Thursday, December 29, 2011

I begin to see the light!


Ok so right after my surgeon tells me the plan..have another surgery to remove all my lymph nodes under my left arm and do Interferon treatments for a year.. I think ok this is what I have to do, no thinking just doing. I needed to just get this cancer out of me and move on. He scheduled the PET scan that Monday and the surgery for the next Friday. The day after the PET scan(which are horrid), I get a call from the Dr. that the organs look clear just a few very small nodules were found on lungs and will need to rescan in 3months. I take this as AMAZING news because frankly I needed to hear something semi-positive at this point. 

Thankfully my mom and my best friend Jen were not as satisfied as me with everything going on and did NOT agree with my,"no thinking just doing attitude." Jen, calling in all her favors and contacts until they just couldn't stand to hear her anymore, found the best Dr.'s at Memorial Sloan Kettering and without me even knowing had a Surgeon call my mom and they scheduled an appt for that same day! Again thank you, thank you, thank you mom and Jen! But at the time I think I responded something more like, "I don't want to see another bleeeping doctor and I am not going to leave work early AGAIN! (in my defense it was my last week of work and I had a LOT to do).

BUT somewhere deep inside I knew they were right and that day in a random office, I met, who I will call "Dr. Gilda the Good Witch," the most amazing Doctor I had yet to meet... (I must note I am stealing this wonderful name from my favorite melanoma warrior, Chelsea, because honestly there is just no better way to describe her). This appointment was probably the best but scariest appointment I had so far because while Dr. Gilda was great she told it like it is, no beating around the bush with her. She gave me the statistics and the FACTS, while reminding me that these facts are general and that I could be different, she said they are not taking all "Julie's" into account but every single person with Melanoma... She told me that I had some options, now this was the first time I was told that I had any option other than surgery and Interferon. She said we can either do the surgery and remove all lymph nodes, which is a major surgery with a long recovery time or just "watch and wait." She said that Sloan doesn't even do Interferon because it only prolongs the time of possibly reoccurrence for about 15% of patients on it. And she then told me about a clinical study that my new treatment Oncologist was heading called Ipi/placebo(yup Jen and my mom scheduled me for a new treatment oncologist also without me knowing..Ummm THANK YOU). Now once I saw Dr. Glinda I knew she would be my new surgeon because for the first time I felt like someone was being honest with me about this nasty disease and I felt like she truly cared.. ALSO I knew there would be no "watching and waiting" for me, if there was a chance that there was cancer in the other lymph nodes the Cancer was coming OUT. She agreed and stated that without knowing how many lymph nodes were infected we wouldn't be able to properly stage the cancer(I didn't even know there was any other stages). I learned if the cancer did not spread to the other nodes I would be stage IIIa, if it spread to one other node its stage IIIb, or if it spread to more than one it is stage IIIc. And your survival rate can be from around 70-30 percent in 5 years depending on your stage...This is were it hit me and hit me hard..survival rate would become my new hated word! I thought all this statistic crap was based on just that "survival" as in your somewhat cured(ok ok I know there is NO cure for Cancer but you know what I mean). I didn't know that it meant a 50percent chance of ONLY surviving for 5 years..that just (pardon my french) sucks big time! This is when I finally came out of my cloud of denial, and realized.. Wow Julie wake up.. this is really happening and this is your life we are talking about! AND then I thought hell yes I want second opinions or thirds and fourths and hell yes I want to try this clinical study, and HELL YES I want to go to Sloan Kettering one of the best cancer hospitals in the world and Oh My God shit.. I have friggin CANCER!! Needless to say I made Dr. Glinda check her schedule right then and there and fit me in for surgery ASAP. I was scheduled a few days later Thursday, May 20th, 2011. 

Thursday morning I went in for surgery and came out about 3 hours later. This time I knew better, when I woke up in recovery and the nurses asked me what my pain level was, I was like pain what pain I feel fine, NO pain meds thank you(this is all said through clinched teeth because yes I was in pain and ALOT of it). I was afraid from my last experience but I guess I didn't fool anyone because they made me take the meds, though assured me they would not give me anymore than I could handle(and they didn't). PLUS within 5mins my mom, dad, Joe, and Dr. Glinda were at my side!! They only let them stay a few minutes but it was so great to see them right after I woke up(not 4hours later like my last surgery). 
About 2hours later they put me into a room and that's where the drama began because they put me in the wrong room. Right away I knew there was a mistake because I heard the nurse call my mom and tell them what room I would be in and I KNEW my mom would have been there waiting. Finally after getting the attention of a nurse and borrowing a cell phone from the visitor of the patient in the next bed I was able to sort it all out, but with all the moving around my stomach was not too happy and I got VERY sick. My new room had my smiling family waiting but it also had a crazy old lady in the bed next to me who would get up and stare and me and tell me im too young to have Cancer, why do I have Cancer, what a shame, etc. and this occurred for two days!!!! By the following night I told my mom we are leaving I can't not stay here with that lady anymore so we got a wheelchair, told the nurses to sign us out and home we went! (I must add this hospital stay did suck because of crazy lady but I had the best nurses and the HOTTEST resident doctors checking up on me.. I felt like I was on Grey's Anatomy, they were that hot.)

This blog post is dedicated to Chelsea, during my first appt with Dr. Glinda she gave me Chelsea's name, email, and blog address(she asked her first of course). She said Chelsea was around my age, even younger, and going through the exact same thing. She told me Chelsea would be a great person to talk to and boy was she right! Thank you Chels for being there for me through everything you are my melo mole mate.. and my inspiration!! Love you : )

Next post.. my follow up appt. with Dr. Glinda and my first appt. with my new treatment Oncology team!!

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