Third time’s a charm

19 May

There’s been a lot that has taken place these past few weeks, and it seems like each piece of information has hinged on the next.  I had my fourth (and final!) round of chemotherapy on April 15th.  Once this step was completed, it was time to assess the progress of the treatment I had just survived.

Step I – The PET Scan

After a grueling recovery from chemo and its symptoms, I went in for a long-awaited PET scan.  This test would measure the progress of the 12 weeks of chemo hell I had just been through.  Similar to all the other scans I’ve had done in the past, I always look for some sign of immediate results from the radiology technician, but by law they are not allowed to directly provide me with any information or interpretation of the scan.  Instead, the radiology technician provides the radiologist with the scan images, who in turn must interpret the scans then send a written report to my doctors outlining the findings.  Then, my doctor has to find time – in between a triple booked schedule – to call and relay the results to me.  This process takes at least 48-72 following the exam, even when I talk them into putting a ‘rush’ order on the results.  Despite this ‘rush’ order, the information can’t come soon enough. I often find myself questioning whether or not my doctors have ever been in the position of waiting on a written report to tell them whether or not they have cancer…I doubt it.  While awaiting the results, I make every attempt at questioning the radiology technicians via some method of reverse psychology  in an effort to achieve some sort of reading to my scans.  I find myself psychoanalyzing their facial expressions and asking myself if their arched brow means they saw something of concern.  I ask childish questions such as, Okay, while you can’t tell me what you saw on the scan, can you tell me what you didn’t see? Ugh. They never fall for it – and I’m left waiting.

Finally the phone rings and the results are in…starting with the lungs: previously there were 13 lesions…now there are NONE!  Liver: previously there were nine lesions…now there is only one!  Colon: just a lot of scar tissue (to be expected post-surgery).  All in all it’s great news and a phenomenal response to treatment.  Now, it’s onto the next step.  Can my ostomy be reversed and can we get rid of this bag…lord knows it’s long out of style and hindering my daily activities.

Step II – The Barium Enema

Now that my oncologist is satisfied about my response to the most recent chemo treatments, I have clearance to reverse my ileostomy. However, before that can be done, they need to make sure there is no leak around the area where the original tumor mass was removed and the colon reconnected.  This is my third time going in for this particular test, and it’s not a fun one.  Fortunately luck was on my side this time and the x-rays showed no more leakage…third time’s a charm!  Within seconds of learning these results, I was on the phone with my surgeons office to schedule my surgery.  I got the sense that her nurse was a little weirded out by the fact that this patient on the other end of the phone was so excited for surgery.  Despite this, I got everything booked and I will be bag-free and have my small intestine fully intact as of next Friday (May 27th).

Step III – Stay off the Internet

Now that I have my ostomy reversal scheduled, I can’t help but be inquisitive about what the recovery will be like.  I already watched a demonstration of the entire procedure (which will take 30-45 minutes) on YouTube so I will know exactly what will be done.  But then I took it one step further and started reading medical forums related to other patients’ experiences with ileostomy reversals.  The picture they painted wasn’t very glamorous.  Most complained of a lot of soreness and diarrhea following the procedure, and one person even reported having to work from home for nine months following his procedure because he couldn’t stray too far from the bathroom.  After reading this, my bag didn’t seem like that much of an inconvenience anymore.  Then I kicked myself, realizing that I can’t focus on these people’s accounts; after all, it is human nature to be far more inclined to discus our negative experiences than to tout the positive ones.  That’s when I closed the computer and tried to mentally reverse the damage that I had done by planting these negative seeds in my head.  My doctor indicated that I could plan to be back to work in 4-6 weeks following the procedure.  I haven’t told her yet that I have tickets and travel plans to Hawaii for a work event just three and a half weeks following surgery…I’ll save that news for another day!


15 Responses to “Third time’s a charm”

  1. Holly Philipps May 20, 2011 at 3:38 am #


    I have been thinking about you a lot this week, just Wednesday I asked Angela (Ihrke)how you are doing. I am so happy to hear this news that I am crying! You are a special lady and I wish you everything good :)

  2. Danette Jaeger May 20, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Oh Emily ~ I have tears in my eyes just reading this!! What great news!!!! I am certain it is your amazing attitude and fearless spirit with all that you have encountered. I just know your recovery from surgery will be nothing like what you read and you will be on an airplane for Hawaii in no time!!

    Love ya girl!

  3. Jessi Trigg May 20, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    Emily, this is outstanding news!!! I am so grateful to your medical team for taking care of you as well as all the prayers people send up for you. You are such an inspiration and you have touched so many people with your spirit! Keep on kicking cancer’s ass and I look forward to celebrating your full recovery with you one day soon.

    Love, Jessi

  4. Brad & ann ihrke May 20, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    WAY TO GO EM !! What did i tell you luv ya EM. Brad & ann

  5. Stephanie Djerf May 20, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    Congrats Emily! I’m thrilled to hear the good news!

  6. Stephanie Monzon May 20, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    I have been thinking about you so much, Emily. I am thrilled to read your update and have it be filled with good news. You and your family remain in my prayers. Lots of love, Stephanie

  7. Cris Moger May 20, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    YEAH Em! I’ve been checking back daily and was starting to get worried! I suppose… no news is good news! This is much better than good news, its fantabulous news, we’re thinking of you daily and sending lots of thoughts and prayers your way as you undergo this next phase!

    Love you
    Marc, Cris, Kailee and Kara

  8. Sandy Ross(aunt, once removed!) May 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    You are one amazing specimen, Emily!!! I will be praying for your successful reversal surgery.

  9. Erinne May 20, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Hooray for this wonderful news.

    My Dad had his ileostomy (sp) removed 2 weeks prior to him starting chemotherapy. He was nervous as well!! It did not take long for his body to get used to not having a bag anymore. There was some recovery time from the surgery as to be expected. Over all though he did fanastic.

    He only had 1 slight and very small issue…

    Constant hiccups! Finally after myself and his Dr. nagging him (men can be stubborn) he took some medication to relax his diaphram. Once they stopped it made a world of difference.

    I’m sure you will soar thru this and be enjoying a much needed working trip to Hawaii.

  10. Toni Sandler May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Great news!! I’m so happy for you, Emily. I think if more people were as pro-active and intelligent about their various illnesses and treatments, the statistics would be a lot more positive.

    And, yes — don’t take the web seriously. I’ve been dealing with a few issues and have found that, for as much good information as the Web has, there’s just as much hysterical and just-plain-wrong information “out there,” too. Anyway, YOU GO GIRL!

  11. Karen Moger May 23, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Not only are you a soldier, you can storm like the entire army!!! Sooner than later the doctors will be raising more than their eye brows when they heat the name “Emily Ihrke Ackerberg.” Soldier on dear one, your enthusiam and courage are an inspiration beyond your imagination.

  12. Karen Moger May 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    Late at night!!! sorry about the TYPE O’s hear and Akerberg, what can say, age maybe? It’s the thought that counts!!!

  13. Suzanne Svoboda May 24, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Been there done that! Having bag reversed is 1000xs better, period. I returned to full-time job within six weeks and two months following the reversal spent three weeks in Europe. Yes you may have issues with diarrhea but usually you can control this with diet. I remember having the bag like it was yesterday, following it’s removal was uneventful. I am so happy for you, it feels GREAT to have the bag reversed!!!!!!! Have a great time on your trip, good for you………..

  14. Rita Hartert May 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Thoughts and prayers will be with you this coming Friday as you have your reversal surgery. Just know that with your positive attitude all will be well….just wish I could be there and hold your hand. Love you! Rita

  15. Kristen B May 27, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    YAY! That’s wonderful news. :)

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