My Knight Cancer Story

patient-storyIn February 2009, I decided to face two problems which had been bothering me for several weeks: a severe shortness of breath when I played tennis and edema in my ankles. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur, which led to finding that all four of my heart valves were damaged to different degrees, the tricuspid and mitral valves bad enough to need to be replaced. But what wasn't clear was what had caused the damage.

Dr. Craig Broberg had read my heart scan, and he mentioned the word "carcinoid" because of something he had seen on my liver. Fortunately, I found my way to Dr. Rodney Pommier, who has expertise in treating carcinoid disease. He found carcinoid metasteses in my liver; the carcinoid hormones were draining directly from my liver into my heart. That’s what was causing my heart damage and other symptoms. He made room for me in his very full schedule and so began a round of tests which led to surgery in May to find and remove the primary tumor, which was on the outside of my small bowel. He was able to find that tumor laparoscopically, even though it didn’t show up on the scans. Next came the surgery to replace my two damaged heart valves, in mid-June, by Dr. Matt Slater. He also incidentally found a hole in my heart, which he repaired.

When these two surgeries were behind me, I began to realize they were only in preparation for the third surgery, which was to remove the very large tumors on my liver. This was scheduled for September, again with Dr. Pommier. Two-thirds of my liver was removed. Eight weeks later, I had regenerated a new liver.

With these three big surgeries behind me, I had time to reflect on the ordeal that I and my family had been through. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the incredible care that I had received: from Dr. Broberg, Dr. Slater and Dr. Pommier. I credited each one with saving my life in different stages along the way.

And then there were the nurses, for whom I have unending respect and the blood-drawers and shot-givers who are so excellent at their jobs. One day an unfamiliar woman came into my room, and I expected to be stuck with a needle again, but she had come to give me a foot massage. An unsolicited foot massage! Wow, was that wonderful.

I have many things to be thankful for, not the least of which is the care I received at OHSU and the Knight Cancer Institute.