Saturday, June 23, 2007

Second opinions

I have struggled for the last couple of days about whether or not I should post about this. I am scared, angry, heartbroken and hopeful all at the same time. I decided that sharing this may help me work through all these emotions and at the same time make sure that we remember to not sweat the little things and treasure our friends and family like the gifts they are.

My friend Jen called me 2 weeks ago to wish me a happy birthday. She has a 21 month old soon so I jokingly asked her when little Rocco would get a baby brother or sister. She proceeded to explain to me that she had been having some health problems and was having testing done that week. She said she would keep me posted.

So I called her last week to see how her testing went. Turns out Jen has stage IV colon cancer which has metastasized to her liver. I felt like I had the breath knocked out of me. I still am incredulous as to how a healthy 32 year old who eats well and exercises regularly - she is a fitness instructor for goodness sakes!!! can have cancer.

I asked her how it could have spread this fast without any symptoms. She said that she had had symptoms, constipation and blood in her stool, so she went to her primary care physician. He told her to add more fiber to her diet, gave her some Metamucil and sent her home. When she went back, complaining that the Metamucil had not helped, there must be something else wrong, her doctor told her that because she was so young, a colonoscopy wasn't really necessary - the risks of having it done outweighed the benefits and sent her home again.

Jen wanted me to tell everyone this one thing: follow your gut instinct and GET A SECOND OPINION. Clearly if this doctor had been more thorough, he would have picked up on the fact that a woman who makes every meal for her and her family from scratch probably does get enough fiber and that something else is going on here.

Jen is getting excellent help at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University. The treatment is going to be long and hard but Jen is young and strong so we are very hopeful that she will beat this - besides I made her promise me we would dance our asses off at my wedding.

If all of you that read this could please keep Jen, her son Rocco and her husband Joey in your prayers - every little bit helps. I have my mom lighting candles for her in churches all throughout Italy - that combined with the excellent care she will receive at GU and Jen's rock hard stubborn will to get better should put us ahead of the game.

Last but not least remember, it is OK to get a second opinion if your doctor is not able to relieve your discomfort. It just might be the most important decision you ever make.


Phil said...

My sister works for Hopkins doing exactly this type of cancer research. While it is typically for older folks, I know it can strike just about anyone.
Heck I even went to a colon cancer fund raiser event to help photograph it.

One of the positives I learned is that chocolate is supposed to help... go figure.

Gina said...

Wow Paola, I am very sorry to hear about Jen! But I know she is a fighter! Please give her my love when you speak to her next. I will definitely keep Jen, Joey & Rocco in my prayers.