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Cancer, Cancer Go Away

No one ever expects to get cancer, least of all me, but here I am at the start of my fight with the disease.

Live with it. I have cancer, but it's something I'm going to have to live with. And I plan to do just that.

I can see the expiration date on my driver's license, my library card, my milk … but no one can tell me what my expiration date is. Then again, life is uncertain from the moment we're born and no one ever knows how much time they have.

Carcinoid cancer is a relatively rare and slow-growing form of the disease, although I am technically at Stage 4, since the cancer has spread beyond the initial site and into the abdominal cavity. Good news, right? Well, I take the good news where I can, but cancer is still a tough opponent.

A lot has happened during my 39 years, but this was unexpected. I'm still fairly young and I hadn't shown any real symptoms of cancer. In fact, during a physical just two days before I was diagnosed, my general practitioner said my blood tests were normal and there was almost no chance that I had cancer. I'm now looking for a new general practitioner.

I was first diagnosed in December. I wasn't feeling well and abdominal pains wouldn't let me sleep, so at the urging of my fiancee Tracy, I went to the emergency room at Marin General Hospital for what I thought was a bad case of food poisoning. The doctors had a sense this was something more serious, perhaps a severe appendicitis.

Dr. Jonathan Levin said he wanted to open me up and "take a look" inside. Fine by me.

When I woke up from surgery, Dr. Levin told me he had removed a large tumor, along with my appendix and part of my small intestine.

That's when the questions started:

Is the tumor benign? No.

Did the surgery take care of the problem? Probably not.

What are my chances? We don't know.

What now? Stay positive and get more tests.

Staying positive is the hardest part of the process. I'm not as worried about what the cancer is doing to me as I am worried about what it's doing to my family and friends. Seeing the fear in Tracy's eyes and hearing the concern in my parents' voices, I know I have to be strong for them. How strong am I? How strong do I have to be?

Sometimes I just want to bury my head and pretend this isn't happening, but I know it's something I have to deal with. I just don't yet know how.

Cancer is an evil, hungry beast that feeds on fear and destroys lives. I know this time it won't win.

I will check back every week as possible with updates on my own journey and information to help anyone else dealing with cancer. I invite everyone to share your own stories and to join the fight to find a cure.

Resources:

Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Network

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation

Terry Koenig March 24, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Derek. There is a Carcinoid support group for Northern California on Yahoo, here is the link: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/NCNCF/ They are a fantastic group with members sharing their experiences .
Derek Arild March 24, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Derek. So sorry to hear about it. Hang in there. I know the guys at the IJ will be thinking about you and your battle. Keep up the good fight!
Anastasia Pryor March 24, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Your Patch family has your back!
Brett Gibbs March 26, 2011 at 06:27 AM
I'm so sorry to hear it, Derek. But, as the above comments reflect, you are not alone in this struggle. There are so many people out there who have been touched by cancer. It's a terrible disease, but there are options, and plenty of hope. It's not indestructible. Don't ever believe the doctors if they doubt you, or give you a statistical projection. You aren't a statistic, Derek. No one is. Beat this thing and live to write about it. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with Brain Cancer - Grade 3/4, inoperable, incurable, and devastating news. Six weeks of Radiation, 18 plus months of Chemo, thousands of pills, seizures, phantom progressions, aches/pains, etc. later -- I am writing to you as living proof that odds can be defied. I won't pretend it's easy, but nothing worth having is. Writing about the experience really helped me also. I think this recurring article is a great idea. I will be following. Please contact me if you need anything.
Cathy Youngling March 29, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Derek, So glad you have taken the step to share your journey. And so sorry that you have to go through this. But the insights you can share through your writing will touch a lot of people. Hopefully what you recieve back will help you realize you are not alone. I'm a 16 year survivor of Breast Cancer. It was growing fast back then, the Dr said they could see it dividing under the microscope.... And now.... I am walking in my 3rd Susan G Komen 3 day- 60 mile walk. Something I would never have been able to do pre-Cancer. You will beat this too. Cathy

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