How did this all begin? I've known Kim since we were 12 years old (we are now 45) and can count on one hand how many times she has needed to see a Dr. But, during the second week of October, Kim began saying she was having pains across the muscles of her rib cage...indigestion, right?
On October 19th, the pain was severe enough that Kim called Dr. Struthers, her physician that she had not seen since Antonio's birth back in 2003. She could not get an appointment until October 25, so she was advised to go to the ER at St. Joseph's, where they diagnosed Kim with a bad gall bladder.
On October 20th, Dr. Atkinson successfully removed Kim's gall bladder. He met me in the waiting room and told me the surgery went fine, but that was the worst looking gall bladder he has removed. Then, he said, 'I found something else...' and showed me pictures of Kim's liver. Gravity tried to betray me as I looked at Kim's liver and was told 'she has cancer'. I couldn't speak - this was my best friend since 1976 he was talking about, my wife, mother of our children...'Can you help her?' was all I could ask.
Dr. Taetle, a world renowned oncologist, was brought in. Every test you can imagine was performed on Kim over the next few days...revealing adenocarcinoma tumors in the lung and liver. To complicate things, Kim had blood clots in her lung and legs. She was placed on oxygen, as, the tumor, clots and recent surgery were too much for her body to handle. She was also anemic and received the first of 4 transfusions. A bone scan and brain scan proved to be clear, thank God! However, the Drs. suspect she may have cancer in her thyroid (who needs a thyroid, anyway?) and possibly pancreas. Kim was placed in ICU for a week. During this time, she had a power port installed beneath her skin on her left upper chest. This will allow for easier blood draws, administration of medication, such as her chemo and for future tests, like a PT scan.
A few days after her gall bladder had been removed, Kim's pain was still very high. This was made even more disturbing, due to the fact that Kim has a very high pain tolerance. When she would tell her nurses she was at a pain level of 5 on a scale of 1-10, I would translate that into a 7 for a mere mortal, like myself. Dr. Atkinson suspected an abscess and Dr. Rau was brought in to place a drain, through Kim's rib cage, through the liver and into the area vacated by the gall bladder. This was placed on 10/30 and was Kim's largest source of pain until it was removed on 11/18.
On 11/3, Kim received her first round of chemo, a newer drug called alimta. Dr. Taetle chose this treatment, as alimta is filtered through the kidneys, rather than the liver, which is already compromised. Kim did great and had no side affects. On 11/4, she was sent home! The bambini's (Cody, Autumn and Antonio) were ecstatic! They had so terribly missed their mom. They had been well cared for by our neighbors, Betsey and Brian and Amy and Tom, who had fed them, clothed them, picked them up from school, entertained them and loved them so well for us during this challenging time. They even kept the house cleaned!!
Kim's homestay was short lived, as on 11/5, I noticed that her right arm was swelling and she was sent back to St. Joseph's and diagnosed with blood clots in her arm. Dr. Leon, a vascular surgeon, went in on 11/6 and 'roto rootered' Kimmy's arm and, while he was in there, placed an IVC vent to prevent the clots in her legs from traveling to her heart. She was placed on the blood thinner lovenox, an injectable, and I was trained on how to administer the shot into her belly. She is so kind, telling me each time, that she feels nothing.
Kim was unable to stabilize her breathing, following Dr. Leon's procedure and she was sent back to ICU. A pulmonary Dr. was brought in and initially thought Kim had pneumonia, but, a bronchial scope showed she was bleeding. He stopped time for me, as he told me the urgency in stopping this flow...I asked him to get back in the operating room and save my girl! The challenges with Kim's lung, are, that the tumor is older and being fed by an artery that it is deteriorating. The tumor has cavitized and the blood vessels in the hollow center are enlarged and weeping. So, her blood thinners have been reduced to allow her to heal (he initially wanted to perform a double-secret and dangerous procedure to cauterize the vessels, but we sought a second opinion and cooler heads prevailed!) and she is doing better.
On 11/15, Kim was sent home again! The bambini's had created a beautiful mural on our driveway, welcoming her home (reminiscent of the 'chalka estrada' event in Little Italy, San Diego during their Columbus Day Festa). She remains on oxygen, but, we see small improvements daily. Her spirit is so strong. Her faith has gotten her this far, as has the incredible support of friends, family and community. The nurses, techs and Drs. at St. Joseph were all hard working and wonderful for Kim.
The next step, is a PT scan, which will be done on 11/30, so we can more accurately see what is going on in the rest of her body. We pray that we will get some good news!