February 11th brought with it my scheduled INR bloodwork, with a few extra tubes for the preop check of cell counts, typing and matching, on and on. That's a bargain from my end, one stick gets them 5 vials. Then across the hall for another EKG.
Later that day, Maria called me to tell me that my red cell count was down a bit, say 8.7 and it should been 10.0 (I am just giving numbers for comparison, these numbers have no bearing in reality) She said that she checked with Dr. Osborn and the good Dr. said not to worry as it was just the reaction of the bone marrow to the chemo. My white cell count had predictably fallen and recovered as weel over the time period since my last chemo. None of this wold interfere with tomorrow's surgey, which was now sheduled for a noon arrival. Bummer, that means a 14 hour fast....small price to pay.
Oh, and by the way....the Dr. had decided to REPLACE the port, not remove it......
Oh no, what a kick in the stomach. Had they removed it I would have taken it as a little reassurance that more chemo was not in store down the row. But Maria was adamant that this is STOP (standard operating procedure) and it was normal for the ports to stay in for years. Still, I was a bit bummed.
The 12th came and I went into preop kinda looking forward to the nice afterglow of the anesthesia drugs and the restful sleep it usually meant for me that night. The anesthesiologist dropped by afer the nurse had started my IV. He was great, too. He explained just how the different drugs worked, how he would monitor the different levels of sleep, just on and on---interesting stuff. He left and I drifted off for a few minutes.
I was awaken by one of Dr, Landreneau's team surgeon, I wanna say his name was John--if it's not pleas forgive me. And then none other that Dr. Landrenau himself! Boy it wa good to see him. I had not had the chance to talk to him personally since my surgery in November as all of my office calls were during times he was at conferences in Brazil and in Europe.
I thanked him for saving my life, plain and simple, and reminded him about our Kennedy/Trauma Room One talk we needed to have. He reassured me that we would indeed do that. I also congratulated him aon the great New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory. What a big broad smile that brought to his face! "You bet it was great," he said. "especially after 43 years," he added. I reminded him that the Steelers too had to wait for 40+ years for their first Super Bowl, and now look, SIX trophies later.
Dr. Landreneau came over and looked at my chest where the port was. He then turned to his assistant and had a little confab right there as if I were not even there. He decided right there and then that he would take the port out, but he was not going to replace it. "You know that these run an infection risk and you have to maintain them by flushing them out all the time"
"And you know what, why go through all the anesthesia isses and risks when we can do this bedside?" he asked his assistant. "Sure", he replied.
Woooooaaaaaahhhhh a second guys! "What about my La La drugs?" I could see my nice Versid/Fontenol cocktail and afterglow fading fast. And did he say "BEDSIDE"?????
"Sure thing Mark, we can do a local on this and not have you face the drug effects, it'll be just fine....see you in a little bit." John then reasured me also saying it's such a minor thing. Just then Kim enters the room to join me preop. I said "Hey Kim, guess what? No anesthesia this time, just a local and they can do it right here---why not watch?" Kim looked a little befuddled on that one---kinda a "I love you but thing". John laughed and said the term bedside did not really mean "bedside", it was just a term for a less intensive procedure.
Just then Dr. Landreneau walked in, said Hi to Kim and asked "Ready?".
My positive nature kicked in and I thought "At least I don't have to worry about not coming out of the anethesia"....
Into the operating room I went, this time with 100% of my faculties....damn. I slid over onto the operating table and queried one last time, "You sure no La La drugs this time?" "Oh no Mark, you'll be fine" I was reassured.
They wrapped me up in a bunch of the blue sterile cloths, including covering my head ad face. John warned me of the "big pinch".
I know the purpose behind these blog entries is to bring light to the procedures and try to remove the fear. But this was uncomfortable.
This "pinch" was really uncomfortable. Is it just me? Why does the local painkiller hurt more that any other shot?
The nurse gave me her hand as the procedure started. I can't say anything really "hurt" but I found myself recoiling and reacting to the "pressures" The nurse said "Mark, you just squeeze my fingers as har as you want, it's all gonna be over soon." I started to laugh almost uncontrollably and then asked, "I'm not so much worried about your fingers, I just wanna know how are they going to get this black mat I am laying on outta my butt?" What a great ice breaker that was....Not!
As they progressed I would still react against the "pressure". Dr. Landreneau peeked under my face cover, stroked my forehead and told me that they were just about done. I then heard him softly say to one of the nurses the word fentenol. Sure enough, a few seconds later I fely an icy chill at my IV site. Almost instantly the "pressures" lessened, and sure enough John finished up.
It seemed as though I was in that OR for hours, yet it was really less than half an hour.
Once again a great team effort, compassion, and great communication. I just love these UPMC medical people. I was on my way home about an hour after they brought me out to my smiling Kim.
A long time has past since my last chemo treatment of early January. The port has come and gone, and I returned to work, actually the afternoon of my last treatment. April and its follow up CT scan had given me a nice 2+ month break from treatments, and a great overall recovery period.
The CT scan in mid April was just like all the others with the exception of drinking some contrast fluid at home the night before. The follow up with Dr. Osborn some 10 days later was quite un-nerving though. So much goes thru your mind. Has the cancer come back? Is it somewhere else? Do I have to start over again? Oh brother, not a good thing for someone that has a mond racing a mile a minute while asleep. The morning of the follow up had me take a Xanax on the way in, one of the few times I admit that the psychological end of things got to me.
Turns out that my test was nice and clean. They would like me to come back in in July and do it again to check some 9 months after surgery and almost a year from my first visit to the UPMC Cancer Center. Whew, a whole three months off from any kind of procedures. Dr. Osborn even said that I could come off of my daily dosage of cumadin (sp?), and better still, no more weekly blood test! No sign of blood clots
and whatever damage they had seen in the CT Scan way back in October had healed up.
As I write this I am a week or so out from that CT scan. I am nervous once again but looking forward to another clean bill of health. Physically I have been recovering slowly from the surgery. I ave found that the removal of that part of my left lung can leave me winded easily. Kim has had the grass cutting chores fall on her for the most part. The hilly nature of the sides and back of our yard really has its way with me. With little effort I find myself somewhat gasping for air. A visit to Dr. Schaubel had him saying that this was to be somewhat expected, that the healing process could be long and slow. He even had said that "You may be at a point that is as good as it gets..." Stamina even at work had been an issue. I had jumped back into my job at 50-60 hours a week, and really paid for it with early nitey-nites during the week. Soreness or pain from the surgery site steadily decreased week to week and by now is just about gone. Weird sensations of bones and such popping in and out of place around my left collar bone rears its head as I sleep on that side.
So now as I move on toward the next and future scans, I hope that all my new found friends and blog "neighbors" can spare a prayer for Kim and I. No one will ever convince me that prayer doesn't matter. Thanks for all your good thoughts.
A reader had commented to me that their Dad had Meso and asked me what to expect. I tried to email back my response but got a mail router error for the address. Here's my answer in case you check back on info for your Dad.
Sorry to hear about your Dad.
I did not have Meso so I cannot speak of it directly. I'm thinking treatment is going to be along the same lines as what I went through. Remember...every case is different. He may face surgery, then chemo and/or radiation, or vice versa as the order of treatment is different in each case. The chemo has its drugs mixed specifically for each patient and will be different in each case.
The best thing to do is to talk with your Dad and his Oncology Doctor. Keep a positive and hopeful attitude, and prayer is a good thing also. I would also stay off the internet as it is always scary stuff. Just like bad food reviews, you will always read more of the bad than the good. Aim your questions to your Dad's doctor as they have the most information.
Good luck to you and your Dad, you'll be in my prayers.
For me, tomorrow morning I go in for a follow up CT scan of my chest. I am hoping for the best as always, but I do notice these follow ups are pretty nerve racking for me. As always, I am really grateful for the good wishes and prayers and very thankful for the support!
Talk about a roller coaster ride! The five minutes before the Oncologist gives you a report on the results of a CT Scan (not to mention the week before...)are numbingly anxious minutes. Then she comes into the room, all smiles, and says "Well everything looks great Mark, lymph nodes look clean, no abnormalities, you're doing great!"
Oh my God....breathe again. From a precipice of worry to the warmth of your wife's hand taking yours and squeezing it in relief!
Soreness in my shoulder is normal post op healing of the bone scaring and damage done during surgery, along with nerves regenerating....just all kinds of weird workings going on in there.
Next CT the week before Christmas and Drs. follow up on 12-23.....Weird time of the year for roller coaster rides in Western PA!
Thanks for all your good thoughts and your prayers. I am going to ask for some more in the very next post....and you'll see why in a minute.