I wish you had been able to see what — hands down — the most painful moment I have experienced through all three of my bouts with renal cell carcinoma. I think this happened on Wednesday morning. My nurse, Kay Quattlebaum and Theresa, her hospital tech and Ellen Harden, a good friend of our family who works at The Medical Center, set out to change the bandages on my back.
I have a very hairy cro-magnon style back. My mother was sitting in the room as they started ripping. I know that I dropped at least two F-bombs with my sweet mother sitting right in front of me. Honest to God, this barbaric wax job I got at the hands of these three well-meaning health care professionals was multiples worse than any pain I have felt to date.
So, when my neurosurgeon came into my room the next day I set in on him. (Never mind that he had just saved my life and probably also my ability to continue to walk!) “WTF,” I started, surely there must be a better way to do this. He explained quickly (I’m sure to keep me from building up a good head of steam.) that it is dangerous to shave body parts that will be adjacent to the blood and gore of surgery. He told me clearly that freshly shaved skin leaves many, many portals for infections and other issues to develop post surgery.
“Well, OK,” I said. “It would have been nice to get some kind of a heads up to Nair my back, wax my back, hell, to do anything to de-hair my back and keep from having to relive that funny scene in the 40-Year-Old Virgin. I screamed my way through it, then we all laughed like crazy people. You really should have been there.
Here’s the situation right now: I have a nice, new titanium vertebral body at L-2. There remains a tumor (rcc metastis) in L-1, which needs to be dealt with. The great news is that Dr. Gorum got a good look at the tumor, knows where it is, how big it is and how much in the way of margins we have around it. Seems like a classic, good case for another stereotactic radiosurgery.
Sadly, it is also time for us to seriously consider some type of system therapy. If this cancer is becoming aggressive, it won’t take it long to take me out. High-Dose Interleukin-2 is probably what I’ll do. Either at Duke University Hospital with Dr. Dan George or at a hospital in New York City under the care of Dr. Janice Dutcher. Whether we’ll shoot at this other back tumor first, or go straight to HDIL-2 is what is on the table for discussion now.
Whichever we decide, I’ll let you know as soon as I know. I am completely confident in my team, led by Dr. Andrew Pippas. But, he is giving Jill and me a full vote on the panel as we make these important choices. I’m either going to beat this thing back down and have many happy, healthy, but highly-vigilant years left, or we’ll know pretty soon whether we might be living on borrowed time.
Either way, I am surrounded by the indescribable love of friends and family. I am in full warrior mode. I know what I need to do and I’m making a plan to do it. Your support is everything to me right now. I’ll write as much I physically can to keep everyone posted on our situation. This is helping me heal, so push me.