The Timeline of Early Events...

1.

It all began in July of 2018 after returning home from our trip to Colorado. I came down with a cold, and a chronic cough developed that would not go away. 

In late August, when attending my scheduled yearly physical with my primary care physician, Karen and I discussed with the doctor the likely causes of the chronic cough. At that time, we suspected allergies, post nasal drip, and acid reflux.

2.

In late September, my primary care physician ordered a chest x-ray to see if that would clarify what's causing the chronic cough.

Nothing was found that provided additional clues.

3.

On October 23, Karen and I made an appointment with our doctor's nurse practitioner to discuss the continuing chronic cough.

By this time, fatigue had become a big issue, along with night sweats and fevers. I had no energy at all. This caused Karen and me to suspect the possibility of valley fever. 

Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by coccidioides organisms. It can cause fever, chest pain and coughing, among other signs and symptoms.

The fungus is commonly found in soil in specific regions of Arizona and California. The fungal spores can be stirred into the air by anything that disrupts the soil, such as farming, construction, wind, or digging in your garden.

The fungus can then be breathed into the lungs and cause valley fever. Mild cases of valley fever usually resolve on their own. In more severe cases, doctors prescribe anti-fungal medications that can treat the underlying infection. Both of Karen's parents have come down with valley fever since moving to Tucson.

4.

On November 7, we went back to the nurse practitioner with greater concern about my condition, resulting in another blood draw. 

 

In the late afternoon that same day, the doctor's office called to say that my blood counts showed extremely low hemoglobin, indicating I was anemic. They said I should go to the emergency room at the hospital ASAP to have a blood transfusion.

5.

In the early evening of November 7, we went to the Oro Valley Hospital's emergency room and I received a blood transfusion (2 units).

 

As the evening went on, I received two CT scans (abdominal and chest) and a chest x-ray to determine what was causing the anemia. The doctors suspected some sort of internal bleeding. The abdominal CT scan showed a mass on the liver, and some enlarged lymph nodes, so I was checked into the hospital.

6.

Between November 8 and 10, they did a liver biopsy which resulted in a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma, which means the cancer started somewhere other than in the liver. 

 

They suspected that the bleeding was coming from either the esophagus or the colon. So I prepped for the colonoscopy (oh, what joy), and on the next day they performed an endoscopy first and found a bleeding, cancerous tumor where the esophagus and stomach meet. They did not go on to do a colonoscopy because they had found the source of the bleeding.

7.

On November 10, I was released from the hospital with a diagnosis of 4th stage stomach cancer. (4th stage in the sense that the cancer had spread from the stomach to my liver and to some of my lymph nodes.) 

In the days following, we began the process of determining who we wanted to be my oncologist. We met with 3 different oncologists and decided to go with Dr. Donald Brooks of Arizona Oncology, who came highly recommended from Judy and Penny's friends.

My chemotherapy treatments began on December 6, 2018.