MDA Visit, "Shake and Bake," and Andrew Vail
Most of you know that last Friday through Monday I was at MD Anderson in Houston.
On Friday, they gave me a CT Scan to evaluate my cancer's status after chemotherapy. Monday I got the result of those scans and talked with the doctor about surgery.
Can I just say one thing? These doctors are truly sadists. They scan your body to see how much cancer is in there, and then they leave you to stew about it for a good 72 hours. The scans are available immediately. Granted, they have to look closely at them and examine them, but 72 hours? I think they truly derive some sort of sick pleasure from making you wait. It's the power they have over you. They are the life-or-death information gate keepers. I hate all of them, no matter how good they are.
See how you've been waiting through that last paragraph for me to tell you the results of my scans and how nervous it made you feel? Multiply that times a million and that's how I felt last weekend.
The scans show that cancer remains. MDA feels that my "good scan" from 12/4 (the one that showed no cancer) was overly optimistic. They claim that PET Scans (and even CT Scans) often understate the presence of mucinous tumors like mine. Indeed, the doctor even pulled up my December follow-up CT Scan, which the radiologists at Emory claimed showed nothing, and showed me where cancerous "grey areas" were on those scans. So.......that's the bad news.
The good news is that (1) the cancer has not progressed beyond its original recurrence areas, and (2) it appears to be resectable through surgery (in other words, most of the mets are small and there is no organ involvement with the liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, etc.).
So, on May 18th, I will undergo a surgical procedure called the "Shake and Bake." These doctors are macabre, I tell you. The surgery involves resecting all of the areas where there was cancer. They try to leave no more than 1/2 cm of cancer, which, "studies show" can be killed by chemotherapy. What chemotherapy, you're asking yourselves. "We thought you were done with chemotherapy, Chet!" Indeed, so did I! After resecting the cancerous areas of my messentary, omentum (a new word I learned), and peritoneum, Dr. Lambert (that's the MDA surgeon's name) is going to "perfuse" my entire gut with "heated chemotherapy" which will hopefully kill any remaining cancer cells. So they put the chemotherapy in you (that's the "bake" part), and then they literally move your body around from side-to-side on the operating table (the "shake" part) in order to get that juice into all the nooks and crannies of your stomach. After they do that (it can take anywhere from 8-20 hours), they insert a feeding tube on one side of you, a draining tube on the other, and they sew you back up. Then, they whack you with a mase, boil you in tar, and then you're all done.
I will have to be at the hospital in HOUSTON (home of Enron and Halliburton [until they relocate to Dubai where they don't have to pay American taxes]) for 3 weeks, then a hotel in HOUSTON for about 2 weeks, and then I can come home (once I've learned how to use my feeding tube).
While in Houston, I was accompanied by my friend Tom (from Chicago) and John (also from Chicago). It's a good thing these two were there to help entertain me, because let me tell you a little secret: Houston is one boring, awful town. We found one little neigherhood (Montrose) that was fun. Thankfully it was close to the hotel and hospital, because we pretty much stayed in Montrose the entire trip. You'd think that they would put one of the world's leading cancer hospitals somewhere interesting -- like Paris. Being stuck in Houston just adds to the depressing aura of cancer.
So anyway, I came home from Houston feeling optimistic, but still a bit deflated. And the next day, Andrew Vail, from Saugerties, New York swooped in and saved me from despair (again). That's Andrew above. Doesn't he look cute and silly? We spent Tuesday at a coffee house near my apartment grading papers (well, I was grading). Then we joined Wendy, Gregg, and the gang to celebrate Wendy's mother Bobbie's birthday (Happy Birthday Bobbie). We had pizza and then dessert at Wendy's house. Bobbie showed Andrew and me her pictures from Antarctica. Yes, Bobbie went to Antarctica......it's really beautiful.
Wednesday I had to teach all day so that was sort of a drag. But Andrew occupied himself by trying to go to the Coca Cola museum (they closed right after he got there), and we cooked dinner together later. Yesterday (Thursday) I took Andrew on a little driving tour of Atlanta neighborhoods. We went for a long walk in Piedmont Park, and we ate at the Graveyard in East Atlanta village, followed by a few drinks at Mary's (yes, it's a gay bar).
I met Andrew about 10 years ago in Albany. When I met him he lived in a little farm house out in the middle of nowhere and he raised goats. I thought that was about the cutest thing I'd ever seen. Andrew has since gotten rid of all the goats, but he still lives in the little red house that I love. And see that really nice brown sweater Andrew is wearing in his silly picture? He gave it to me before he left! Isn't he sweet?
I dropped Andrew off at the airport a few hours ago and now I'm a little bit depressed again. Come back, Andrew! (I have a little plot that involves getting all of my friends to move to Atlanta. So far, Deirdre is in, and Kelly is moving to Athens......I think Andrew should be next).