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Nathan's Cancer Blog

She's unplugged and done with radiation!

This is going to be a mixed post I apologize up front.  My beautiful wife is finally done with round one.  Today was her last radiation visit and they unplugged her from the chemo pump today.  She took treats to her radiation techs and chemo nurses to thank them.  She's looking forward to a shower for the first time in six weeks.  I'm happy that we are making progress and even though my wife is in full blown side effects of the radiation, burns, pooping razor blades, bleeding, fatigue, her free Brazilian etc. she has honestly taking it like a champ and has surprised her doctors at how well she is doing.  I hope that her little 6 cm unwelcomed guess in her rectum is under a lot of pain and suffering right now along with that stupid lymph node that has cancer in it.  They can both go to hell and I'd love to be the one who sends them there.  If makes me feel good to know that they have to be dying with everything that the doctor's have thrown at it. 

I hope not to get to personnel but since my last post we have had mothers days and as I have helped my wife with bathing and dressing the burns and applying cream in not pleasant areas I have to think about you women.  Man you gals go through a lot giving us guys children and being wives and mothers.  To watch her go through this and see her body bear the pain and suffering both with giving birth and fighting cancer I don't think I could do it.  Many of my supporters are women on this blog that have or have had anal cancer.  I take my hat off to you and say thanks for sharing and thanks for fighting for those around you.  You are strong and honestly don't deserve any of this but keep the fight and no doubt you fight stronger and harder than any of us guys could.  I hope that you all found some joy this mothers day.

We met with a new rectal surgeon.  We were not impressed at all.  She only has a few years experience and was a DO not a MD which means she was trained in a more holistic type medicine.  Not for me, as she painted a grime picture.  I know that my wife's cancer is advanced.  I know that technically the node that is infected can be classified as non-regional which should bump her to a stage IVA but come on give a guy some hope.  Yes we have regional involvement, yes we have to wait till after the surgery to really know the stage, yes we have always had a high chance of reoccurrence but its applying those stupid numbers behind the stage that get you down because you associate survival percentages to them.  My poor wife broke down and promised me that she would fight this first go around but if it reoccurs she won;t promise me anything.  Gulp I hate this disease.  I hate almost everything about it.  It has aged me and I am allowing it to get me down.  It's just that the girl that the cancer has decided to invade means everything to me.  She is a fantastic mother to my four children and its a bit of a joke in our house, I'm not known as Mr. Peterson in my community I'm just the guy who is married to Sherry.  I'm fine with this as it shows to me the type of women that she is. 

Back to the update.  In four weeks we go back to the oncologist and rectal surgeon.  In five weeks we get another colonoscopy and a CT some time in between.  Depending on that we schedule surgery 6-8 weeks from now where the tumor will be resected, the lymph node will be removed along with the standard 12 min. around the region, her uterus will be removed along with the ovaries. 

If you're not a spiritual person stop reading now.

 

I get on my knees nightly and pray for the faith to witness a modern day miracle in my life.  I pray that my wife will have her prayers answered.  I pray that she will be one and done and that five years from now she can become a survivor.  I pray that I will not be a shallow man and if she ends up to be physical shell of what she was from this cancer that I will still be there for her and love her the same if not more than I do now.  I pray that I can have the strength to get through the day.  And last I pray for all of my friends here that they too can witness miracles in their lives.

God Bless and Carry on a good fight.

 

Thomas likes this post.
3 people threw a punch at your cancer.
Thomas, Kim sent you a prayer.
5 people sent you a hug.
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Yay for round #1 being over! *punches the air* We send Sherry strength and healing vibes and also positive thoughts for the next round. And to you too, Nathan. We sometimes wonder who this is hardest on - the patient or the caregiver - and have decided both sides experience their own special hell, making them even in the stress game. And while we are not what you would call religious, we have learned over the years that there are definitely more things in heaven and earth than we can dream of, forces at work, miracles in the making. We send you hugs and great hope for the future xx :*)
Nathan, Easterly like this comment
YESSS!!!! You two WILL get there!!! And remember there are many ways to love. You will find them all.

The Native AMericans and First Nations and Aboriginal peoples all knew there was a spiritual basis to the universe; what it is exactly, I think is unknown. But we must live in the certainty that we connect to it and are held up by it.

HUGS to her and to you.
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Hi Nathan. I know that it is a relief for both you and your wife to have finished this portion of the journey. I know that you guys have a long road ahead of you but it is okay to celebrate each accomplishment. I think a lot of people do not understand that cancer is something that affects the entire family. It hit me during treatment that the cancer was in my body, but my entire family had cancer. Your wife is very lucky to have you. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a loved one so involved. I will say a prayer for your family.
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What an amazing man you are. Your love for your wife shines through every word you write and if I can see it, there is no doubt that she feels it. When I went through treatment, my eyes were opened to how much my husband adores me. Normally, he is not a vocal man and to be candid, there were times that I didn't feel loved. After the cancer fight that we did together, I know to the depths of my being that I am loved. I am sure that your wife is feeling the same and believe me, it means a lot!!

Yay for the end of radiation, now that skin will have a chance to heal. Once she turns the corner, the healing will be fast. It may take her a few days to get there, but when she does, watch out.

If you aren't comfortable with your doc, get a new one. You need to have complete and utter faith that this is the absolute best care. Don't let the staging/statistics get your down. Sherry is more than a number and no one has an expiration date stamped on the bottom of their foot.

Lots and lots of hugs for you guys.
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This visit was a second opinion and we were not happy with that doctor. We might try one more. It think one idea that the industry needs is like a independent person that one could throw it all out on the table and talk about strategy and about doctors.
Thomas likes this comment
Yeah the other thing is that by profession I'm a licensed structural engineer and currently work as a project manager. Numbers have been my life. I eat and drink numbers and percentages. Also as an engineer I solve problems and as many nights I've laid in bed this isn't a problem I can solve and it upsets me. I know I need to let the numbers go as even if this node is considered distant it's by fact it's only on the other side of the artery and is exterior and not interior. We're talking inches. The node is in the zone of radiation and has a clip in it so it can. E located and removed. I need to stop running the numbers and get back to trusting the professionals like the oncologist and not worry about what if's.
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I'm with you on the numbers thing ... I'm a CPA (no taxes, CFO functions) and trends and statistics are my livelihood. I also am responsible for making sure the company has plans if the worst happens .... YUK when it comes to my health. After treatment was over, I really struggled because none of my docs would use the "cure" word. A couple of times, I had to look in the mirror and admonish the reflection that it was time to trust my docs. Easy to say, hard to do.
Your right easier said than done. I do have to remind myself that she is healthy, she doesn't smoke, drink, over eat, and is young so if anyone can do it she should be the one with the highest odds to beat the odds.
I also have to remind myself that I often over react and until the next CT is done and the surgery is done we don't know anything different other than its contained in the pelvic region and radiation should have destroyed the cancer in the node and at a min shrunk if not killed the primary tumor. As much as I think of the what if's that are bad, but what if she walks way from this totally clean from the cancer. I need to hang my hat on the last one.

Thanks Kathee you always talk me down off of the ledge.
Kathee likes this comment
You are correct. It does seem they do not want to use the "cure" word. Only the "remission" word.
Nathan, I thank you for the update and I am SO happy to hear that your wife has completed treatment. I also thank you for the kind words you expressed about others on this blog who have been through a similar ordeal. You have witnessed first-hand how extremely brutal it is. However, your wife is now on the other side of it and I wish her swift healing from all that this has done to her. And my prayer is that the tumor has cowardly shrunken away, every last cell of it.

To go through this is definitely a test--of will, determination, strength, and faith. I would say that you and your wife have passed the test. Keep the faith and know that I send good thoughts, many prayers and hugs for good news in the coming weeks.

Martha
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Nathan... I like the way you write... you capture my heart reading your posts... like two tissues worth on this one...yes...I do cry more easily these days, but your words struck home

some doctors are stupid in that they do not understand how important hope is to your quality of life...even false hope makes your life better.. so if you do not like a doctor, get another if it is possible...

and I agree...I think women are the stronger ones.. I don't think I could have gone through what my wife went through...

You and your wife are amazingly strong, with a well of strength you didn't know you had...even when you feel like the well is running dry, your faith helps to somehow keep you supplied with enough to keep going... and I am of course of the opinion that tears do not mean weakness, they add to your well of strength

you are certainly in my thoughts and prayers
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I don't know what kind of medical facility you are dealing with. If you are not comfortable with this surgeon please google other ones in your state and find one or two you may be comfortable with. Interview the Doctor, ask how many of these surgeries they do in a year, you might have to drive but if you find a medical center associated with a University and find a surgeon that is also a professor or something he/she will be definitely one that would know their stuff in order to teach it. Ask the Doctor all your questions. Write them down so you do not forget.
Thomas likes this comment
We have another one lined up and are looking for one more.
Nancy, Thomas like this comment
continue being proactive, glad you got some lined up and are looking some more. Keep on fighting and go with your gut feeling. Good Luck with your endeavors and journey.
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I was never so relieved to get done with radiation. I cant think of the name of it but when I had radiation they told me to get some of this cream that is made from cow cuds that it is one of the best for radiation skin. I got it at CVS. Have seen it at other stores. it is a cream and comes in a red and white cylinder container about 4 to 6 inches tall. It was a very good cream and I did not get any burns although I am sure several other people do not and several do unfortunately. If I find the name of it will let you know.
I might know what you're talking about. Is it called udder butter cream.
I believe it is called something like that? is that what you use?
Thank you for your beautiful post Nathan and your descriptions of the turmoil you feel as well as the beauty of your love. I have a feeling you are more than the guy married to Sherry, you have a very special heart. I am a caretaker for my husband with pancreatic cancer. We just had the resect last week and Roger was released from the hospital yesterday. There are a few problems we will consult with the surgeon about, but we are going strong and are going with the assumption that we are going to beat this thing. We don't have the pathology report yet, we will get that next week. We are hoping for no lymph node involvement of course. I pray for the same things you pray for, and praying helps. Even if it doesn't help, it helps me. But I do believe it helps. Also, if you don't like the surgeon, you should ask for another one. You do want someone who has done a lot of these. How does your wife feel about her. Being the caretaker, I sometimes have to yield to my husbands wishes. I hope this makes sense, I can only see a little of it while I'm typing. I agree with you, this group has been a huge help for me, I have met some very special people here.
Nathan, Susan J like this comment
We both had the same feeling about the surgeon that we went to on Monday. We won't let her operate on my wife. We are searching for one and have some contacts so we'll get one. She's healing no my worry is that the rectal surgeon needs time to coordinate with gyno surgeon.
Nathan I am so relieved you and Sherry are past this big hurdle. That in itself is a big accomplishment. As you know, the treatment is so very hard and your wife has been a champion. Yet again, my husband I can relate to your post, to your feelings, to your prayers. We read it with tears streaming. I'm glad you are listening to your instincts about finding another surgeon. I hope you find a better fit with more experience. I have had mixed feelings about some of the providers we've seen along the way and I hate the uneasy feelings that you leave with. On the other hand my radiation doctor was encouraging and compassionate. It's sad to me that these types of doctors are harder to find (in my experience). They do have a very difficult job and I try to remember that. I know staying positive and not worrying about the numbers / statistics seems impossible ..I am one of the biggest worriers and I really dislike that about myself...but turning it over to God has been the only thing that is working for me. I hope you can find peace through your beautiful prayers. God Bless you and your family.
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You are such a wonderful husband, and father. I pray for you guys to have a cure, and so you can continue to change this world for the good, with your lovely family!
Take some time and really enjoy. I wish I lived there to help out.
Love and hugs, Jean
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Nathan, what a fantasic caregiver you are! I can't say if tht is the hardest part, but seeing my family suffer when I went through treatment was really awful and heartbreaking. You didn't say that Sherry would be having a colostomy, so I'm guessing she won't. I'm quite sure that she would get that here in the Netherlands. If it comes to that then so be it, you will cope and learn to live with it.
I had one lymph involvement too, and of course it pushed my tumor up to a higher stage. The radiation zapped it and will have zapped hers too. I hated that it was on the move so to speak, and about to spread and cause havoc. Mind you the havoc was caused anyway.
As you are now looking for another surgeon then at least you are doing something to try to fix it, which I think is the way you operate. Doctors are taught now to give all the facts, which means that the message can be very bleak. But the best doctors give the message clothed in kindness and empathy so that you leave the room with hope. Statistics are never about the individual, and you can see that in these posts that eveyone has a different path.
You must be a formidable pair!
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Thanks for sharing. I'm happy to know that the radiation can take a node out.
We have had one rectal surgeon and one gynecological oncologist say they think she has the margin to to have to have a colostomy but for sure a temp one till she heals. With that said we won't know for sure until they are in there.
I'm so sorry that the so-called doctor painted a grim picture. Nobody should deprive you of hope, and I dearly wish I can offer you a little hope with the fact that my husband - statistically - should have been a goner years ago. He had positive nodes and margins following surgery for pancreatic cancer in January, 2010. We were told that treatment would extend his life somewhat, but to get his affairs in order, take time to travel, and enjoy each other. That was seven and one half years ago! Fight, get second and third opinions, make sure she's treated at a major cancer center, and stay positive. You have alot of people here rooting and praying for you. XO 💪🏽
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Thanks for sharing.
Hi Nathan... just didn't want to wait for another post to tell you that you are both in my thoughts and prayers as I read over all these comments. Hope your and your wife's spirits lift a bit as recovery progresses.
Thank you Neal I sure do appreciate the thoughts and prays Thoughts and prayers are the food for the soul to help get through this trial. She is doing better today.
the name of that cream is "Udderly Smooth" a very good cream for radiation after effects.
I was close. I'll see if I can find some.
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2/3 Done w/treatments & some questions

I've been debating on whether or not to update the blog tonight or not.  I keep thinking that maybe one day someone in my shoes might stumble onto this and be able to gain some helpful information from it.

We finished our fourth week of chemo and radiation.  My wife's white blood count is up but still not high enough to make the doctor happy.  She received two more shots this week.  The shots are not hurting her like they did at first but she still gets major head aches and her legs hurt from the shots.  Add the uterous cramps again and she has had a rough week.  The radiation is finally starting to add up and take its toll.  Around Weds. she started to get some pink burns in her groin.  The burn in this area is not hurting her and we keep applying the aloe vera gel.  She feels fortunate that her groin and girls parts have not been burnt yet.  With that said she is in the pooping razor blade phase.  She has some creams to help with the burns around her rear.  The hemmroids are killing her and her bowel is irritated.  When she eats food she has about 20 minutes till stomach aches and she needs the bathroom.  I'm not sure how to keep the food in her for longer.  She's fatigued a lot and its starting to take a mental toll on her.  I feel for her as I don't think I could go through what she is.

So a couple of questions.  One the skin that is burnt on her rear looks black almost, is that normal?  I find it weird that all the way around her pelvis she has about a 10" band front and back where is skin as turned tan.  She is joking about having to go to her tanning bed every day.  Is it also normal for her to have to go to the bathroom 15 min after she eats?  She goes into the doctor tomorrow and she'll ask the questions but just want to know what some of you have gone through.  Last what can I expect over the last two weeks?  Does the side effects and pain keep gitting worse or does it plateau and level off?

As always thanks for the comments it really does help us.  Good luck to everyone and fight on.

God Bless

3 people threw a punch at your cancer.
Guerrera, Karen sent you a prayer.
Laurie, Thomas sent you a hug.
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You are the best Nathan!! Everything you have contributed is so helpful to all of us; Past, Present, and Future. And the fact that you are a male caretaker, so caring, is so inspirational! Thank you!
She is beginning the end of the hardest part. I assume last week was the end.
Black tinge to the skin is normal, as long as it hasn't broken open or loosing structure.
I still have black tinge 2 years later, even though the skin is sensitive, but well healed.
The blood count, and (all the healing) takes some time. She is young and should well recover, but needs monitoring on all the trouble issues, or if new things that come up. This will take time (everyone is a little different).
Yeah!! It's ended.
Make sure you guys write all your questions down. I always think of something after I leave the doctor, but we have a email system in my HMO.
I hope you stay in touch, and maybe we can meet you guys, someday; when we meet up in Colorado, to thank Jill.
Hugs, Jean
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definitely write down the questions, and YOU make sure that they have all been answered satisfactorily...if not, ask for clarification or explanation...she may intend to ask the questions but you are her backup... and no offense, but with the treatment she is going thru, she may have a bit of chemo brain and certainly exhaustion, so make sure all questions are asked and that you understand all the answers...ask for explanations if it is not clear to you...I used to ask Emilee if she understood what they were saying because I could tell by her look that she did not...so I would ask them to clarify and explain it again...until I knew she understood what they were saying.... and it has nothing to do with a person being smart or not smart...just make sure when you walk out, you are satisfied that they answered your questions for now... you will have more ..... make sure you have contact numbers that you can call and ask questions as they arise... good luck with the last two weeks home stretch
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Nathan, about the shots.....ask the MD if they could get the juice real cold? I've heard they don't hurt when they are cold. My WBC just now hit the low end of the comfort zone after 5 years. But I remember times it was real low. Hope the rest of the journey goes smoothly. God bless.
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May God bless you for being her advocate and coming here to ask questions and get some helpful information. I remember so vividly being at the point in treatment where she is now and wondering how I was ever going to make it the rest of the way. The good news is, I did. The bad news is, I didn't have anyone to ask questions to.

So, as for the changes in her skin, they sound very familiar to what my skin looked like. I would grade my burns as 2nd. degree and I was miserable. The aloe vera is good to apply. Some people have found relief from domeboro soaks, so you might look into that. My radiation oncologist gave me a prescription for Silver Sulfadiazine cream, which I found soothing. However, since I was experiencing frequent bowel movements and diarrhea, I had a very hard time keeping the cream on my skin and had to reapply after every trip to the bathroom. One caution about Silver Sulfadiazine--it contains metal and MUST be completely removed prior to getting a radiation treatment, so if she should be given this, make sure she knows that. I believe there is also a product called Radiaplex gel which may help. I'm not that familiar with it so I'm not sure if it is over-the-counter or only by prescription.

As for the frequent bowel movements, as I stated above, I experienced that. It is a common side effect from pelvic radiation. If she has not been prescribed Lomotil, I would ask for a prescription. Imodium can be bought over-the-counter, but if she's already taking it and it's not helping, ask for a script for Lomotil.

I wish your wife all the best. I'm sorry to say that her side effects may worsen before they get better, as it was the case for me. Towards the end of treatment, I really suffered. However, I hope she can get some relief, and that her doctors will listen today and do everything in their power to help. Both of you take care.

Martha
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A probiotic might help with the BMs, but make sure it has lactobacillus rhamnosus. I used Femdophilus and it helped. Also if you have a nutritionist at your cancer center, now would be a good time to talk about diet modifications. At this point I was on a low residual diet - foods that don't make much poop. Think about overcooked hospital food, plain rice and chicken, broths. I stayed away from vegetables but could tolerate apples, bananas, peaches. And when I ate fiber, I made sure it was soluble fiber as that makes the BMs soft versus non-soluble fiber which creates bulk and pushes stuff through. A stool softener should also help. I can't remember the dosage but I recall taking the maximum, every day. My doc said you want the consistency to be like toothpaste.
Unfortunately the "blast zone" is the whole pelvic area as the radiation is going in from many different spots so you will see the change in skin color. Keep using lotion. Shea butter is extremely moisturizing and you might want to find something with hyaluronic acid which helps to put moisture back into the skin. I had a friend of a friend who went through radiation for throat cancer and he used a mixture of calendula oil (super healing) and castor oil (which soaks into skin). Post treatment his skin healed beautifully. Wish I had known about this when I went through treatment.
I think the next 2 weeks will be much like the current week but pain will continue to possible get worse. For the hemorrhoids my doc prescribed cortisone suppositories. Not sure if it helped as it turns out my pain was related to an episiotomy scar and not hemorrhoids. The burns in the groin will likely worsen. Once the skin starts to breakdown and start oozing, they will probably stop the radiation there. They prescribe sulfadene cream for the burns but my understanding is that you can't use it till after radiation is done as any residual left on skin will make burns worse. Another thing that helped with the burns was strips of cloth soaked in a domeboro solution placed over the burn sites. Also bags of frozen peas can also help with the heat from the burns.
Hang tough Nathan! These will be the hardest weeks (the next 2 and 2-3 weeks post treatment). Take one day at a time. We are here for you and your lovely wife.
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Wish I had answers to some of your questions (I don't) but I DO want to thank you for putting it all out there and demonstrating to the blogging world that men can be as involved and proactive as caregivers as women tend to be. Thank you! XO Sue💪🏽
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I found that when the burns showed up, water was my friend. I also used the silver sulfadine cream (and was allowed to use it will I was still getting radiation). You do have to be careful to remove all oils and cream from your skin prior to treatment or it will enhance the burning (ouch). I found that a bath worked best for removal. I would gently wash (with my hand) the burned areas just to ensure that the oils were removed. My routine was, bath prior to radiation, bath right after radiation (this was at the insistence of my rad onc doc .... he said it was the best way to soothe my skin, apply creams and oils, bath before bed, reapply creams and oils). To keep my stools soft, I found that Miralax worked the best ... it is still my go to when I need help.

Unfortunately things will continue to get worse before they get better. The bottom for me was about 7-10 days after treatment ended --- radiation continues to work long after treatment is over. The good news is that once I turned the corner, it was amazing how fast my skin started to heal and how quickly the unbearable pain went away. Hang tough ... you are almost there.

Hugs to you both!!!
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Hi Nathan, I am sorry I missed this somehow, I hope you got good answers from the doctor and thins are looking a bit better?
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You WILL get there...eleven days later she must be VERY close to finishing the treatment and then you focus on recovery! It DOES happen!
Another week of the poison that heals. How is your fighter doing? She's in our thoughts and prayers, and for you too, to be a good stable influence during her treatments. MGBY,
John
I need to post again. She's fighting and that's about all I can ask for right now. We had a doctor yesterday give a kick but those highs and lows are to be expected.
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Vital Info

Posts

March 11, 2017

Utah, USA

September 28, 1971

Loved One is a Cancer Survivor/Fighter

Cancer Info

Colon and Rectal Cancer

Mildly Advasive Ademocarcinoma

March 3

Stage 3B

4.1 - 5.0 cm

Yes

Fluorouracil (5-FU)

That I'm so helpless.

Just be there and give a shoulder and a helping hand.

We looked at N1048. Its very hopeful for early stage three colorectal cancer as it is looking to fight the disease with just chemo. We did not qualify as a iliac lymph node has been tested and has cancer in it.

Help us out with the kids so they can have a break and be normal.

McKay Dee Hospital

Change is bowel habits, constipation, mucous and blood in stool, hair loss and anemia. Was told it was hemorrhoids for two years after complaining they found celiac disease and said that is your problem.

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