Gary Ford’s Story

I don’t know what to say, except. THANK YOU!!! I could say it a million times and it still would not be enough. We have never met anyone with such a caring and giving sprit as you. I believe that you are a wonderful example of someone that God has given the spiritual gift of giving. You are awesome!!!

Gary and I never wanted to be in this position. We would much rather be helping others than accepting help, but God has put us in this and I believe He is using you and others to help us get through it. My prayer is that you will be richly blessed and that we can be there for you if need be.

I will try to give you Gary’s history and as you will see, it is quite unbelievable that one person could go through all of this and still be alive, but he has. Everything that I tell you is, I promise, 100% true. I hope I can remember it all.

His story begins on November 30, 1988 when he was admitted into the hospital because he was experiencing terrible abdominal pain. After running tests, it was discovered that he had 2 tumors in his color (at the age of 37, the doctors found it quite unbelievable).

Surgery was performed to remove the tumors and they also removed several lymph nodes. He lost over 50% of his stomach and 25% of his stomach. The tests on the tumors showed that they were malignant and a little over half of the lymph nodes were also malignant. Although the doctors felt that they had gotten all of the cancer, he went through 9 months of chemo just to be sure.

He was supposed to have a year of chemo, but he was in a lot of pain and was also losing blood, so the treatments were discontinued. After more testing, the doctors found that he had a bleeding ulcer, so they again performed surgery in January of 1990, removing yet more of his stomach. He also experienced his first grand maul seizure in 1989 while going through the chemo treatments.

He continued getting regular checkups and tests through the next few years, and things were looking good. We passed the 5 year mark with no reoccurence! We were even blessed with our 4th child in 1995 because we though he was going to be fine. But…

In August of 1998, during a routine EGD, the doctors discovered cancer cells in his stomach where they had performed earlier surgery. So, he was again operated on to remove yet more of his stomach. That surgery went well, and there was no need for further treatment. Again, we felt confident that he was okay.

At some point (I don’t remember exactly when it was), he suffered another grand maul seizure and was found in a parking lot at a lumber store, unconscious and bleeding from his mouth. He was rushed to the hospital, where he spent the night, and went through testing. However, nothing conclusive was found. He had some “irregular brainwaves”, but that is all they could find for an explanation. He was put on anti-seizure medicine and he was on his way.

In August of 2000, the day after we had taken our oldest daughter to college in Missouri, he called me early in the morning from work and told me he wasn’t feeling very well and was coming home. He told me the route he would be taking, so if he wasn’t home in time, I could go looking for him. Well, a few minutes later, his boss from work called me and they had called an ambulance for him because he didn’t think he should be driving. After more testing, it was discovered that he had a minor heart attack and they did angioplasty and inserted a stint in one of his arteries. As if the threat of cancer wasn’t enough, now we also had to have his heart checked on a regular basis.

Throughout all of this time, he would occasionally have a skin cancer of one type or another removed, but nothing to worry about. Our lives were going along on a pretty normal route.

In April of 2004, he had a lump on his scalp which he decided should be checked out. So, we went to the doctor’s office, and they removed it in the office. But, then we got a call a few days later that the tests showed that it was a “sabacious carcinoma”, a very rare and potentially deadly form of cancer. He was sent to a specialist, who had only heard of it once before when he was in school. They took him into day surgery to remove more of the area just to be sure that they got all of it, and sent him home. All went well until…

July 2005, he was experiencing some abdominal pain. Afraid that it might be his ulcer, he went to the doctor. They performed an EGD and also, since it was time, they performed a colonoscopy. The EGD showed that everything was okay with the stomach. No ulcer problem. The colonoscopy, however, showed that he had another tumor in his colon. This was the last thing we expected or wanted to hear. So, he went into the hospital for yet more surgery. In August, they performed surgery to remove the tumor, and he lost yet more of his colon. He now has very little left. Even though the doctor felt confident that he had gotten all of the cancer, it was recommended that he see an oncologist for further evaluation.

The oncologist recommended chemo therapy, just to be on the safe side, to kill all of the “microscopic cells”. Gary went through 6 months of chemo that had awful side effects. He lost about 60 pounds, and was miserable. They had implanted a port just under his shoulder blade so that they would not destroy his veins by having to stick him every time. He went once a month for treatment and had to carry a pump for 5 days that gave him continual drugs. After the 6 months were up, they removed the port and prayed that all was well.

The doctor ordered a CT scan just to make sure, and also to have something to use as a basis for further scans so they would have something to compare with. The CT showed that he had a tumor in his liver! What a blow!! We thought we were done! Back for more chemo. Another type of drug this time. Another CT scan was done 2 months later…the tumor was bigger and another had appeared. The doctor told us that this was considered stage 4 colon cancer and that he could not cure it. Gary probably had 2 years, if the chemo worked. He tried yet another form of chemo, Gary’s “last chance” drug. He continued to lose weight, a total of 100lbs since his surgery in 2005. In July of 2006, he suffered quite a set back and was again hospitalized. He had an obstruction in his intestines and they were going to do surgery yet again. He was in the operating room and right before they knocked him out, he told the surgeon that his leg had been hurting him. So, they did a quick ultrasound on his leg, and found a blood clot. There would be no surgery. We were all relieved because we all felt that the surgery would have killed him. Later that night, they put a filter in his lower abdomen to keep the blood clot from traveling to his lungs. After a few days, he was dismissed from the hospital.

Gary continued with the chemo and improved. He also continued to work throughout this whole ordeal. After having a PET scan done, it was discovered that there was some cancer in another area which the doctor said was probably lymph nodes. If the cancer was only in the liver, they could do surgery to remove it, but since it was also in another area, there would be no point to putting him through surgery.

He kept on the chemo. Then, we had a bit of good news–the tumors in his liver were shrinking and the lymph nodes were no longer a concern. Surgery was possible!!!

On February 28, 2007, he was admitted to Loyola hospital for liver surgery, after having 60% of his liver removed, he was declared cancer free once again!! What a relief!! No more chem!!

Recuperating from liver surgery is very long. He was very run down. He had gained a little weight, but then he started losing it again. His back was hurting him, but we just thought it was because he wasn’t able to get much exercise. He went to the chiropractor and they did X-rays to be sure that he didn’t have any tumor in his back and then they started treating him. Sometimes he felt better after treatment, sometimes worse.

November 2007, Gary’s oncologist ordered an MRI on his lower back. The results showed that there were tumors in his bones. He immediately started radiation treatments to kill the cancer. He went every weekday for 14 days for treatment. At the end of the radiation treatments, they performed a pet scan which showed that the cancer was back again in his liver. More tumors than before–5 visible. Back to chemo…

That is where we stand today. He has been going weekly for chemo treatments and receiving 3 different drugs. At his last CT scan, the tumors were shrinking a little, and so far the bone cancer is under control. We find out tomorrow if they are going to cut the chemo down to every 2 weeks. He had to give up his job back in November of 2007 because of his inability to walk very much (due to the bone tumor). Also, we have discovered that as a result of his shortened colon, he experiences what is known as “dumping syndrome.” This is caused when he eats too much sugar, and his pancreas dumps a bunch of insulin into his system, causing his sugar level to drop. This causes grand maul siezures. He has had at least 3 of them in last 2 years. When he has the seizures, his blood pressure goes so high, that he could have a stroke. Just one more thing to threaten him.

So, that is our life. We have been very fortunate though to have so many people who have helped us through all of this. We have wonderful children, and we both have siblings who help us whenever and however they can. But, most of all, we are very thankful to our Heavenly Father, as He is always with us and sees us through, even though we think we can’t do it anymore. Gary’s faith is much stronger than mine, as I have had many times that I just wanted to scream and give up. Gary knows that he is in God’s hands, and God is in control.

We have been married 35 years, and have been blessed with 4 wonderful children and a wonderful extended family of 7 more children. We have 4 adorable grandsons, and a set of twin suragate grand children–1 boy & our only grand daughter!! All of them bring joy to our lives. Gary has been my lover and my best friend since I was 17 years old. I love him more than life itself, and I will be with him “Till death do us part.”

Ok, you wanted it, and you probably got more than you expected, but I told you everything!! Again, thank you so very much. You will never know what you mean to us.

The Ford’s