My journey with cancer: ‘unexpected news’

Published 5:28 pm Monday, March 6, 2017

Quite a bit of time has passed since my last column and there is much news to share

In January, I underwent a PET scan (my first) to determine if my cancer has spread beyond its initial sites. Upon my diagnosis last July I learned I had an uncommon form of lung cancer that has metastasized to my liver; tests later found that two lymph nodes behind my trachea also showed the presence of cancer cells.

The PET scan brought welcome news. The carcinoid in my lung has shrunk considerably and my liver is responding to treatment; of the two lymph nodes, one is now free of cancer and the other has just a trace.

So not only has my cancer not spread as of January, it has actually diminished in size.

That was a major hurdle. Little did I know the good news would keep on coming.

I met with a liver surgeon Feb. 24 to pursue treatment options. I had been told all along that I was not a candidate for surgery to remove part of my liver and that a liver transplant wasn’t feasible. While my lung issues could be addressed through further treatment that will most likely culminate in surgery to remove half of my right lung, doctors were quite frank in telling me the most they could offer would be intensified chemo and radiation in order to “maintain” me.

There would be no cure.

But what no one counted on was how well, and how quickly, my body would respond to chemo treatment and a shot regimen. That, and recent advances in medicine, just may offer me a new lease on life.

Nearly half of my liver has been damaged by cancer. We’ve known that from the start. What I didn’t know, until recently, is up to half of a human’s liver may be surgically removed and the patient will survive. Not only that, the organ regenerates itself and is usually fully functioning again within months.

The game plan has changed significantly.

I return to the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center at Vidant in Greenville for three days of scans March 8-10. The purpose is to verify the results of my earlier PET scan and to check even more closely for the presence of cancer cells.

If the results are good, and there is every reason to think they will be, a team of doctors will meet to decide if I am a candidate for surgery to remove part of my liver.

Then, my liver would be cancer-free.

The words “cure” and “curable” were used for the first time Feb. 24. And once the liver problems are addressed, radiation and continued chemo targeted at my lung will prepare me for eventual lung surgery.

If all the pieces fall into place, I hope to be completely cancer-free by the end of this year.

To say my mind has been reeling is an understatement. To go from being told you can be maintained and may have only a few years left, to the very real possibility of being cured is indescribable.

Much rides on the outcome of my next tests. If anything is out of line, my hopes for surgery and a cure will be dashed. That’s a lot to take in.

I want to thank everyone for the prayers. I cannot tell you how much they mean to me and my family. And I humbly ask that you continue to pray for everyone who is fighting this horrible disease.

Kevin Scott Cutler is a teacher assistant at Chocowinity Primary School and a frequent contributor to the Washington Daily News.