Joseph Francis Cibula, Jr.
Joe’s younger brother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007 and passed away in 2008 at the age of 44. As a result of Joe’s close connection with his brother, he started having regular colonoscopies even though statistics said, based on his age, he didn’t have to. Over the next seven years all tests came back negative.
In December of 2016, we went to Joe’s colonoscopy appointment. The doctor found something that did not look normal to him. He took a biopsy, and had it tested. A few days later the results came back positive. Joe called me, and I could tell from his voice that something wasn’t quite right. That is when our journey started. Joe was diagnosed with Stage IIB colon cancer. Within the next few weeks, he had surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery was successful.
Over the next several weeks, we had numerous conversations that led to the decision to not have chemotherapy. During these conversations, what was running through his mind was the memory of his brother, and the stigmatism of chemotherapy and everything that goes along with it. As his wife, I told him I would support him with whatever decision he made. While later he started questioning whether the decision he made was the right one, we marched on. He attended regular monitoring visits with the oncologist. For six months everything looked fine. After a follow up appointment in early 2018, he again called me, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “I just talked to my mom.” I knew at that point it was not good. The cancer had returned with a vengeance. It was pushing on his right ureter. To operate meant coordination between the oncology surgeon and a urologist surgeon. Once that was scheduled, surgery took place soon after. There were eight tumors; six were malignant. All eight tumors were removed, and his bladder had to be reconstructed/repositioned.
The journey continued.
He started chemotherapy. After much apprehension, he decided to have a port installed to have chemotherapy administered. I attended his first session, he seemed to take it well. However, after several sessions, I started to see the toll it took on his body. But with Joe being Joe, we moved forward, attending regular appointments with the oncologist. It was determined that the current regime was not working, so the oncologist changed his program. As Joe’s body started to change and his hair started falling out, he still looked to the future. After several sessions with the new drug, the oncologist again switched his program. This time it was a pill which allowed him to live somewhat of a more normal life, as he didn’t have to sit in the doctor’s office several hours a week. However, it was determined that this pill was not helping. The oncologist recommended Joe for a clinical trial. Unfortunately, he was not a good match. All through this Joe’s CEA numbers kept rising, but the oncologist still had something up his sleeve and prescribed another pill, but also recommended radiation. As they say, “save the best for last.” Joe’s CEA numbers started coming down, and things started looking up.
It was then, in late June 2019, that we hit a roadblock. What we thought might be a bad stomach virus (after a visit to the emergency room) turned out to be a bowel obstruction. The hospital did what they do for bowel obstructions. Home we went. The symptoms returned a few weeks later. Back to the hospital we went. Long story short, Joe was then transferred to the hospital that the surgeon that operated on him a year earlier was affiliated with.
During a two-week period in the hospital, thanks to a wonderful group of people I work with, I was able to be by his side every day. The doctors ran several tests and determined that the cancer had spread to his lungs. It was at this time that the surgeon spoke to us about Joe’s options (which were very limited at this point).
The journey continued.
Over the next month, Joe was in the care of Hospice. Joe was a very private person, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to adjust, but he did well. I always heard such great things about Hospice. It amazed me how they worked. The coordination was wonderful. I want to give a shout out to Susana, his CNA. She was truly a God send. Mr. Joe is looking down with a huge smile on his face because of her. While he passed away one day shy of our 23rd wedding anniversary, I have sought solace in knowing he left this world for a better place.
Thank you for taking me on this journey. I love you to the moon and back. You will always be in my heart wherever I am.