Friday, 24 February 2017

The "C" Word

The people at the Cross Cancer called me on Valentine's Day in follow up to my MRI, a day earlier than I was expecting. They didn't tell me much of anything, they were just calling to tell me about my consult appointment that had been set up for February 24th. I even asked, "is that all the information you have?", apparently Suzie from appointment bookings is John Snow and knows nothing. A few days later the confirmation letter came in the mail. The letter read that my appointment was for a "new patient consult", this was worrisome enough, but then I looked up the doctor I was to see. She was listed on the College of Physicians and Surgeons website as a Radiation Oncologist; fantastic.

I come by a positive outlook on life quite honestly. I was raised to focus on the good things rather than the negative ones with a real belief that everything happens for a reason (thanks mom). This doesn't, however, make me delusional. So I sat there, staring at my computer, quietly losing it, hoping for the best, but planning for the worst and trying to keep my wife calm. Resigning her and myself to the news that they found something and I would likely need some type of treatment, however, hoping that the relative non-urgency of my appointment in two weeks meant that they must not have found something that serious.

Then it hit me, a common side effect of radiation is infertility; but I already have fertility issues! If radiation could wipe out over 20 million sperm, I think it's pretty fair to assume my six little swimmers would be sleeping with the fishes. I told myself right then there's no way I'd be getting radiation until K is pregnant, knowing full well now that I'm married this decision wasn't just mine anymore, and knowing full well K wouldn't want me to wait. We were somewhat prepared for this though, the fertility doctor had ensured us they prioritize people dealing with cancer and would help expedite the process for us. So if there is a silver lining, I guess it's that we might get to have a baby sooner than expected, but with much more at stake.

So the morning of the consult, K came home from her night shift and stayed awake to accompany me to the appointment. The appointment was for 09:45 so we bummed around the house for a bit and played with the dog before anxiously departing for our destination. We got to the Cross Cancer a little early (an occupational hazard of K being an EMT is that she knows where all the medical facilities are). We found parking and made the ominous march from the parking lot, following the Cross Cancer Institute signs. I'm sure if they weren't so large there's no way we would have found our way; not because it was difficult to navigate, but because walking in, in that mindset, was like standing in thick, blinding fog.

We did our little check-in at the front reception and they directed us to Area C. Again, K knew where to go, and we filled out some forms and sat in the waiting room for what really seemed like forever before a nurse came over, called my name, took my measurements, and guided us into a little room. The nurse gave us basically no information, but did proceed to repetitively ask me the same questions I answered on the forms I had completed 10 minutes previous. She handed us a thick envelope of cancer patient resources, assured us that our questions would be answered by the time we left, and then hurried out of the room. Then we waited, again, for probably only 20 minutes, but again felt like forever, for the resident to come in. She went over everything once again, along with my medical history, once again (one thing you can't accuse this place of is not being thorough), before telling us that my MRI results had come back normal. We weren't out of the woods yet, but I gave a huge sigh of relief. She told us the Oncologist would be in shortly to discuss the plan moving forward.

Thieved a souvenir from the oncologist's exam room
We waited another 20 minutes (this time it actually felt like 20 minutes) for the Oncologist. The resident came in with her and we went over everything again before she asked us if we had any questions. Then she proceeded to explain that the tumor I had removed was called a "solitary fibrous tumor". It did not test positive for being a sarcoma (cancerous soft tissue tumor). That said, this type of tumor, in 10-20% of patients, can act cancerous and spread, so although they didn't find anything, they would like to do another surgery to make sure they got it all. I asked her if the tumor or the surgery could have any effect on my fertility, she said not likely. Mixed emotions on that one, but I never thought I'd be so happy to hear that I needed surgery. No chemo, no radiation; this went from being the worst day of my life to the best news I'd ever heard.

Prior to leaving, the doctor assured us they would make the referral to the Surgical Oncologist and they sent me for a quick chest x-ray, with the rockstar of all x-ray techs who told me that the the Cross is "kicking the shit out of this type of tumor" and I had nothing to worry about. The chest x-ray would be used to set a baseline and make sure they had something to compare future x-rays to down the road if something spread. Then we got in the car and drove our asses to our favorite restaurant, Ampersand 27, to celebrate. One problem down, one to go!

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