I had kind of a bad reaction after I met Dr. Frenchy, which I was chalking up to him not being a teddy bear of a man. Today I met with the oncologist and now a lot of stuff is starting to make sense to me. I realize that my reaction to Dr. Frenchy was not because of him it was because of what he was saying, even if he wasn’t really saying it directly.
I really liked the oncologist, whom we will henceforth refer to as Dr. Wile E Coyote, Super Genius, because his name sounds either like a cartoon character or like some sort of roadrunner catching device built by Acme. Dr. Wile E Coyote, Super Genius has all of the warmth I was looking for, was brimming with information and straight-talking advice, and offered me a job after he saw my binder.
But here’s the thing… I was freaking out a bit after meeting with him because of the aforementioned clarity. What is clear to me now is that neither Dr. Frenchy nor Dr. Wile E Coyote, Super Genius really believe that I have Stage 1B cancer. They think it’s worse.
Esophageal cancer is a tricky little bitch. There are usually no symptoms until someone notices that they are having a hard time swallowing. At this point the tumor is so large that is constricting the esophagus and has spread so far that there is very little that can be done about. Stage 3 is the most common diagnosis and Stage 4 is not too far behind.
A Stage 1 diagnosis is rare and so both doctors are preparing both themselves and me for what could be some bad news. Neither are doing it directly – they are attacking things in a fairly oblique way – but that’s pretty much where their heads are at.
This has me freaked out on multiple levels, but all is not lost yet. As described in other postings, I’ve known about this issue for years and have been monitored regularly. There was no evidence of any nastyness on the endoscopy before the one that caught the cancer so it is very, very early for me. Stage 1 is absolutely possible and, in fact, likely.
But this is where the last post about staging becomes important. The lines between Stage 1 (which is fixable and has a high long-term survival rate) and Stage 2 (which is a coin toss at best) and Stage 3 (which involves “torture” as Dr. Wile E Coyote, Super Genius put it and pretty lousy odds) are razor thin. One silly lymph node and I’m at a heads or tails 50%. Three lousy lymph nodes and I’m setting up my umbrella on the beach.
So Dr. Wile E Coyote, Super Genius agreed that there is no need for chemo or radiation before the surgery provided we can validate that is really is Stage 1. He called Dr. Frenchy and they decided to cancel the CAT scan and do the full-on PET scan instead.
Of course the week I wasted trying to get the CAT scan scheduled (“There has to be clowns…”) is now really wasted and another week will probably be scrubbed as they try to get all the approvals and what not to schedule the PET scan.
And yes, there will be more forms and hold music.