4 months post-treatment and feeling great, other than some minor fatigue and vaginal stenosis. I'm back full-time at my demanding but stimulating job. The original tumor is gone, along with the small lymph node outside the colon. The large lymph node is down from a golf ball to a pea-sized nodule that may or may not contain some live cancer cells (the scans showed some activity, but were not definitive.) Therein lies the problem.
I've had all the radiation possible. My medical oncologist recommends 3 more rounds of chemo to blast any possible remaining cancer in the pea-sized lymph node. I went to another medical oncologist for a second opinion since 3 more rounds sounded brutal. That oncologist said absolutely NO, the chemo could (in his words) "blow out my bone marrow." He recommended a tissue biopsy and, if live cancer cells are found, a permanent colostomy. However my surgeon refuses to do a biopsy since he thinks he'll just get fibrous tissue and won't be able to reach the suspicious area.
Now what??? I've decided to go to Sloan-Kettering for a third opinion. I'll be seeing a colorectal surgeon and a medical oncologist. Meanwhile I'm spending days gathering all my medical records to send to Sloan-Kettering. Fortunately my employer and work colleagues remain steadfast and are pulling strings to smooth my way at Sloan.
Has anyone else out there experienced this kind of uncertainty? Has anyone been through Sloan-Kettering? How about colostomies? Apparently my "pea" is attached to my tailbone. If I have a colostomy the tailbone will also have to be removed or resected. Ow. I've never found anyone else who has had anal cancer. Are you out there?