My Dad's Diagnosis

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May 03, 2006

Upcoming Treatment

Today is May 3, 2006. It has been exactly 3 1/2 weeks since we received my dad's diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma.

In my last entry, dated April 20, 2006, we did not yet know the results of the PET scan or the lymph node biopsy given by Dr. Sugarbaker at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Happily, we discovered just a few days after that entry, the PET scan seemed to correlate with what Dr. Sugarbaker's team already believed: that my dad was in a very early stage and that the cancer had not appeared to have spread. However, the PET scan is so sensitive it showed there was something in his other lung, his right. A familiar sickening feeling washed over me, but this time we discovered what was in his right lung was not malignant. It was an area of scar tissue consistent with asebestos exposure, but was completely benign. It didn't appear to be something that would affect his breathing if he was indeed found to be a candidate for EPP. Thank goodness it wasn't a life-threatening finding.

We still had a few days to wait to learn the results of the lymph node biopsy. We knew if that was negative my father, in all probability, would still be in stage 1. On Tuesday, April 25 we received more good news -- negative lymph nodes. That was a victory, and I tried to remind myself to enjoy the moment. We were taking small steps, and every step in the right direction was its own miracle.

His surgery has been scheduled for Thursday, May 18, 2006. I am scared that it is still two weeks away, as I have many unsettling thoughts in my mind about the cancer spreading. I've asked myself and the physician assistant at Dr. Sugarbaker's office how likely it is that negative lymph nodes on April 25 would become positive by May 18, and how likely it is that a localized tumor could begin adhering to the chest wall in this same time frame. She responded that it wasn't very likely because this tumor had been growing for years, not months. However, mesothelioma is aggressive and must be treated immediately before it's too late. Although it seems miraculous that he was diagnosed on April 10 and scheduled for his EPP only 5 weeks later, it still feels like an eternity to my family. I want that tumor out of there. Now.

One thought that haunts me is that, in a small percentage of cases, the imaging and testing before surgery don't adequately show the progress of the disease. There have been some patients who have gone in for an EPP and the procedure had to be aborted because the tumor(s) had advanced to an inoperable part of the chest. I've read of it spreading to the aorta, the esophogus or into the chest wall where pre-surgically, there didn't appear to be any disease. That knowledge raises my level of fear, especially given the fact that the surgery is still 14 days away. However, I continue to remain optimistic because I believe that my dad has as good a chance as anyone to be a long-term survivor!

I do worry about his pain level and his physical abilities after surgery. I don't want him to suffer so much that he regrets having this aggressive treatment. We all know the road to recovery won't be an easy one, but I wish I could spare him the inevitable pain in the upcoming months. I also wish we had a guarantee, that it would all be okay in the end. While I believe in my heart that he will come through this just fine, the thought is always with me that long-term health might not be the reward for his suffering.

My dad is handling all of this very well, considering everything involved. He is scared about the idea of being opened up and having his heart exposed. He is anxious about the pain involved and about the upcoming chemo treatments. However, he is glad that there is an option available to him that has the potential of giving him life. He knows this is by far the best chance of survival and as such, is prepared to fight the mesothelioma war. He is walking a few miles daily, lifting weights and eating a high protein diet, all preparation of May 18. He's definately a fighter!

My mom is also a real fighter and, although she is exhausted from working full time and making preparations for their month-long stay in Boston, she is preparing herself for this all out war, too. They are united in a way I've never seen before, and it's very touching to witness that closeness in a couple after 42 years of marriage.

Dad went to the petting zoo with my two children and me this week, and we all really enjoyed bottle feeding the baby goats. He doesn't know I snapped a beautiful picture of him as he walked ahead of me, hand in hand, with my three-year-old daughter. I already know I will treasure this picture forever.

Posted by Cmland at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)


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