When he was 15, my husband Jesse underwent a colectomy, a procedure
that removed his colon. Jesse opted to do this after learning that he
had familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), a genetic
condition that caused him to develop polyps throughout his
gastrointestinal tract and put him at increased risk for colorectal
Fifteen years later, a routine endoscopy showed that Jesse had a lot
of polyps in his abdominal area. We needed to see a specialist. At a
family member’s recommendation, we came to MD
Anderson to see Dr. Patrick Lynch.
Familial adenomatous polyposis, then a colorectal cancer diagnosis
Up until that point, Jesse and I thought his colon removal would
prevent him from developing cancer. However, Dr. Lynch explained that
Jesse’s continued polyp growth meant he was still at high risk for colorectal cancer. We returned to MD Anderson every six months for a new
endoscopy, and over the years, Jesse’s condition worsened.
This past summer, the pathology report on a polyp removed from his
duodenum showed high-grade dysplasia, meaning the polyp looked more
abnormal – and more like cancer. Dr. Lynch immediately sent us to Dr.
Matthew Katz, who said Jesse needed to undergo a Whipple
procedure, a surgery to remove his gallbladder, duodenum as well as a
part of his pancreas and stomach.
Jesse’s Whipple procedure
Dr. Katz explained that Jesse’s surgery would be riskier than most
because his pancreas was healthy, which made it prone to leakage and
fluid buildup, increasing his risk for an infection. To avoid any
surprises, Dr. Katz prepared for surgery by performing a CT scan to
identify scar tissue from Jesse’s previous procedures and create a
roadmap for the surgery.
On Nov. 30, 2017, about a month and a half after Jesse’s
35th birthday, he underwent the 5-hour surgery without
complications. His first week of recovery was difficult. He couldn’t
eat or drink anything, and he had a nasal tube that made him feel
uncomfortable. But Jesse was determined to begin his last semester of
school on time, so we did everything our care team recommended. We
started walking laps around the floor, and we tried to set a record
every day because we were told that walking around helped people heal faster.
By Dec. 11, Jesse was able to eat solid foods again. He was
discharged two days later, but then he developed an infection from the
fluid buildup about which Dr. Katz had warned us. Jesse was
re-admitted on Dec. 14 and remained in the hospital for another six days.
Even though we were disappointed that we couldn’t make it home for
Christmas, we were thankful that his situation wasn’t worse. Jesse
continued to show daily improvements, and by the time we left Houston
on Jan. 2, he was barely taking any medications, including
painkillers. And he was well enough to start the semester on time.
Gratitude for MD Anderson – and
Jesse and I cannot say enough good things about MD Anderson and the care he received on the
P10 nursing unit after surgery. Dr. Katz once told us he wanted to do
the surgery so Jesse could spend another 50 years with our family.
We’re cautiously optimistic that will be the case.
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