Monday, April 30, 2012

Oncology Part 2

Let me take a brief moment to say, throughout this whole experience, I was very aware of divine intervention and blessings given to me and my family during this time.  My relationship with my Heavenly Father changed during this and for that, I am eternally grateful.  I saw little "tender mercies" throughout the whole process as anyone who has had trials in their life can attest.  That said, I am fully aware of many good people, hard-working, devoted mothers and fathers and children who have lost their battles to cancers.  I had a very scary type of cancer that was caught early and made my treatment easy and my life expectancy much higher.  I recognize it as a huge blessing and something I try to take seriously every day.  I interact with my family and others differently because of it.  I was given the gift of a longer life and I try to honor that daily.

After the wonderful news that it appeared my cancer was caught at one its earliest stages, she made an appointment for me.  She explained that I needed to bring a family member with me because I was going to be given a lot of information and I needed the support of the second family member to help me remember and absorb it all.

On the appointed day, my father-in-law went with me to the appointment.  We got the first appointment we could and my husband had a full (financially productive) day of dental appointments and we both decided it was best for him to work and me to go with my father-in-law.  (My parents live in Colorado.)  We arrived at the building and outside of this doctor's office, we saw the Huntsman Cancer Institute label.  My father-in-law had lost his wife (my husband's mother) to breast cancer less than a year before and we both gave each other very sober looks when we saw that sign.

We opened the door and walked into the waiting room.  I had never experienced anything like it.  There were very sick people in that waiting room.  Besides the typical magazines, there were wig catalogues, and very sobering pamphlets dealing with melanoma information and treatments.  Fortunately, I was brought back quickly because I started to feel the panic rise in me.  I was given a gown to put on and some paperwork to fill out.  The room was very sterile and on the wall, there was a picture of the various layers of our skin, showing how melanoma penetrates into the various layers.  I remember leaning over and putting my head between my knees because I thought I was going to pass out.  I wondered, "How did I get here?"

A very cute and bubbly nurse came in and said, "The doctor will be in soon.  He will do a complete mole exam and remove anything he is worried about.  Don't worry about the mole removal.  He is excellent at doing it."  I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me until that moment but I realized, I could have another melanoma on me.  I am covered in moles.  Something much worse to could be waiting for me.  Was I a melanoma time bomb waiting to go off?

She left and again I put my head between my knees.  I've never passed out in my life but I had seen people do that on TV and it seemed like the right thing to do.  And, at least, it gave me something to do while I waited feeling very vulnerable and alone.

Then, in a very loud entrance, the doctor walked into the room and said, "First of all, you are going to be fine.  I don't know how you got sent to me because the cancer is already gone.  Most people I see have advanced cases of melanoma.  The man who did your excision really knew what he was doing because he got it all.  Thankfully, he didn't just do a shave biopsy."  

I sat there stunned.  There was no introduction.  No,  "Hi, I am your oncologist.  What is your name?"  I'm not complaining because every word he said was a drop of sunshine to me but I wasn't expecting it.  He then went out and invited my father-in-law back in the room.  We talked about my experience with the first dermatologist.  (He said, "Don't worry, he will be getting a letter from me.)  He talked about that most people he sees are very sick and how lucky I was to have caught it early.  He explained just as a precaution, they were going to go back in and do another surgery, deeper and wider to ensure the cancer was all gone.  When I asked about what "stage" I was,  he said, "I think in-situ but the pathology makes it look like 1A but it is close.  Either way, you are going to be fine."  He then said, "For the rest of your life, you must see a dermatologist every six months."  I then said, "I am guessing I should not have any more children."  He said, "Why not?  Some people get melanomas.  Yours was caught early.  It is not coming back.  Go have 10 more children." Also, after I explained my frustration with dermatologists 1, 2 and 3, he gave me a recommendation for one.

I later learned I was meeting with a man who many consider the melanoma specialist in the whole western United States.  He was personable, thoughtful, very patient with me and my questions and exuded confidence.  I never felt "rushed" during the appointment.  He was just absolutely fantastic.  From the moment he walked in the room, I knew I was in good hands.  To this day, I can not forget the rush of happiness that overcame me when he walked in the room and said, "You are going to be fine."

He did do a complete skin exam and removed two moles that he said were nothing I should worry about but would be good to have gone.  (I'll be honest, the relief I felt when I got the call that those were fine was huge.)  I was sent for a chest x-ray and some blood work.  And, he kept on repeating, "You are going to be fine.  Don't worry."

The appointment for my 2nd surgery was made.  We left the office, called my husband and then went out for a celebratory lunch.

Part 4:  The Aftermath

1 comment:

Kari said...

OK, Janice--I am SO relieved (granted, not as relieved as you are) as I read this. And now I'm tearing up again, just thinking about it.

I made the same mistake of going online to research, when our then-13-yr-old David had to have treatment (brace, then surgery) for his scoliosis. The Internet can be your best friend and your worst enemy, all at the same time.

3 cheers for competent doctors, supportive family members and for catching things early. And for countless tender mercies.