About Richard C.
May I introduce with sincere pride and gratitude my caregiver and beautiful wife Ellen C. Trapp-Cozza as a candidate for the caregiver of the year. Caregivers are very special folks at so many levels that were forced into sharing this awful and unwanted cancer journey of Prostate Cancer. The unwanted journey for Ellen as my caregiver began on April 10, 2019. Ellen attended with me to hear the results of the 8 core biopsies. My PSA was 4.93 so we were not prepared for what was to come. We both listened as the the diagnosis and prognosis were presented. I had an Advanced-high grade Stage IV(all 8 cores Gleason 10’s)-high risk Group 5-Metastatic(all lymph nodes from pelvic floor, invasion of rectum, abdomen, and both sides of chest.) The prognosis was dire. Our life would be changed forever. A fast growing, aggressive, and incurable cancer. WOW! Ellen wiped away the many tears and told the urologist that she is taking this journey with her husband. All In!
She became part of the medical team to help with decisions, coordinate care, provide, emotional support, or what ever would be asked of her. She attended all meetings, chemo treatments, radiation treatments, and kept a daily journal of all vital stats, diet, mood, etc. She has kept it daily now for 1.5 years. She met with the recommended Nutritionists to find out what food I should be given with an incurable cancer. Purchased the necessary cook books, she is a wonderful cook, to begin planning meals. The one cook book I enjoyed best was titled “HOW NOT TO DIE”. Brought smiles to both of us much needed in a time of distress given the prognosis. We believe humor is a necessity on our journey. Accept what you can’t control try to joke about all the crazy that was to come or you might go crazy. I never ate so much Broccoli in my life. Ellen reads scripture to me every night in bed before sleep. She has always been my “Earth Angel” and now add caregiver. Time for us became much more precious each and every day. Read on!
My malignant neoplasm presented 3 life threatening episodes.
#1. Second chemo sent me to the ER with a 102 temp and only 100 white blood cells per micro liter. I was a Medical Emergency Crisis. I was asked if I had Advanced Medical Directives with a DNR. Yes! Why? “If procedure does not do what we want it to do we may need the DNR.” One never forgets. I was a Neutropenic Sepsis patient. Time was the enemy. Ellen was called at 5am to please come to hospital ASAP. Ellen experienced her 1st unconscionable episode. After I was released Ellen became a nurse. She had to learn how to give injections in my abdomen each day for 5 day’s after each chemo. She was trained by 2 nurses in our community on how to administer. She administered, flawless, 25 injections in all so I could finish my chemo. I was placed immediately into Palliative Care with Advanced Directives noted on all Kaiser computers stating I was a Supportive Care patient. Why? So when the next life threatening episode presents. Ellen had to think of that daily.
#2. 25+ fast growing tumors presented in my core area of Metastatic cancer. Oncologist and Supportive doctors were very concerned and stated in clinical notes what the dire outcome could be. Ellen was again to be reminded of the words ” when the next time”. Tearful, anxious, and emotional stress. I needed surgery biopsy to remove 3 of the tumors in 3 different areas-abdomen, chest, and breast. They were looking for a) small cell cancer or b) breast cancer. Biopsies were not cancer. They were Angiolipomas. I was now placed into Behavioral Health–Clinical Psychologist. Ellen became a nurse again in order to manage the 3 surgical sites so no infection presented. Again flawless. The medical team was now preparing for the next life threatening episode that may not turn out well. Ellen again had to manage that thought, since she attends all meetings. Well it did not take long.
#3. Sent to do an ECG for my walking program. As the doctor was explaining all the lines in the graph she calmly stated ” you are having a heart attack as we are speaking.” You know the drill. Off to ER in ambulance and wife called to get to ER ASAP. How does Ellen keep enduring with no training in managing an aggressive and incurable cancer. I can’t imagine the anxiety and stress she was going through just waiting for the sword of Damocles to fall. Ellen now ask me every day before my walk “how are you feeling?’ I would respond with a smile “I am ok and death will not visit our door today. What’s for dinner?”
Well there should always be a good end to a complicated journey that you just read. On October 27th, 2020 my MRI showed NO active, new, or progressive cancer in my lymph nodes. I was in Partial Remission due to the high intensity radiation treatment but our doctor turned to Ellen, not me, and said “Ellen I am elevating Coach to Complete Remission. The Happy Tears Flowed. The MRI confirmed. I do want to continue with ADT injections for the future though.” Why Ellen asked. “I want to stay ahead of this cancer. I want No recurrence in your future!” How is this possible? 1.5 years and complete remission? The walking, diet, attitude, and treatments seemed to work extraordinary. Got to thinking about an email from PCF back when I first joined. It was titled ” The Miracle of the Exceptional Responder.” A patient who responds not just well but Extraordinarily well to treatment and has a unique genetic fingerprint that influences their treatment response is the reason why? Clinical notes from oncology and radiation said I performed exceptional with treatments. Can’t make this stuff up! I am as close to a Miracle as I may ever experience.
Ellen and I still have 3.5 years to travel on our journey to cross the gold finish line of being able to declare ” I am a Cancer Survivor” We have HOPE for the first time in our journey. A burden has been lifted for the time being yet Hope springs eternal if you BELIEVE! 🙂 An incurable aggressive cancer could be suppressed by my genetic make up. WOW. PCF scientists have been working on discovering this genetic fingerprint in patients like me for a decade. Gods Speed!!
Ellen and I wish to congratulate the 2 winners and all who took the time to nominate their very special caregiver. It was a labor of love to do this project for my wonderful caregiver Ellen. Having this opportunity to share became very reveling of all the care that is given every day to address this aggressive and incurable prostate cancer. I will close with a couple of quotes: “IF WE BELIEVE THAT TOMORROW WILL BE BETTER, WE CAN BEAR A HARDSHIP TODAY!” ” ACCEPTING HARDSHIP IS THE PATHWAY TO PEACE!” 🙂
God Bless and God Speed for all on your unwanted prostate cancer journey!
Dick and Ellen Cozza