December 4th, 2008


oncology update

I was supposed to see Dr. Williams today, but he suddenly became unavailable, so I was rescheduled to see his partner, Dr. Hahn. We ended up being a little late for the appointment because I discovered in the car that I had somehow lost the battery from my right hearing aid, so we made a stop at our favorite CVS in Indy to pick up a replacement. But once again, we didn't get in to see a doctor until about 45 minutes after the scheduled time anyway.

At first, a yet another doctor stopped by. I gave him a brief update on how things were going, he listened to my lungs and heart (I believe this is required during any doctor-patient contact), and went away. Both fanlain and I decided that we didn't like him; he just had this air about him as if he wasn't sure what he was doing. A short while later, he returned with Dr. Hahn, who projected confidence and was much better about asking and answering questions. He examined me a bit more thoroughly, and then we discussed the way forward.

The main question was, and remain still, about whether I should have surgery to remove the remaining mass in my retroperitoneal lymph node. He pointed out that the mass had shrunk quite a lot since July, and that it was not unusual for some tissue to remain, but the question of what to do about it was still open. His plan of action is to a) get an updated measurement of my tumor markers (I got blood taken after the appointment), b) discuss my scan with other doctors, and c) perhaps do a PET scan to see if there's any activity. I'm supposed to see him again in January to make the final decision.

I also talked to him about my painkillers and whether I should be worried about addiction. I take fewer of them than before, but I still need about two pills (5 mg oxycodone each) a day, and when I don't take them, I end up in pain and unhappy. He said that as long as I'm taking the pills for pain, and not for the high you get from them, I should be OK, and wrote me a prescription for more. This is reassuring and should improve my quality-of-life a bit, since I had been waiting until I feel pretty miserable to take the next dose, but now I feel OK about not letting it get that far.

By the time we left, it was nearly 5 (Eastern), so we decided to stop for dinner at Blu Martini, where individual75293 and fanlain had had good sushi while I was in the hospital. We hit rush hour traffic and it took us an hour to get there, but we were still there in time for their half-price sushi, which was lucky, since the place is a bit pricey. The place had a nice lounge atmosphere with ambient electronic music (focusing mainly on base tones, so well-matched to my hearing!), blue lighting, and a projector showing movies (we caught the tail end of "Hancock" and the first half or so of "Elf"). The sushi was quite good, though the quality of the fish was better in Alabama. I packed away three rolls and still had room for a chocolate mousse for dessert.

It's a bit disappointing that the visit wasn't more productive and I'm left with the same uncertainty. I guess I'll call next week to get my tumor marker results; if they're back up from what they were, that would be scary, though, as the doctor explained, not yet a death sentence. For the last few weeks, I've been feeling like my life is returning back to normal, and I'm very ready to put all of this behind me, but this visit was a reminder that I'm not out of the woods yet. Realistically, even if all the tests come up perfect, it will still be a year or two before I can breathe that sigh of relief that the cancer is likely not coming back. I just have to try to remain optimistic until then.