On To Oncology

March 17, 2010

So, it’s been a while and a lot has happened, so here goes.

Met last Thursday with an oncologist, Dr. Kent Osborne, over at the Baylor Breast Center.  Really nice man, very knowledgeable and spent quite a bit of time with my mother and I.

Based on all the data in my file at present, he has put me on a course that will include 6 rounds of chemo (3 weeks apart), followed by 5 weeks of radiation (5 days a week – about 30 minutes a day), followed then by another 6 months of chemo.  Cannot remember now all the different chemo cocktails he recommends but have all the papers here somewhere and will provide details in a later post.

In advance of this treatment, Dr. Osborne ordered up a complete blood panel, urine tests, an MRI of my right breast, a full body bone scan, an abdominal CT scan, an EKG, and a 2D Echo.  Believe it or not, all those tests are already done (with the exception of the right breast MRI which cannot be done due to the magnet in the expander).  Sidebar: For anyone that hasn’t had the pleasure of a CT scan yet, the avoidance of this procedure alone could be a good enough reason to begin or resume praying every night.  Prior to this past Monday, I have never in my life, ever, had any desire to stick my fingers down my throat to make myself barf.  Nothing like two large berry flavored barium “smoothies” to change this feeling.  To add insult to injury, they then inject you with “contrast” and then, quite literally, run out of the room.  But not before instructing you to, “Let us know if you start to feel really weird.”  So there you lie, wishing you could barf and wondering at the definition of “really weird” as your mouth is flooded with the overwhelming flavor of bubble gum (were it to be iron-flavored) and the tips of everything – fingers, toes, nose, ears and parts I won’t mention but you can imagine – suddenly feel flushed and hot.  Feeling weird?  Well, in fact, yes, I am. But really weird?  Well, yes.  You then figure they must define really weird as something actually closer to “I think I am dying” as opposed to “I’ve never felt this way before” and decide to lie silently as the machine moves the bed you are on like a penis in and out of a spinning donut hole.

For good measure, Dr. Osborne has also requested tissue and/or slides so he can confirm the pathology reports already done.  I was surprised to hear that almost 15% of pathology turns out to be wrong and am relieved to know the actual specs of my cancer will be confirmed prior to finalizing which chemo treatments to use.

Additionally, I had a “port” placed in my chest yesterday.  This will make it easier on me once the chemo starts – they can put the IV into the port which is fed into a big vein near my collarbone.  As a result, they won’t blow all those smaller veins in my arm* as the weeks progress.  (*can’t have sticks of any kind in my left arm anymore – can’t even have my blood pressure taken on my left arm ever again.)  The port was put in while I was under “conscious sedation.”  Despite the fact I was happy to not have to be put all the way under again (coming out of anesthesia really, really sucks) I was a little freaked about this going in.  My friend David told me that I would be fine, that the drugs they give you make you not give a crap about anything, so then I was kind of looking forward to it.  Gabe thought it would be hilarious to see his mom wasted and decided to join the hospital adventure (the boys are on Spring Break this week). Unfortunately, the drugs I was given didn’t have this effect on me and, from under my drape, the surgeon and I chatted about marathons, children, and the warehouse I want to build for the duration of the procedure.  The nurse later told me, “I threw everything I had* at you but you never knocked out.  I’ve never seen anyone have such a coherent conversation after receiving so much of those drugs.”  I guess I should have asked for Demerol. (*Midazolam and Ketamine – I think?)  I was pretty stiff, tender, sore – call it what you will – when I got home so I popped a couple Vicodin (followed by a Darvocet) and slept until today until around noon.  Surprisingly fine today.

Have a follow-up with the plastic surgeon tomorrow so he can make sure I am continuing to heal properly.  Thus far, everyone has said, “It looks good, looks good.”  It still looks like a very botched Kermit the Frog meets Hannibal Lector experiment to me, but whatever – they say it looks good.  As for my future boob expansion and reconstruction, as I believe I posted earlier, the fact of radiation forces the original game plan to change.  Osborne and Hsu will consult and figure out what is best.  In the meantime, I am getting used to walking around all lopsided and may or may not go get a fake boob for the interim.  We’ll see later.

As for all the alternative treatments in the works, we’re still waiting on the results from the Germany test and mi madre is still consulting with the folks at MD Anderson and a couple of other treatment centers.  We’re all just thinking it would be nice to have these treatments confirmed as the best course of action.

Because of these tests and the time necessary for all the results, as well as the time needed for the port to settle in and be deemed ready to go, chemo will probably not start until later next week – probably the 26th.

I’ll be sure to post something before then.

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