Monday, February 28, 2011

Meeting Glenda the Good Witch

Apparently I have an obsession with the Wizard of Oz..

Today I had an appointment with a surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Going into the appointment I felt certain that the doctor would not suggest surgery. In fact, we made bets this morning about whether she would recommend it. We all bet that she would not. So, when it became obvious that she wasn't 100% against surgery, I was surprised.

She is a beautiful woman. Friendly. Warm. Welcoming. She came in, discussed what we already knew about the situation, and asked to examine me. I need to call Dr. Pink and let him know that she complimented his scars look great! As far as the exam, everything was fine. She said I have a few abnormal moles but nothing to be concerned about at this time.

In regards to my CT scan, everything is fine! There was a spot on my liver and lungs; however, she said that it is nothing to be concerned with. We will continue to monitor both and if there are changs, we will deal with it then.

The surgery basically comes down to what I feel comfortable with. When I flat out asked her if she is leaning towards doing it, she said the decision is mine, but that if she were in my shoes, she would do it. If I decide to do the surgery I will then know if there is more cancer in my lymph nodes. If there is, I will be considered at greater risk and will be eligible for quite a few clinical trials. If there are no more positive lymph nodes, my chance of recurrence is lowered from 50% to 30-40%. Although not much of a difference, it sounds a lot better than 50%!!!

IF I do the surgery, it does come with possible serious complications such as extreme swelling of my arms (sometimes permanent or at least requiring physical therapy,) the risk of infections in the future is greater than that of your average joe, etc. I would have to spend at least 2-3 days in the hospital, and would have 3 drains coming out of me for 2-3 weeks. Oh, and did I mention I would not be able to shower?

Let this be another reminder to wear sunscreen and pay attention to your body!

Do I do the surgery? The doctor insisted that this is my decision. Yes, she is suggesting I do it, but I have to do with whatever I am more comfortable with...if there is more cancer, I want it out of me. But do I want to risk everything else? Dr. Glenda kept repeating how young I am, and right now this is affecting my quality of life. She realizes that, which made me really like her more...She realizes I am anxious, nervous, and feel such a strong lack of control. I appreciate that. I appreciate that she did not rush me, that she was comfortable discussing every aspect of my situation for as long as I wanted her to.

What am I leaning towards?

I don't know. I feel like I am damned if I do, damned if I don't.

I know one thing for sure...IF there is, God forbid, more cancer in my body, I want it out of me. As my friend Melanoma and the City said today, the best way to fight this is by cutting it out.

Say I decide to not do the surgery and instead I take the "wait and see" approach, what happens if the cancer returns? Will I beat myself up? Will I have a full fledged break down? I already feel guilty and angry with myself for tanning. Dr. Glenda did say she would be comfortable with simply observing me---she made it clear I am not done with doctors any time soon. Having said that, she still openly explained that the surgery-most importantly-will answer some questions we all have: Is there more cancer that no scan can pick up?

Remember...the cancer they originally found would not have sknown up in any scan.

Then on the flip side, say I do the surgery and everything is clear but I have serious complications I have to live with for the rest of my life. Will I regret having the surgery?

I feel like I can live with that decision...the guilt is what would weigh me down more, I believe.

I am supposed to hear back from Dr. Glenda tonight or tomorrow. We are waiting for Sloan Kettering's pathologists to finish analyzing my slides. There are questions about the amount of cancer in each node, etc, from my first surgery. Once we know those answers we will discuss upcoming surgery some more.

If I elect to do the surgery, Dr. Glenda will be assisted by a neck and head surgeon. She has never had to operate on someone in these 3 different areas at the same time, but she felt confident I would make out well. She kept saying I am young and otherwise healthy. I will heal.

And really....more scars? That is the least of my concern...even if they are visible to the world. ..

Now, I ask you, what would you do if you were me?

Do I elect to observe my body and see what happens?

Do I do the surgery that will give me answers even though I could have to deal with possible complicatios?

I have some serious thinking to do in a very short amount of time.

I ask you, what would you do if you were me?


Dr. Jennifer Feeny said...

Like the doctor said, it has to be your decision alone because you are the one that has to live with the results of that decision. It is a biggie! Now, if it were me - I can live with swelling in my arms. I can't live with cancer in my body. If they remove the lymph nodes and say they are clear, I would be relieved, even if I have side effects from the surgery. I would know that I did everything I could to beat back cancer.

Hang in there champ!

Chelsea said...

That is how I feel. I am trying to see both sides; however, I am leaning towards the surgery. If a surgeon at Sloan Kettering is saying she would do it, well, I put weight on that. Thank you for replying! I am blaming my renewed obsession with The Wizard of Oz on you! ;-) miss you all!