Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Tomorrow there'll be sunshine and all this darkness past"

How is it that Bruce always know just the right thing to say?  He's my inspiration for getting through this latest medical drama.  He's coming back to NJ in September, then to Pittsburgh in October (Mary and her family have no idea what they're in for) and to Glendale, AZ in December (get ready AZ friends).  There's a lot to do and I don't have time for drama.

In the month since my last post, I've been very busy.  The upshot is that things are going better than I could have hoped for, given the grim choices outlined in my last post.  

Although the biopsy confirmed that the "hot" spots are definitely cancer,  Dr. Georgiades successfully ablated the trickiest tumor of the bunch - the one in the hilar region of the right lung.  Now that that one is out of the way, Dr. Elmann will surgically remove the last two tumors with a VATS resection (a minimally invasive surgery that's done with scopes and a camera) on the left lung on Monday, August 13th.  I should be home in time to get tickets on Friday morning for Bruce's Pittsburgh show.  I'm in much better shape now than I was last summer, so recovery from this surgery should be manageable and relatively short.  Then this nightmare will be over!  

I know everyone was hoping the "hot" spots were a return of the  MAI infection, rather than cancer.  But Dr. G assured me that the tumors are old spots that we've been watching since 2008.  The fact that they grew and went from cold to hot is not a huge surprise.  If they were new spots, then I'd be pissed.  The fact that they're old means that they've probably been there since I first got ACCB in 2000. Knowing this made a HUGE difference in my outlook on all this.  

So, where's the drama?  Between the biopsy on the left lung on July 13th and the ablation on the right on July 20th, both lungs collapsed 25% about a week after each procedure, and I spent the last two weekends in hospitals.  Here are some highlights:
  • When I was just about to get sedation for the July 20th ablation at Hopkins, Dr. G told me that I had a pneumothorax (partially collapsed lung) from the biopsy the previous week and that we would have to postpone the procedure.  I put my foot down, which was hard to do because I was already face down on the OR table, strapped in with an oxygen mask on my face.  I took off the mask, looked up at Dr. G and wagged my finger back and forth, saying "No, no, no.  Here's the new plan.  You're going to insert a chest tube to fix this and we're going forward with the ablation."  Resigned, he agreed and we were off to the land of ablations.  The Operative Notes documented my insistence, which I found pretty funny.  The ablation was even trickier than the first one I had in 2008 when Dr. G had to pull a tumor way from my aorta with his magic needle to avoid a "catastrophic event."  The hilar region is a complicated mesh of arteries, veins, ligaments, lymphatic and bronchial vessels, often called the "root of the lung."  Squished in there was the tumor.  Three manufacturers' representatives observed from afar because Dr. G chose to use a new cutting-edge needle to control the burning of the tumor in such a vital area.   Dr. G had to position his needle parallel to and in between two blood vessels in order to successfully ablate the tumor. 
  • As he told me about this afterward, he said, "You remember that I told you I'm leaving?"   Dr. G is not one to joke around.  "What?!"  "Yes, I'm moving my family to Cyprus so that we can be closer to the rest of my family."  I felt conflicted between the good news of the ablation and the panic that was rising like an awakened volcano.  "When were you going to tell me?" I asked like a jilted teenager.  "I told you in the OR."  "I was unconscious!"  Typical passive aggressive man, I thought, breaking up at someone's most vulnerable moment.  "There aren't a lot of jobs over there, and it's kind of unstable, isn't it?"  I was trying to selfishly negotiate Dr. G's future.  Turns out the American Medical Center on Cyprus is building an entire surgical suite just for Dr. G.  He's leaving me in the hands of his closest colleague, Dr. Kelvin Hong, who co-wrote the gold standard textbook on ablations with Dr. G.  When someone saves your life, it's easy to become attached.  Dr. G knew this and handled my emotional response with humility and understanding.  I will miss him.  (Did I mention that he came in to ablate this tumor on a vacation day?)  I hope Dr. Hong can handle me.  We met briefly and he's very nice (he provided "technical assistance" during the ablation).  I'll see him for a follow up PET/CT in October.
If all this wasn't enough, I've been fighting a battle with Comcast for the last month.  Apparently, Maplewood has an agreement with Comcast for sole cable rights.  I've had no less than 8 appointments since July 9th and my service is still not fixed.  Here's my advice for all you Comcast victims:  1.  Always ask for a supervisor and get their name, direct phone number and ID; 2.  For billing problems, ask for the Retention Department so that they know you're really mad and about to cancel your account (even if you can't because your city is holding you hostage to a specific cable company); 3.  Always ask for an in-house technician for service calls.  If you don't do this, a contractor, who gets paid by the job and can't wait to leave your house for the next appointment, will make everything worse and drive you insane.

In the midst of all this craziness, I was surprised and grateful to learn that the church I attend, Prospect Presbyterian Church, held an all day prayer vigil for me on August 1st.  I'm not officially a member of this church, but I've been a supporter for a number of years.  I  am so thankful for their support and kindness.  Pastor Rick and Bruce have an equally optimistic view of the future, and I lean on this through good days and bad.  My countless thanks to them and all of you who have been in my corner through this last battle. 


1 comment:

  1. Keep on keeping on! See you soon for lunch! ---Julie----


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