What a time.
I am going to give you a piece of unvarnished truth about myself. This last month has been perfectly awful. Truly. The waiting. The uncertainty. Trying to 'remain clam' , watching Cara breakdown, breaking down myself. Yesterday, though, yesterday took the cake. (I took the cake? Whatever.)
Next week I am going to Pittsburgh for my second opinion. After that is surgery. I received a call from the hospital there this morning as I got ready for my bone scan. They had a lot of questions for me, and I began answering them. And then the woman said, "Your doctor does not believe that this is anything, but wants to be certain." I was, as they would say 'down under'. gobsmacked. The first thing that I thought is that she must have gotten me mixed up with another patient. I said, "Um. I don't think so. My mastectomy is scheduled for the following week. They will remove the mass from my shoulder at the same time." (And inside, I thought, 'the doctor does not believe this is anything? Really?!!!!' Hope takes root.) The woman explains to me that there needs to be a 'breast study'. She explains that a bilateral diagnostic mammogram needs to be done, an MRI, even a biopsy. She counsels me not to let anyone lay a hand on me until these things are done. "There is no going back to undo a mastectomy if a mistake has been made." She gives me a list of things I need to make sure I have when I come. She calls back later to tell me that I have an appointment Monday morning at 7 AM for the mammogram and the MRI. I have an appointment w/ the surgical oncologist Tuesday at 1:30 PM. I have to be back Thursday AM to speak w/ the oncologist. It will be a day of testing. At the end, everyone will confer, and I'll be sent back to my own doctors with Pittsburgh's thoughts on the matter. We'll decide where to go from there. The woman also tartly says, "It is not even certain that you have cancer."
You know. Here's the unvarnished truth: Today I behaved like an emotional asshole. I called the cancer center to find out when my last BUN/Creatonin had been done, and to ask them to fax it to Pittsburgh. But, in addition, overcome with longing, I said, 'have I misunderstood something? Does Dr. B think this might be nothing?' and she was standing there. They put her on the phone. 'I never said that,' she said. And like a child, like Cara had tried to get assurances from me that I could not give, I began to ask. I could not stop myself. "Is it possible that this is NOT cancer? I mean, I'm not asking for a crystal ball here, but really, if you went with your gut, would you guess cancer? Or not? What are the odds, do you think, that it's not cancer? Because they sounded kind of sure that it might not be..." She stumbles for words, because I have caught her off guard. She cautions me. She avoids numbers. She tells me that the second opinion will answer those questions more completely. Finally, she gives way under my badgering, just a little, and says that it is possible that this is a false alarm. I hang up completely flummoxed, but also, a bit of excitement takes root at the thought that I might not have cancer after all. It's not till I'm down the road on the way to the hospital for the bone scan that I realize that her answer quantified nothing.
I got my medical records today to take to Pittsburgh Monday morning. I made copies of everything. I got all the imaging that has been done on computer disks. I've got actual films as well. I've got a load of stuff to take to Pittsburgh. I've spent the night poring over this stuff and the truth of it hits me. The roller coaster has been cranking up a hill all day, and tonight it came barrelling down the other side.
Reading my own doctor's reports, I come to understand that her intention was never to authorize the mastectomy without an MRI, without a bilateral mammogram, without whatever they need. The breast study was being done in Pittsburgh, with state of the art equipment far more sensitive than we have at our small hospital. There was certainly no need to put me through tests (some of which can be quite painful) both here and in Pittsburgh. The surgery was tentatively scheduled for the week after my return from Pittsburgh with that data. Reading my own doctor's words, I see her concern. Reading my own doctor's words, I see that she is welcoming input from Pittsburgh. She lays out her concerns quite well. She notes that the mass (the one the surgeon found deep in my shoulder muscle) has gone from not being palpable to being palpable in 21 days. She's faithfully documented where the pain is. She's listed why they think surgery is, pending the results of everything else, the primary course of action. She's listed the facts, the figures, documented everything carefully. I will take these things to Pittsburgh with me on Monday. Monday, Pittsburgh will take these records, but they will rediagnose me, as if they had no records. As the nurse put it, "They are not even certain that I have cancer." And it won't be certain in their minds until they complete the testing. That is what a second opinion is.
The fact is, something has convinced both the surgeon and the oncologist here that these results will likely be cancer, and they are preparing for that. The nurse that was so outraged on the phone had not yet seen the evidence that I will bring with me on Monday. It is easy to second guess, I suppose, but the one thing that I know for a fact is that I have a good oncologist, a very compassionate woman. The surgeon is gentle and thorough. I know that they are both kind. Proactive. Today I pressured a doctor who deals in facts and figures. Basically, I asked her to pull a number out of her magic hat, to draw conclusions before the data was in. I was quite persistant about it. I owe her an apology.
What it comes down to, the long and the short of it, is 'do I trust my team?' And the answer comes to me again. Yes. I do. These are good people. I will go to Pittsburgh, and if the news is different from what I've been lead to expect, well, I guess we'll all do a happy dance. But the fact is, my doctors here, the ones who've been working with me right along, have some real concerns. Pittsburgh will give us the second opinion. Then I will have the numbers that I wanted so badly.
You know, I have really watched myself come unhinged over the course of August. Really, I've got to get a hold of myself and buck up, because now, my friends, now I am acting like a baby.