As any of you who read this blog on a regular basis know, I love stories. I think stories are the best way of conveying truth, beauty, love and are one of the few things left on this earth that can change us, I mean really change us at the deepest level.
This is the story of Brenda Boitson – she has been kind enough to let me share her story here. If you would like to follow her continuing story, check out her blog HERE. Enjoy!
Kevin and I met online in June 2005. I got a mysterious email sent from my old high school personal website that only included a picture. That picture was of Kevin, and after a few emails back and forth, I figured out he didn’t know how to work email, but that he was cute enough to talk to-Ha! Anyways-so began the hours long phone conversations that went well into early morning and caused some very disturbing phone bills (just ask my mom!).
Three weeks into our phone conversations, Kevin’s father passed away abruptly from an angyna attack. It was completely unexpected, and devastating for his family. Kevin held his faith through it, and we bonded even more so through this terrible event. Soon after, we decided it was time for us to finally meet face to face.
In August 2005, Kevin came down to visit for two weeks, and we both admitted it was “love at first site”. The calls continued, and we visited each other as much as possible, although all long distance relationships are extremely difficult.
In April of 2006, Kevin came down to visit me in Montana where I was living at the time (I had moved from Lancaster in February of 2006 to Montana to explore). We were taking a walk along the Bitterroot river downtown, and he got down on one knee and professed his love and commitment to me. We were engaged, and life was roses.
The last week in January of 2007, Kevin, his mom and brother came down to move Kevin and for our wedding. On February 3, 2007, we were married at New Danville Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa. We honeymooned at my parents (primitive-but comfy) hunting cabin in Wellsboro, Pa and Buffalo, NY. It was cold-did I mention we got married during a record cold week in Pa? That week’s average was around 10 F. Ugh!
I introduced Kevin to the Atlantic Ocean on Memorial Day weekend of 2007, and he was hooked to ocean life and surf fishing! We went down to the beach for getaway weekends as much as possible. It was relaxing, and so much fun for us.
During our marriage, we enjoyed exploring around the East and just enjoying finally being with each other! We have discovered that we were each other’s perfect fit. We were a story that wouldn’t have happened, but for the grace of God, and invention of the internet!
At the end of June, 2008 Kevin Boitson, my husband of 1.5 years, developed trouble swallowing. He went to the Dr, who told him it was most likely an inflammation due to acid reflux and prescribed him prevacid. A week later, we left to travel to visit Kevin’s family in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada.
During our trip in Winnipeg in early July 2008, Kevin’s inability to swallow properly increased immensely, leaving even just water painful to swallow. During our 1 week vacation in Canada, we placed two calls to our home physician who told us not to worry, just visit him when we got home.
We left a day early and arrived home at the end of the first week of July. The following Monday Kevin visited with his physician, who increased his dose of acid reflux medication and switched him to Nexium. He also scheduled Kevin with the gastroenterologist for an endoscopy to look at his esophagus the next week.
The next day, Kevin called me at work to tell me how painful his swallowing had become and that he couldn’t take it anymore. After several phone calls, I left work to take Kevin to the GI dr. at the local health campus. The nurse practitioner at the GI office seemed very concerned while taking notes about Kevin’s symptoms. 30 minutes later, we were sitting down with her and the Dr. discussing all the STAT procedures te GI Dr. wanted Kevin to have done: Chest Xray, CT scan, Endoscopy, blood work, etc.
The next day, Kevin had an emergency endoscopy which showed a mass of about 3 cm growing at the base of esophagus. He told us he was nearly positive it was cancerous, and sent the biopsy to pathology for examination.
While waiting for the biopsy results to return, Kevin was sent for a PET scan to see if any other parts of his body showed cancerous/active cells. The following week it was confirmed Kevin had cancer, but pathology was unable to identify his type of cancer. It was decided they would try surgery first, and go from there.
That Friday, July 25th, Kevin and I went to Hershey for an endoscopic ultrasound. The procedure was very painful for Kevin and did not go very well due to lack of sedation. The weekend following, Kevin’s symptoms and pain increased, and by Monday morning the 28th we were in the ER at Lancaster.
Kevin was admitted to the hospital after the ER visit where they told us he most likely had pneumonia and was running a fever. Throughout the next week and a half, Kevin was moved, moved and moved with more and more tests being done. He had another endoscopy done for another biopsy because not only Lancaster, but also Johns Hopkins hospital was unable to determine the type of cancer to then proceed with treatment.
While Kevin was in the hospital, fluids built up in and around his lungs and heart, and they were unsure of the source. Wed, August 6th, we were informed Kevin would be transferred the next day to Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore due to the possibly rarity of his tumor.
Thursday, August 7th, due to Kevin’s lack of proper breathing, it was agreed to put him on a ventilator. That afternoon, Kevin was transferred via ambulance to Johns hopkins hospital, after having a chest drain put in, and put on the ventilator.
Early in the morning on August 8th, the surgeon at Johns Hopkins decided that Kevin would most likely need an emergency esophagectomy due to a possible perforation in his esophagus. They hoped at the same time to remove the tumor, but the surgery had very high risks. That evening, around 8pm, when my parents and sister arrived, Kevin was taken into surgery.
We were able to get a medical emergency flight for Kevin’s mom to be here, and we all waited anxiously for about 7 hours until 3 am Saturday morning for the surgery to end. Kevin made it out of surgery, but they were unable to remove the tumor due to it attaching itself to other organs. They did biopsy it again, as they still had not determined the type of tumor.
Kevin remained on the ventilator for almost a week, when they finally took it off, and removed his catheter. The night before he was taken off, it was finally confirmed he has Angiosarcoma, a very rare type of tumor. Sarcoma cancers account for 1-2% of all cancers, and Angiosarcoma accounts for 1-2% of all sarcomas-roughly 100 people per year. With the location of Kevin’s tumor, running from the mouth to stomach, his tumor was very invasive, and extremely rare.
Kevin was on chemotherapy (taxol) treatment for 5 rounds and did ok. There is no cure for angiosarcoma, but it is known to respond well to chemotherapy. We prayed and trusted in God to shrink and disintigrate the tumor so we could continue on living a normal, happy, healthy life. Kevin had hoped to one day have his esophagus re-attached so that he could eat/drink again-something he missed dearly, but in order for that to happen, he would have had to be cancer and chemo free for 3 months. That was a very weak possibility.
Kevin was discharged from Johns Hopkins in early September, and after 3 weeks of freedom (and one last escape to Assateague Island together to fish), Kevin was back in the hospital for another week with GI bleeding issues and pain. He was discharged after a week, and suddenly after 3 days, Kevin developed an excruciating new pain on his left side. He was transported to the hospital, and within 1 day, he was on the ventilator, dealing with a horrible infection.
The night, after being placed on the vent, he had to be shocked for irregular heart rhythms and an extremely high heart rate. He was then put on pressors and heart-rate medication, and stabilized. 3 days later he was already off the vent and appearing much better. We were anxiously awaiting a transport to Hopkins, and that took a week due to their record number of admitions.
Finally, the following Saturday (late October), we got on the transport list for Hopkins. In the meantime, Kevin had remained fairly stable, but was still fighting these infections, and lacking strength. We arrived at Hopkins late on Saturday and adjusted to being in Baltimore again.
On Monday, we met with our oncologist, who told us the discouraging news that the chemo had stopped working and the cancer had spread to his abdomen and around his pancreas. Because of Kevin’s lack of mobility, he had also developed a blood clot in his lung. Unfortunately, due to Kevin’s weak condition, treatments were no longer an option, and we decided to go onto Hospice care.
That night, I spent next to Kevin on a chair, and noticed his breathing becoming increasingly more difficult. Early Tuesday morning, October 28th, Kevin went to be with his Lord and Savior.
I, Brenda, continue to live in Lancaster City. I work several jobs doing clerical work, sales, nannying, as well as freelance writing. My hope with this blog is to to encourage those with cancer, those who are grieving, and to generally give a voice to what is often left unsaid.
I am at a point where I am trying to move forward from just being Kevin’s widow and to rediscover the life I have left ahead. I hope that other Angiosarcoma survivors and patients will find me, and in Kevin’s story find hope despite our outcome. I desire for other young widows like myself to not feel hindered by society’s uncertainties with our situation, but to feel comfort that we are not alone.
Most of all, in writing, I hope to find a new hope, a new love, and a new desire for life.