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Post Lung Surgery Good News/Bad News

Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Medical Procedures and Other Drugs, My Health Updates - No comments


i survived lung surgeryDena and I got back from Durham last night after meeting with our thoracic surgeon, Dr. D’Amico, to x-ray the lungs and review the pathology report. We have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that, with the growing collection of scars (I now have six of varying sizes), my torso is beginning to give me the look of one of those bad-asses in a Hollywood fight film.  Think of Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse. So you can imagine the scene in the surgeon’s examining room when I remove my shirt. He gasped and took a step back. Yeah, I saw fear in his eyes but I told him not to be afraid. He would not be hurt. Unless he tried to give me another shot in the stomach, at which point I would snap his scrawny surgeony neck like a winter twig.

Speaking of shots to the stomach, I suppose this is a reasonable place for a diversion. Can I just say something? Just among us few friends? I would rather have my eye plucked from its socket by a Forest Raven and dropped down the garbage disposal and then fed back to me in a hotdog bun than get a shot in my stomach. When you’re bedridden, the docs like to give you these shots that prevent blood clotting. During all the time I was undergoing treatment with IL-2 I had sweet talked my way into avoiding the shots by doing extra laps around the ward to keep the blood circulating. No such luck in the surgical ward. They just mocked me. Whatever. When the nurse approached my belly with a needle, I began to shriek and wail and pull my hair and speak in tongues; I began hurling rolls from my dinner tray, deadly little stale rocks, knocking her sideways with concussion blows. My wife lept my way – I thought to join me in fending of this savage attack from the deranged nurse, but instead the traitor begged the nurse to let her give me the shot herself.

But I digress.

More good news. Dr. D’Amico, who is a fabulous surgeon, was able to remove all of the nodules/spots in my lungs. The pathology report showed that the small spots were not cancerous but were scar tissue, probably resulting from the previous IL-2 treatments. This means that we did not have a colony of live cancerous tumors sprouting in my lungs. The only live tumor was the largest nodule, but we knew this was cancerous, and D’Amico removed that too. So at this time, my right lung is fully clear of any visible disease.

We did get some disappointing news. The inflamed lymph nodes in my chest did turn out to be cancer spread. This is not what Dena and I wanted to hear. However, Dr. D’Amico also removed these. The question is whether the spread remained localized or had further invaded the lymphatic system. There are two primary ways cancer spreads – through the blood system or the lymphatic system. We are hopeful that the cancer was contained to the local nodes, which have been removed, and we plan to operate under that assumption. Which means – we got rid of a lot of cancer with this lung surgery stunt. As the suits in the C-Suites say, it was a solid return on investment.

While the right lung is now clean, there remains a significant nodule in my left lung. However, it has not shown signs of growth at this point, so we will simply wait and monitor my left lung for now. If the nodule doesn’t grow, we won’t worry about it; if it does, we’ll return to Dr. D’Amico for another round of surgery to remove it. But as the good doc said: “I hope I never see you again.” I’m not sure if this was because of the epic clash with his needle-wielding nurse or because he was hopeful I won’t have to undergo another surgery.

Our next step is to return to Duke on the 31st for a new round of needlepoking and labwork, CT scans and a follow-up meeting with my primary oncologist, Dr. Dan George. We will discuss our strategy for systemic therapy moving forward. There is a clinical trial that is being hosted at John Hopkins in Baltimore that he wants to discuss with us. Or we could turn to some of the targeted drug therapies that have come to market in the last several years; however, Dena and I want to hold off on those until we have no other options. A third option would be to do nothing at the moment – wait, monitor and respond once we know what the cancer is going to do. We really won’t know the answer until we’ve had a chance to review the results from the CT scans.

In the meantime, I shall spend my time plotting to avenge myself against my sell-out wife who lobbied the nurse to let her stick me in the stomach with those blood-clot shots. Your suggestions are welcome.

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