Dr. Wallace walks into my room, situating herself between Liz on her recliner and me on my bed. Dr Wallace is kind but no-nonsense. Practical.
"Your scans show metastases in your lungs and especially your liver. The largest is up to 7 cm at this point."
I know she continued but I had already tuned out. A day earlier, I was signed into the ER here because my hemoglobin was suspiciously low, causing me to constantly near-faint. Now I have metastases? Already? I just completed my "No worries, I survived" tour. Now I have to make a "Cancer strikes back" blog? This is so embarrassing.
After the bad news, I got a free ride down to the GI clinic, where they put me into a twilight and cram a camera contraption straight down the ol' gullet. When I come to, Dr. Goyal is showing me a picture of the ulcer in my duodenum, that transitional area betwixt the stomach and intestine. I thank him more cheerfully than perhaps the situation warranted (anesthesia!) for finding the source of my missing blood cells and enjoy my free ride back up to room 2252.
Unsurprisingly by now, the duodenal biopsy came back positive for cancer. For those not counting, we're up to three now! In cancer forums, metastases are referred to as "mets" for short. I didn't have anything against the baseball team before, but I think I may root against them this season.
Couple days later, down to the cancer clinic we go, getting our targeted therapy on. Liz and I spend all day in the clinic, from about 7 am to 3 pm. All the cool doctors stop by. Feels kind of like buying a car. Numbers, charts, all blurring together. They run all sorts of options by us, but my low hemoglobin keeps me out of the current studies. We choose the next best thing, taking a combination of pills to eliminate some cancer-based angiogenesis and an infusion every 21 days to potentially reverse these suckers to kingdom come. This is an already-completed study, performed by the very doctor whose patient I am, for which he has just given his presentation announcing his supported findings. We have a winner!
I'm happy to report that so far, no real side effects of the first drug. Second drug? Well that was originally scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday, but I hit a teensy little snag at my cranial MRI a few days ago.
Fast forward to now. I realize this is all written in present tense, so it's always felt like now to you, dear reader. That's a fancy writing trick from fancy writers. I'm picturing ones with sleeves like in Interview With The Vampire where Lestat says "Oh, Louis, still whining after all these years..." and flicks out his sleeves, invigorated. Y'know, fancy.
Right, so: now. I'm back in the clinic here, composing my blog while I wait between waiting rooms. Those endless rooms of waiting. Got my latestest test results in, and...not really a shock anymore, but: brain tumor! I'm getting perilously close to completing the set. Collect 'em all, I say. Usually.
Don't want to bury the lede here, so hey, what's a little brain surgery this upcoming Thursday? Check this out though: I go home (probably) the next day. Yuss! Tired of these hospitals. IV machines won't let a fella sleep. No infections and I'm free to go!
Guess who's got two thumbs, one kidney and is getting a plate in their head? This guy! Gonna need a special scan or TSA-pre from now on, y'all. Upside of this little sucker is that he's not converted brain matter, just some random interloper. Thus, removal, especially since he's near the edge, make this roughly 1×1" intruder a g-g-goner. Out, damn spot! Out!
Just like so many of my other tumor whatnots, these are mostly asymptomatic so far. Catching them while the catching is good. Like Pokémon: Stay. The worst part is the low hemoglobin. Turns out that stuff is important. Who knew?
To boringly reiterate my soapbox from last blog, I've seen these prices on the drugs and goodness me-oh-my. One month of one drug is over $14,000. I don't know how anyone could pay these prices. I'm fortunate to have a quality cancer center in my town. They provided me with forms allowing the drug companies to ask cancer institutions for money on my behalf. Not sure exactly how much they provide but there's no other conceivable way to pay for this. Kind of a sneaky way to get their ridiculous prices paid if you ask me. I don't know how I feel about it. I don't really have a choice though. So, again, welcome to an inside look at our healthcare system. Bizarre and messed up. As long as their support keeps me in the meds, I'm good. Fingers crossed.
So, in conclusion: I have a few of these metastases. That rhymed. Doctors are letting the body metasateseses brave the infusion, but dat brain one hopped straight to the front of the line. Removals, right this way, please. You and the edema you rode in on. Enjoy the pathology bucket!
I will end on a lighter note. Not every visit to the doctor has gone poorly, I'm happy to report. Why, just yesterday I stopped by the ER because I had a strangely swollen right testicle. Where does a cancer patient's mind go? Duh. So I had it checked out.
Ordinarily, among all this other "important" news, this would never have gotten a mention. However, as my doctor rounds the curtain, he announces himself as Doctor Johnson then asks about my testicle in his Outside Voice, I had to work hard to keep my expression from changing. I mean, c'mon. Doctor Johnson? All results were surprisingly normal, no IVs, no phlebotomizing, just a little pee, a little ultrasound, and the normality of my testicle was loudly touted for all to hear and enjoy.