I’m a bit of a control freak. Okay, maybe “bit of a” is a bit of an understatement. Yes, someone apparently gave me OCD for my birthday a few years ago because I’m really big on the whole organization concept.
I figured out why about two years ago. My best friend Mary was dying of breast cancer and I went to her house a couple of days before she actually passed away to stay until the end. Part of the regimen at that point involved lots of different medications at lots of times. To keep himself organized, Mary’s husband Steve was writing doses and times down on a torn piece of paper. I looked at that and said, “Oh no… no, no, no.” I then went up to Mary’s computer and made a spreadsheet with color coding.
Here’s the thing… when you are faced with things that you can’t control, things like spreadsheets can be comforting. Spreadsheets make sense. There are rows and columns and Auto-Sum – it adds stuff for you! For a person who can’t do anything but the most basic of addition and subtraction in his head this is incredibly satisfying.
So that brings me to the binder. Yes, there’s a cancer binder – it has tabs and everything. Shut up. It makes me feel better.
I had my procedure this morning, or at least attempted to. Gastro-Guy got in there, poked around a bit, did an endoscopic ultrasound, and then packed up his tools and high-tailed it out of my esophagus. Why? Because it’s not cancer with an asterisk but plain old invasive cancer.
The good news (if I may stretch the definition of that phrase to its breaking point) is that it has been caught about as early as it could possibly be caught. Okay, well, that’s not totally true – the asterisk version is the earliest but this runs a close second. It’s Stage 1B and the survival rate on this is in the 90-95% range.
The bad news is that the way you survive it is to have a pretty awful surgery. They chop out the offending portion of the esophagus and stomach (my tumor is right at the gastric junction of the two) and then pull up what is left of the stomach and attach it to what is left of the esophagus. Part of it can be done with a minimally invasive, laparoscopic process and the rest with an incision below the rib cage so there will be no cracking of chests as there used to be with this.
Unfortunately even with the new technique, recovery time is long – 7-10 days in the hospital, and many weeks at home after that. And it is a pretty significant lifestyle change as the type, amount, and (in my opinion) quality of food you can eat afterwards is severely limited. I’m going to miss cheeseburgers.
Gastro-Guy has referred me to a surgeon he describes as “the person I’d want to do this surgery if I had to have it” but said surgeon is on vacation so I can’t get in to see him until July 9. After that it’s tests and pre-op procedures and scheduling, which will probably mean that the soonest the surgery will happen is the week of the 23rd.
I’ll keep you posted.