I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get off this ride that is lung cancer. Today was a mess. It started out with our oncology appointment. Fin joined us. Thank God we brought him because he truly was a bright spot. He brought a lot of joy to other patients and the staff at the cancer center. Our doctor doted over him for a few minutes after entering the exam room and then abruptly changed the mood when she said, “So I have bad news.” Shit. Shit. Shit. Seriously? What could it be? Our hearts sank. Fin got quiet. I’ll spare you all the details and medical jargon. Bottom line Jeff had one brain met (metastasis) at the end of July that was only 2 mm and he now has 6 mets ranging in size, but none larger than 0.8 cm. So what now? All of the research I’ve been conducting in preparation for this very moment was swirling around in my head. Our oncologist said she already met with the radiologist and they were leaning towards whole brain radiation. HOLD. THE. PHONE. This kind of treatment is usually reserved as a last resort. It comes with a laundry list of side effects. We asked about targeted radiation (aka SSR or Gamma Knife) and that was an option if we wanted to push for it. The good news that did come out of the appointment was that it appears Jeff is still responding to his current treatment everywhere else. Most everything else in his body is either stable or still shrinking. There are two little spots that look a tiny bit larger, but could just be skewed due to the scan image. We’ll go back before Thanksgiving for another round of CT scans to confirm.
By the end of the appointment we had laughed, we had cried, we had cried again. We were exhausted. But wait, there’s more! We took the elevator down to the ground floor to meet with the radiologist and this semester’s resident. The resident was so sweet and taken with Finley. The radiologist who I’m sure is talented and is also very nice had a very dry personality (think day-old toast with no butter). He started by saying how sorry he was to meet with us under these circumstances and then went on to describe the risks of SSR, the benefits and so on. Fin fell asleep in my arms as Jeff signed his consent form for treatment which will be scheduled for next week.
And finally, we drove over to another medical building to meet with the neurosurgeon who works with the radiologist. His bedside manner was more our speed. He described the procedure as “spot welding” (a term we’ve heard before) and said that he’s treated many patients with lung and breast cancer very successfully. He said if more mets crop up, we just zap ’em again. Just when I thought we’d end the day on a high note (I’m using this term in the loosest possible sense), the surgeon said that he’d like to send his nurse in to speak with us. Apparently the nurse’s sister had lung cancer and worked with Dana-Farber just like we have been. Side note, the sister just died last fall. Um? So the doctor leaves, the nurse comes in. She sits down next to us. She struck me immediately as a very caring and sweet woman. And she was. But boy, we were not on the same page. When she started to speak about her sister she immediately started to cry. My heart went out to her. When she composed herself she told us how her sister was ALK positive (like Jeff) and how she was always so sure that she’d beat her lung cancer (ding ding ding) and she continued to work all through her treatment (check) and that her disease progressed rapidly at the end and she died quickly (fuck).
I told a few people at work about our experience today. Almost all of them asked me how we were at work…WHY we were at work and how we were even functioning with everything we have going on. I’m not sure I can answer that other than to say that the show must go on. Jeff and I realize that getting today’s news while extremely difficult and tough to process is the reality of our situation. Those brain mets were there on Monday and we didn’t know about them. Today we know. And now we can do something about it.