Stage IV Colon Cancer
“You are not just a medical chart to Dr. Goldenberg; you are a real person with real concerns. And now, 18 months later, I am celebrating One Year Cancer Free!”-Kara A, Stage IV Colon Cancer that had spread to the Liver
In the June of 2012, I had almost recovered from a serious leg fracture that required surgery and several months of physical therapy. I was literally just getting back on my feet, when blood work during a check up revealed I was anemic. My internist recommended that I see a gastroenterologist. Foolishly, I had thought the blood in my stool was just a hemorrhoid.
After my exam, the specialist matter-of-factly told me, “I felt a mass.” The gastroenterologist then informed me that I would need an immediate colonoscopy to confirm a cancer diagnosis. I was numb. I prayed it was a mistake. Three days later, I heard those terrible words “you have cancer” with a side of ” You can live, but you will need a colostomy.” What a terrible bedside manner!” He referred me to a general surgeon and sent me on my way, completely devastated. I’ll never forget that cab ride home-I was 46 years old and already on disability for 9/11 health issues. What more could I take? But thankfully, my bad luck was about to change.
I went home, and looked up surgeons for colorectal cancer. I ordered a book on the subject, which advised having the surgery with a surgical oncologist who specialized in colorectal surgery, not a general surgeon. At the same time, my friend shared that she had just had a positive experience with the network affiliated with NYU Hospital. I did some more research, and that’s when I had the great fortune to meet Dr. Goldenberg.
From our first meeting at the beginning of July, Dr. Goldenberg’s warmth, kindness and optimism made me feel so much better. He outlined what my aggressive course of treatment would be, and why it would be my best chance for survival. He was both reassuring and realistic. He never seemed rushed, but took his time in a very thorough manner. He also referred me to my amazing colon surgeon Brian Harlin, who saved me from a permanent colostomy.
My treatment plan was implemented right away. The chemo would be done right downstairs in his office, which made it feel a lot easier. Six weeks of chemo and simultaneous radiation began. I would come from NYU to see Dr. Goldenberg’s nurses Priscilla and Tracy. Believe it or not, you will make buddies, and even laugh at chemo sometimes. When things got challenging, Dr. Goldenberg and his staff helped to manage my pain during radiation by adjusting the meds until I was comfortable.
Because of his thoroughness, a follow up PET scan was done prior to surgery to check tumor shrinkage. At this time, a secondary tumor was found in my liver. What a blow! I was so frightened. Once again, Dr. Goldenberg helped facilitate a treatment plan that began after his further consultation with my two surgeons. His concern was genuine, you’re not just a chart to him. You are a person, with real concerns and feelings. Just one example of this was when he saw that I was getting depressed by having to live (for a few months) with a colostomy bag after one of the surgeries. He was empathetic to what a tough adjustment that was for me, and although I had great family support and home health care to help, it was affecting my quality of life. He agreed to let me have the surgery to reverse the colostomy before starting the last round of chemo, and it helped my spirits tremendously.
Altogether, I went through radiation, three rounds of chemo, three surgeries in eight months, and lived with a temporary colostomy for nine months.
My last six month round of chemo finished in February of 2014, and last month I celebrated one year cancer free!!
To say that I was happy is such an understatement! Surprisingly though, other emotions began to surface as well. To get through the change and the challenges that happened so fast in my life, I think I had to turn off some of the emotional aspects just to get through. My big black Labrador dog Roxy must have felt the emotions for us both at the time, because she would come over and put her face in my lap during the worst of it. I would joke to Priscilla and Tracy that she was my “other nurse!” About six months after the treatment ended, I joined Gilda’s Club to work through some of the feelings associated with a cancer diagnosis, and I have found that to be very helpful.
Of all these things that have helped me to become cancer free, and emotionally healthy, I am most grateful for Dr. Goldenberg. He was a guiding light during the hardest 18 months of my life. His early morning visits in the hospital, waves, smiles and quick chats in the chemo lounge all helped me feel better even before I was physically better.
Thanks to his top-notch care, I will be celebrating my 50th birthday this summer. If you have come to his office, you are in great hands that will do the very best for you.