SUNY Plattsburgh

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Gone biking!
DONALD C. WEST
Associate Professor of Mathematics (Emeritus)

  • OFFICE: now occupied by Dr. Donald Blais

  • E-MAIL: donald.west@plattsburgh.edu
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Red Lodge to Beartooth Pass, Highest road in Mt. & Wyo. July 2008

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The Current State of My Health
SEE SOME STUFF ON
FRACTAL TREES or
TRIANGLE TILING

Many of you know that I have been battling with cancer for more than two and a half years. Here is the latest report, followed by a longer history.

The Latest News
In late February my doctor told us that he had no chemo treatments left to offer that held a hope of slowing my cancer, but that they all would do further damage to my already compromised liver. We agreed to stop all treatments and enter the end game. He gives me a few months to live. We recently returned from a motor trip to Michigan and Wisconsin where I said my last goodbyes to more than twenty friends and family. It was a good trip.

June 24 - I complained to my extended family two days ago that I can't sleep, can't breathe, can't drink, and can't eat. What more basic functions are there that a person needs to live? Actually, it isn't that I can't. The problem seems to be that the tumors have grown so large that there is more total volume of organs and tumor in the chest and abdomen than I have room for. That's why I always feel like I've just gotten up from Thanksgiving dinner and so don't feel like eating or drinking and can hardly expand my lungs to breathe. I will have oxygen available here at home starting tomorrow. We saw the doctor today and he said that I probably have just a few weeks left. But I continue working in my vegetable garden with Barbara's help, and it is coming along beautifully. Calls or visitors are welcome.

July 28 - My weight is slowly going down as I lose muscle mass, and I can no longer work in my garden. But the garden is booming and gave us wonderful broccoli, kohlrabi, lettuce and radishes. Now we're shifting to peas, beans, cucumbers and zucchinis. In recent days, I don't notice myself getting worse, so I look forward to some more weeks with a little enjoyment.

A Brief History of My Cancer
During the 2003 ski season I found myself gasping for breath with only moderate exercise. When the season was over, doctors found that I was anemic and discovered a bleeding cancerous tumor in my colon which was removed surgically in March 2003. The surgeon determined to his satisfaction that he had gotten it all out cleanly and the lab found no cancer in the lymph nodes that he had removed so he suggested no further therapy (no chemo or radiation).

I then enjoyed eight very happy years, filled with skiing, bicycling, gardening, web site maintenance, and traveling, before doctors discovered that apparently the tumor had not been removed without some tiny part escaping and landing in my liver (perhaps even before the surgery). By 2011 I had a huge tumor on my liver which could not be dealt with by surgery. All they could do was use chemo-therapy to try to slow it down, and so they did, for more than six months from fall 2011 to spring 2012. By then the liver tumor had shrunk and the lung spots were gone so, because I didn't tolerate the chemo very well, the doctor stopped it for a few months so I could enjoy the summer.

By late summer of 2012, we discovered that, with no chemo to hold it back, the cancer was progressing rapidly, so starting in fall 2012 and extending over more than a year, I had four injections of radioactive Y-90 microbeads, plus two or three new chemo products. The doctor assured us that colon cancer tends to spread only to the liver and lungs and by this time it had visited both.

In early spring 2014 a scan showed that the chemo was not holding back the spread and growth of tumors in my lungs but that the chemo was doing further damage to my liver. I was also suffering several modest side effects so we agreed with the doctor to terminate all treatment and to try to enjoy my remaining months. The doctor's experienced estimate is that I have just a few months left.

Please don't pity me. I'm 76 and have enjoyed a very good life, and a great part of that good life was my 31 years in the SUNY Plattsburgh Mathematics Department. There was never a morning that I wasn't eager to walk down to the College and try to help students learn mathematics.


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East face of Hawkins Hall
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Last modified May 5, 2014

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