12 July 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Apologies all around for the delay in posting this update. I have been a little woozy and somewhat physically uncomfortable since Monday. If you landed here without knowing anything about my ongoing health situation, you may want to start here and follow the back links to get enough information that you are not lost.

First, let's start with the ugly. On Monday afternoon, my doctor removed what was described to me as a "rather large" cancerous tumor from my bladder. The bad - despite expectations for an outpatient procedure, I had to spend the night in the hospital on Monday. But, the good - well, the good is REALLY good - (a) the doctors believe that they got the whole tumor; (b) while they are still waiting for the pathology report to confirm this, it appears as though the tumor was not nearly as embedded into the bladder wall as it appeared from the previously taken surgical photos, and I may not need to have my bladder removed; and (c) ALL of the people that I encountered at Moffitt were top notch.

The only way to look at this, at this point, is that Monday's surgery produced about the best possible outcome that anyone could have hoped. I am trying to temper my enthusiasm until the pathology report comes back, in much the same way that I did not allow myself to get too down about things when they looked a little more bleak. Still, it is my doctor's belief that whatever treatment remains, it is very possible that it will be medicinal in nature, as opposed to surgical - and any way you slice that, it appears to be good news.

While I was initially bummed that I had to stay overnight, I realize that it was absolutely the right thing. What upset me was that I was told it was outpatient, and the only reason I would be staying overnight was if there was a complication during the surgery. So, when I was coming to (but, still groggy), and realized I was being taken to a room, I got really worried. When I was told that things were very successful in the OR, I understood that it was just for observation purposes - not because something had gone wrong.

Random stuff - Every person within the medical profession that I have encountered since this whole mess started has asked if I am a smoker. I am smart enough to know that there is a strong link between cancer and smoking, but it seemed as though the only reaction everyone had was regarding smoking. I finally asked about this while at Moffitt. One of the anesthesiologists that was working on me told me that in all their time in medicine, they had never seen anyone with a tumor in their bladder that was not a smoker. Wow. I like the idea of being a trailblazer, but this isn't exactly what I had in mind.

More random stuff - The Moffitt Center is a first-class, top-rate facility. I realize that my hospital experiences have been pretty limited until now, but these guys did some things that really impressed me. They have complimentary valet parking - and the valet even refused a tip (we didn't have small bills - and he didn't have change - so, he told us to "get him next time" - amazing!). They gave my buddy who drove me full access to the floor's pantry - which was stocked with sodas, Gatorade, snacks, ice cream, etc. - all complimentary. Yes, I realize that I am paying for this, but it is nice to think that visitors looking to spend time with family members - some in pretty bad shape - aren't being nickeled and dimed for everything, least of all a can of soda. Speaking of visitors, there are no pre-set visiting hours. It occurred to me that these types of amenities are in place to ensure that any family and friends visiting cancer patients have one or two less things to worry about. How do you tell someone that they can only visit with their dying father or grandmother between 3-7 pm?

My buddy and I had the nursing staff (and anyone else we encountered) in stitches. I always try to be a good patient - heck, these people are the ones caring for me, and if you were in the position of giving care, who would you want to help - the guy who makes you laugh, or the guy who is a pain in the ass? Of course, my way of dealing with nerves is to just crack jokes - and my nerves were damn well shot. By the time we checked out on Tuesday, I think they were a little sorry to see us go!

Unfortunately, there is little to do right now except to sit back and wait for the pathology report. My next appointment is in 10 days or so. Keep your fingers crossed until then that all of this good news will pan out as such.

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09 July 2007

Quick Update

I am on my way out the door to Tampa for the biopsy at Moffitt. Everyone I have spoken with there seems to think that this is an outpatient procedure, but there is the skeptical side of me that won't be surprised if I end up spending the night in the hospital. I am all for making small wishes - so, for the moment, think happy thoughts that I won't be spending the night in the hospital in Tampa!

I will post an update when I can. Thank you all for the kind wishes - it is truly appreciated.

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05 July 2007

Is Ignorance REALLY Bliss?

If you don't know the crazy, mixed-up story of my current health issue, you might want to start here, here, and here (at least skim!). Trust me, things will make a lot more sense. Caught up now?

If you have been following this story from the beginning, you should notice that I have tried to keep my sense of humor about things, as best I can. Sure, cracking jokes is my coping mechanism, in general, but I have been making a concerted effort to be as positive as I can about what is coming down the pike. I have a friend who has been suffering from his own cancer for about 15 years - someone who rightfully should have been defeated by his disease years ago, according to his doctors. It seems to me that his attitude, which amazed me every day before my own illness was anywhere on the radar, has helped him defeat his own cancer, almost singlehandedly. If I could duplicate that - heck, I should be in pretty good shape.

I wonder, though, if there isn't a fine line between keeping a positive attitude and burying your head in the sand, when it comes to what may lie ahead. Since I started writing about my health, I have probably downplayed the severity of what has been going on. Did I just not want to confront what was coming at me? Beats me, but if you will recall, at one time, I didn't give my doctor more than a 30% chance of being right in his cancer diagnosis. As of my meeting this morning at Moffitt, I am pretty well convinced that the initial cancer diagnosis was correct.

My visit was enlightening, to say the least. The new doctor, whose specialty is listed as "urological surgeon" took one look at the photos from my last procedure and immediately said that it looks like a serious reality that I will need to have my bladder removed. He concurred with the assessment that there is a large bladder tumor, and based on the size and location of the tumor, many of the less aggressive treatment options may not be available to me. That's the bad news - the good news is that someone my age - and relative good health - should have a better-than-average chance of full recovery (with, hopefully, full use of ALL my pieces and parts).

OK...before we start doing procedures like a radical cystectomy, I am sure that we need to make sure that it is (a) necessary, and (b) all other alternatives have been exhausted. To this end, I have a procedure scheduled for next Monday (7/9) where the surgeon will perform a biopsy - he tells me that he will attempt to get as much of the tumor removed as possible. After that procedure, we will be able to better discuss any and all available treatment options. Chemotherapy looks like a possibility somewhere in my future, as well.

Admittedly, I am a little more nervous than I was yesterday - concerned, too - and, heck, pretty damn scared, on top of all that. The whole idea that "ignorance is bliss" is one thing - right up until you realize that maybe this is a little more serious than you had really considered. For the moment, I have confidence in this doctor. He tells me that he did 80 of these operations last year (bladder removal) - that is 1 1/2 operations per week. On the one hand, it sounds like he knows what he's doing - from what I have read, the most succssful patients are the ones who have the most experienced doctors. On the other hand, there are a few more bits of research that I need to do. For instance, if this guy does this surgery with this degree of frequency, is it because it is his default answer for everything? A guy comes in with a sprained toe, does he think he needs to remove a bladder? Also, of the 80 surgeries he performed, he admits that none of them were performed on anyone as young as me. Perhaps I need to seek out someone who has performed this surgery on someone my own age?

I will try to update with any new information as it becomes available. Or...I will just write my next post about something fun - like fried chicken!

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