September 25, 1979 -    April 10, 2000

Craig Sowder

 

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On April 10, 2000 Craig lost his courageous struggle with cancer.  Craig was twenty years old. His battle with cancer was fought bravely, with no complaints, with patience, and Craig’s fantastic sense of humor.  He possessed wisdom and peace far beyond his young years.   He passed into the next life peacefully, his family at his bedside.  He will be missed everyday.  He will be in our hearts always. "Listen for the rustle of the leaves".  

 

Craig's Battle with Angiosarcoma

Craig was in the middle of his second semester of college when he decided
to have fun and go to Cancun for Spring Break. Unfortunately, the trip was
not fun,  he was beginning to feel ill.
    Shortly after he returned from Mexico he began to have chest pains. One
night as he was walking up a flight of stairs, he passed out. A trip to the
emergency room resulted in Craig being admitted for tests.
    He had an emergency procedure to remove fluid from his pericardium, the
sac surrounding his heart. The doctors were concerned about the amount and
color of the fluid, so more tests were ordered. A mass was discovered inside
the right atrium of his heart. Craig was transferred to St. Vincent's
Hospital in Indianapolis where there is a Heart Institute and excellent
cardiovascular surgeons.
    Craig was prepared for open-heart surgery and the family waited
patiently, thinking the doctors would remove this mass and our lives would go
on as usual. The doctor requested to meet us in a private room and gave us
the news that changed us all forever. Sarcoma. He removed what could be
removed, but he had no idea how much more was in the muscle of the heart.
     After the pathology report confirmed the diagnosis, we immediately
consulted an oncologist. He had never treated a sarcoma and recommended
several cancer centers with sarcoma specialists. We chose MD Anderson Cancer
Center in Houston, Texas because we had researched and heard this hospital
was the best for Craig's situation.
    One week later we were on our way to Houston. Craig's diagnosis was
confirmed, it was cardiac angiosarcoma and it had spread to his lungs.
Chemotherapy was our only option and our doctor, Dr. Shreyaskumar Patel
ordered at least six rounds of therapy.

Craig began his treatments of Adriamycin, Ifosfomide and Mesna by the end
of April. He had five days of treatments and three weeks later it would startall over again. In between treatments he experienced many side effects including nausea, low blood counts, hiccups, tiredness, mouth sores,constipation, fevers and more. Daily trips to the hospital were necessary to monitor his blood counts. When his white counts were low he had to givehimself injections in his leg of a drug that would help the counts to rise.
The side effect of this caused bone pain.
    We were required to stay in Houston for these treatments, mostly due to
the fact that the doctors in Houston had the experience and could monitor
Craig with our confidence. We rented an apartment, drove an extra car from
Indiana to Texas and set up a second home. Our family was divided for six
months. Craig's father would stay with him for a few weeks and then come home
to work and care for Matt, who was sixteen at the time. Then, Mom would take
her few weeks. We alternated taking care of our sons and working.
    After two treatments Craig's CT scans showed the lungs were clear. After
the fourth round, the scans showed a major shrinkage in the tumor in his
heart. After six rounds the tumor was gone! We were amazed. Craig had gone
through so much suffering in those months, giving himself injections,
flushing his catheter daily, fighting nausea, loneliness, isolation, boredom,
and wondering if he had a future.
    After many tests showed us he was in remission, we moved ourselves back
to Indiana where Craig underwent one more treatment to be sure all cancer was
gone. This round seemed rougher than the others, we weren't sure exactly why.
Could have been the fact that we thought we through or that it was
administered by a different doctor and nurses.
    Craig began trying to live his life normally at the end of October and
moved back to Bloomington. He was not taking classes, so he got a part time
job and enjoyed being with his friends. A trip to Houston in November for
more tests showed nothing abnormal and as we celebrated Thanksgiving we
definitely had something to be thankful for.
    But for Craig, who had seen so much illness and death, life was not the
same. He could not be the carefree college student. He had changed. He had a
newfound relationship with God and looked at life through different eyes.
    A cough began at Christmas time and he had suspicions his cancer was
returning. In January he had more tests in Houston and this was confirmed.
The tumor was back in his heart and there were several in his lungs too. Dr.
Patel suggested two different treatment options, but Craig was adamant about
not staying in Houston. We came home to Indiana and Craig began weekly
treatments of Taxol. It seemed to be helping him, but in actuality it only
bought us more time. He continued to cough and sometimes these coughs
produced blood.
    We visited Dr. Allan Sandler at the Indiana University Medical Center. He
is an oncologist, specializing in sarcoma. He concurred with Dr. Patel about
the treatment. Both doctors suggested if Taxol did not work we could try
Ifosfomide at a very high dose.
    In March Craig was still coughing up blood but wanted to drive to Atlanta
and New Orleans during his spring break. He returned home on a Sunday night
and on Monday telephoned his mother to report he was still coughing up blood
and that his breathing was labored and needed some oxygen. He went to the
emergency room at Bloomington Hospital and the doctors were shocked, but did
not say why. We knew. They had never seen chest x-rays like Craig's. His
lungs were full of tumors.
    Craig returned home with his parents, had tests on Tuesday, and saw Dr.
Sandler on Wednesday. He was sent to the hospital for a bronchoscopy and the
doctor delivered the bad news to us. Craig's lungs were full and the tumors
were bleeding. There was no possible way they could stop this. We were told
he would probably live for just a few days, possible less. We came home and
tried to realize just what was happening. Craig wanted to visit with special
friends, the grandparents came to stay and we all started a round the clock
vigil of medication, talks, love and fear. Craig needed oxygen constantly and
we kept tanks full at all times.
    During the next two weeks we were back on our emotional roller coaster.
Craig would have some good days and some bad days. Then, in the early hours
of Monday, April 10, Craig started to take a turn for the worse. The hospice
nurse stayed with us that day and we tried to make Craig comfortable and
peaceful. He passed away at 8:50 in the evening with his mother, father,
brother and nurse by his side.
    A wonderful young man left this world and we miss him every day. 
We hope he is free of pain, breathing easily, laughing and enjoying himself. 
Something he was unable to do for a very long time.

 

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