I woke up in a bad mood this morning. A BAD mood. I was not looking forward to hearing anything the doctor had to say. All I could seem to focus on was finding some batting cages and swinging for a few hours. I knew what the results would be based on the fact that Dr. C. had made the decision to biopsy my liver after seeing the CT scan on Tuesday. I wanted nothing to do with breakfast and really wasn’t fond of my coffee at all. I felt so defeated. Every time I’ve been to the doctor I seemed to be getting news that was worse than even the doctors had anticipated previously and, frankly, I was tired of being in a happy world about it.
We got to the hospital and showed my sister around the waiting area, the library, the puzzles and the juice bar. I decided not to have her come into the exam room with me. Instead of hearing things from the doctor, it was probably best that I try to rephrase some things and explain them to her myself. She cried a bit, I know she’s scared, and then settled in to use the computer and wait for us to come out.
The nurse walked us back and got the room ready for the doctor to come in. She left the liver CT and the full body PET scan up on the computer monitor. If you look closely you can see the colorful spots on the PET scan. You also can’t help but admire the largeness of my brain.
I called mom and got her on speaker phone to listen in. Dr. Z. walked in and asked how I was doing.
“YOU tell me.” I settled in to hear the news. I’ve heard that if you relax when someone punches you, it doesn’t hurt as bad.
“The spot on your chest wall is another melanoma site.” I nodded. I knew it. “The spot on your liver is not.” I stared at him. Did he really just say that my liver was fine? I was sure I had misunderstood. Technically, this means the cancer is classified as metastatic, but the PET scan clearly showed no lymph node involvement. Once again this means:
HEATHER = ABNORMAL
Dr. Z. has initiated contact with two other facilities (The John Wayne Cancer Center in Santa Monica, and the second hospital is in Boston, I believe Massachusetts General). He says he’s waiting to hear back from each of these places to get their opinion on the situation. Having cancerous sites as far apart as my head and chest without lymph node involvement is highly unusual and definitely not textbook melanoma. He’s also said that he will present at the hospital’s tumor board on Tuesday to see what insight can be gained locally. He explained that the doctors in Santa Monica may recommend I get treatment there, or they could tell him that I will be adequately served by treatment here. There are also a couple of other choices now that we know specifically where the locations are and, equally as important, we know that all three of these sites CAN be removed surgically. This last factor is HUGE in deciding on a course of treatment.
So, instead of being upset about the additional melanoma site, I quickly began to understand that I now have additional options that weren’t as clear last week.
Here they are:
This plan remains the same. Stay here for the entire treatment. Surgeries, then 30 days of IV Interferon, the 11 months of subcutaneous shots.
This plan is not as likely anymore. This is 5 day inpatient care, most likely in an ICU with exceptionally high doses of chemo, coupled with a year of chemo. This treatment also requires leaving the tumors inside the body so as to watch how they respond to the treatment. This is more for someone whose tumors cannot be removed surgically. It’s absurd for me to voluntarily leave them in when the doctors are extremely confident they can be removed in their entirety. This option is pretty much off the table.
Return to So Cal to have all treatment completed in Santa Monica.
Return to So Cal for the beginning stages of treatment including surgeries and initial 30 day treatment cycle. Returning home for 11 months of follow up treatment. This is do-able in my mind and equivalent to Plan A if I get to decide.
I should be able to make some final decisions on Tuesday. I have an appointment with the ENT at 10am and I should hear from Dr. Z by the end of that day.
Overall, I finally feel like the good guys won one today. (This is a good time to note that the Angels have crushed the Yankees two nights in a row). Instead of feeling like I’ve hit another nasty setback, today returned some hope. Beck and I are planning on spending every second possible on the river this weekend. It’s the best way I know to relax for 6-7 hours at a time.
By the way, did you notice how big my brain is?