I had been Googling his symptoms and it seemed like he had several that appeared to be pancreatic cancer. I made him an appointment with his PCP and asked if there was the possibility of cancer. The doctor’s first thought was acid reflux. He went for a check-up on the gallbladder and ran some other tests. Finally, a CT scan in May showed a tumor by the pancreas, fluid in the abdomen, and two 2mm spots at the base of his lungs. Worst case: pancreatic cancer. He told us, “I’m so glad you were persistent until we found the cause.”
We called a surgeon that we loved. The surgeon told us it could be one of three things: pancreatic, unknown primary, or primary peritoneal cancer; treatment started immediately.
Following a PET scan in July, Larry’s oncologist changed his diagnosis to colorectal cancer. Another PET scan mid-November showed the lung nodules were gone and no evidence of the pancreatic mass. The peritoneal seeding was gone, as well as the fluid in the abdomen. The cancer was still stage IV but controllable with chemo.
Fast-forward 15 months, a CT scan showed no evidence of disease, but Larry remained on chemo because there was the possibility that small cells might not get picked up. The oncologist said she would do a scan every 12 rounds to see where he was. In July the tumor marker rose, liver functions were elevated, and he had to go back the next day for more blood work.
From August to October Larry had a series of setbacks involving hospital visits, battling infections, high fevers, declining liver functions, and pain. Stents were put in his bile duct, and his gallbladder was removed. His oncologist wasn’t sure that chemo would continue to work so she checked to see if Larry’s insurance would cover different treatments.
We ended up in the hospital several more times because of fever and pain. Then on November 15, he decided that after Thanksgiving he would not fight anymore. I told him that was his decision and we would support him. He said, “No. It’s the Lord’s and we have been talking.” During all of the months since this started, when he was hurting, he would beg to the Lord to let him come home. It was hard to see him in so much pain and not be able to help him.
The following Saturday Larry had a temp of 103 at home. Once we arrived at the ER, he was septic. He had a CT scan and the doctor said cancer was in his abdominal area. On Tuesday, Larry was back in the ICU with a fever and low blood pressure. He had 2 liters of fluid drained from the abdomen. His oncologist told him that if she couldn’t bring his bilirubin down, she would have to place him on hospice.
“Yes,” I said.
“You are my rock and angel.”
I softly laughed because it was sweet.
“Don’t laugh at me,” he said.
“I’m not. That was sweet. I love you more. I love you to the moon and stars.”
We would always go back and forth with “I love you more.” Then one day he added, “to the moon and stars.” I will treasure those words forever.
The next morning he called to me saying that he needed to use the bathroom but fell back to sleep and never woke back up. He only opened his eyes a couple times. He passed away the following Thursday.
We helped with Get Your Rear in Gear – Arkansas in 2018 and walked in it the year before. I’m continuing his work with the event and taking snacks to chemo. I also have a goal to start a support group for cancer patients and caregivers.
Please never ignore symptoms and get your colonoscopy! Be there for your loved ones and always support them.