Those who have been following my blog will know that Dad was diagnosed with GISTs back in July 2014, about 2 weeks before his birthday. Many people have not heard of GISTs and those who have, wonder if it is cancer after all. Treatment for GISTs is different from other cancers and there is no staging to measure its condition.
What is GISTs? Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors are the most common mesenchymal neoplasms of the gastrointestinal tract. they are defined as tumors whose behaviour is driven by mutations in the KIT gene. Most (66%) occur in the stomach and gastric GISTs have a lower malignant potential than tumors found elsewhere in the GI tract. (ref : wikipedia)
Treatment wise, it is different from the regular cancers. Radiotherapy has not historically been effective with GISTs and GISTs do not respond to most chemotherapy medications. However, 3 medications have been identified for clinical benefit in GISTs : Imatinib, Sunitinib (Sutent) and Regorafenib (Stivarga). Imatinib (Glivec/Gleevec), an orally administered drug initially marketed for chronic myelogenous leukaemia is useful in treating GISTs in several situations.(ref : wikipedia)
Dad has been showing improvement all these while, visits to the Oncologist has been lengthened to 4 monthly, CT Scan every 6-9 months to monitor the tumor. Great news is, his diabetes has stabilised. The surge in his blood sugar back in 2014 must be due to the GISTs. Now, he is back on oral medication. Gone were the insulin jabs. Thank God.
The CT Scan last month showed that the tumor remained in size. Though the size has reduced to safety level for surgery removal, Dad can’t undergo that because he has lesions in the liver and some parts of lymph nodes. So far, all these are controlled by the Glivec, meaning Glivec is working on them. Seems like Dad has to continue with Glivec for as long as possible since surgery is not an option for his condition.
I am so grateful that Dad is still going strong, taking it positively and exercising daily to keep himself as healthy as possible. I insist upon him to go travelling overseas at least once a year. It is good for my parents to go away from home once in a while. Holidaying without any concerns except to walk, eat and sleep. Enjoy the sceneries and experience different environment while interacting and making new friends. What is most rewarding is to see their happy faces upon returning from each holiday. That is priceless!
I can’t thank Max Foundation enough. I know I have been doing that over and over again. If you were to be in my shoes, you would too. Max Foundation has made expensive treatment becomes more affordable, giving the patients a chance to recovery or continue living. Long term treatment is no joke. Not just financial stress, it is also an emotional journey and it demonstrates how a family stick together to go through it for the long haul or fall apart. Let us hope more families will choose to stick it out together.
I admire Dad for his determination to fight it and be well. I’m proud of Mom for being strong for Dad and be his primary caregiver. More of great companionship and keeping him busy. Much thanks to my brothers who have been keeping in touch with them with constant visits, taking them on short trips and frequent telephone calls. It’s a family thing and that is what we do to stay together at all times, through ups and downs, laughter, fears and tears.
I continue to pray for my parents’ good health, peace in their minds and happiness. Just enjoy life! Cheers, Dad and Mom!