Meeting the new crop of docs.

Sorry not to post for so long – not much happened during the last week, so not much news.


I had my meeting with the oncology docs today at the Carbone Cancer center in UW Hospital.  Wednesday, in addition to being Prince Spaghetti day, is also lung cancer day at the Center.  They weighed me in – 2lbs down, which ain’t great but is definitely slower than it had been the last few weeks.  Took my vitals – BP is up, which I presume will be left to my primary doc to deal with, whenever that might be.  Then on to the meet-n-greets.  First up was Dr. Leal, the chemo-oncologist.  She was all business, very professional, with a cool demeanor.  She walked me through a l-a-r-g-e amount of info and prep for what to expect from chemo and its side-effects.  Like any other drug or treatment, these seemed to fall into a few common effects I can pretty much count on, and a host of rarer effects she mentioned just to be thorough.  Fatigue, nausea and hair-loss are the greatest hits of chemo, and this is what I can look forward to.  I knew this already (well, who doesn’t?) so I’ve been mentally prepping myself for this for awhile now.  I choose not to hold all the other stuff in my head as there is little room in there to begin with, and if anything else comes up we’ll deal with it as needed.


Next up was Dr. Barnett, who works with the radiation oncologist, Dr. Anderson.  He was a little more chatty, and I was able to tell him a bit about being a musician, as in, will I be able to play while I’m undergoing treatment?  Answer: depends on how I respond and how I feel.  Yep, I also knew that, but at least he didn’t say “no, what are you, CRAZY??!!”  Actually, that would have been kind of funny.  He had the air of perpetual tiredness I see on the faces of all doctors everywhere, but he was a trooper.


After a bit, Dr. Anderson came in.  She was very friendly and personable, and really set both me and Jeanette at ease after all the heavy-duty and rather disconcerting information we had been hearing.  She ran us through what to expect from radiation treatment and its side-effects.  There was a shorter list, but a few scary things were there – more fatigue, a sort of sunburn effect on the chest, possible esophageal scarring, blah, blah, blah.  Yecch.  Like I said, I prefer not to dwell on any of it until it comes up, at which point they’ll treat it.


If my PET scan shows no spreading of the cancer to other parts of my body, this indicates what they call “limited stage” cancer.  The general drill then will be a combination of both chemo and radiation, as the two compliment each other and help each work better.  Radiation treatments twice per day for three weeks (15 days total).  Don’t know the chemo schedule yet, but I will be practically living at the hospital at that point.  The goal of this, in their words, is to work toward a cure.  I didn’t know they used that word, but I guess they do.  I’ll take it.


If the scan does show spreading, then it becomes “extensive stage” and radiation treatment is taken off the table, and they go with a different form of chemo which they say is somewhat less harsh.  This is no longer about a cure, but about limiting the spread further.  This is where things get a little hairy.  It’s not something I want to entertain, and so I am furiously knocking wood that the PET scan will come back as clean as the MRI did.  But I report it anyway, as I am committed both to being positive, and to not blinking in the face of this kind of info.  All that said, Dr. Anderson did say that there was presently no indication of spread beyond my lungs, and so she felt confident enough to discuss the treatment program in terms of it being limited stage.  I will also take that.


So, the immediate program is: tomorrow’s PET scan, then probably another Friday phone call with the results, then yet another CT scan to set me up for the radiation, and another meeting to discuss the treatments in more detail and do the scheduling – and to GET GOING ON IT.


Staying positive was a lot harder today than I expected.  Part of it is that, with the pace of appointments and scans and such accelerating, it is starting to seem more real and consequently more scary.  This has all been so abstract for weeks now that I fancied myself as being very “zen” about it.  Now I will see if I can really live out that attitude as it all becomes very immediate.  Of course, the sheer volume of information I was given today would overwhelm almost anyone, especially because of what it all portends for me.  And the uncertainty of tomorrow’s scan doesn’t help.  But even in the face of all that, I refuse to get swallowed by my emotional reaction to it.  I still intend to be as functional as possible during treatment, and to play as much as I can, and not to miss this excruciatingly-long-in-coming spring.  My serene ship of calmness may start to look more like a battered life raft, but I will hang on to it all the more, because, really, there’s no other choice.


This world is too beautiful in all its detail and texture, both grandiose and deceptively mundane; there are too many (yes, I’ll say it) awesome people around me who are showering us both with so much love and care; there is too much music to be played, art to be created, places to see, things to do, for me to let go of it without a herculean fight.  I have total confidence in my docs, in the system in which I am becoming ensconced, in the most modern medicine available, in the untapped depths of my own resilience, and in the motivating power of all of this beauty and love to help and/or drag me across the finish line.  I have this confidence because I must have it.  I need it, I lean on it, I require it.  It’s my only path forward.


All of this, plus a cup of tasty chicken-veggie soup, a mindless movie to distract me, and a couple of productive hours working on patent drawings, and I feel like myself again.  I’ll take it.


More soon…




11 thoughts on “Meeting the new crop of docs.

  1. We’re with you and Jeanette all the way! You’re so right about how much awesome there is out there to look forward to – that knowledge, plus a loving circle of supportive friends, got me through the darkest days of my Mom’s illness. You can totally do this, and we’ve got your back.

    Much love,

  2. Your writing is beautiful Gordon, you capture it all painfully and exquisitely. Knocking wood with you today. And we will all be with you and Jeanette, the hordes of us, whether it be on the serene ship of calmness, the battered life raft, or rubber dinghy.
    Love you both!

  3. Hi Gordon,

    so sorry that you have to go through all of this. Sound’s like you are going to “take it” and make of it all you can. I admire your pluck as well as your honesty about how scary it sometimes is.
    I am thinking of you, sending love and warmth of heart.

    A hug to you,


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