To: Family & Friends

Date: March 15, 2013

Subject: Port installed, biopsy done – ready for treatment

This was originally an email written to my family and friends on the date above. I decided to make these public in the event they may be helpful to someone in the future who is embarking on a similar journey to mine.

Hi Everyone–

Monday and Tuesday were rough days emotionally after learning (in broad strokes but not specifics) about the PET scan results, but the last two days have given us some better news.

On Wednesday I got a call from a scheduler to set up the biopsy, and I talked to her about the two procedures I needed (port installation and biopsy) that needed to be done under the same sedation. While they couldn’t do both procedures at the location I had been scheduled to have the port installed at, her team could (at the location nearer our house). In fact, they could do so yesterday morning – so that’s what we did.

We had understood from Monday’s call with our doctor that I needed 4 biopsies (both lungs, liver, pelvis), but the scheduler was making an appointment for just one (liver). It took until after 5pm on Wednesday to get in touch with the doctor to clarify things, but he confirmed that just one biopsy was needed.

Apparently the spots identified on my lungs were so small they wouldn’t be able to be biopsied, and really they just needed results from one location to confirm the cancer stage (has it spread or not). The radiology team is the one that takes the PET scan results and determined which location would be the easiest to biopsy – they chose the liver.

So two bits of good news from all of that:

1. the spots on the lungs are very small (the sort of thing that chemo is supposed to take care of)
2. we were able to combine the two procedures into one

I was quite nervous about these procedures. I had never been under “conscious sedation” before and the idea of being awake/aware of what was going on while they were doing it was not one I was enthused about. It turned out not to be that bad.

They did the liver biopsy first and while I was awake and remember what was going on (I could watch the ultrasound monitor, etc.), I didn’t feel a thing. After that, I climbed from my gurney to the table next to me (under my own power) so they could do the port installation. I asked them to “knock me out more” and told them I didn’t want to see anything that was happening. They put up a shield at neck level and I don’t remember much of the beginning of the procedure, but I was definitely aware of the second half of it. I even asked how things were going at one point. After the port installation, I climbed back into the gurney again and they wheeled me to a recovery room to hang out for a few hours. This was definitely not the unpleasant experience I was afraid it would be.

Once we got back home in the afternoon it was sunny and warm (upper 60s) and we were able to sit outside and have some ice cream.

The area where they installed the port (upper right chest) was very sore yesterday and I was on Vicodin at the hospital and then Tylenol when I got home. I avoided using any of my leftover Percocet, but was still in a good bit of discomfort. They always ask me what the pain is like on a scale of 1-10 at the hospital – it’s hard to know how to respond. The pain was never more than a 4-4.5 yesterday, but it was a constant ache which was certainly unpleasant. This morning it feels better (maybe a 2-2.5). I will be icing it today to dull the ache a bit more – it should subside in a day or two.

We’re working under the assumption that the liver biopsy will come back positive for cancer and I will be treated for stage 4 (rather than stage 3/3C) colon cancer, but knowing that this mass and the likely areas of metastasis in the lungs are small and likely to be manageable has me feeling much more positive again. I feel like not nearly as much about my situation has changed as we were led to believe earlier in the week.

The last bit of good news: we have a schedule for starting treatment.

Since we were able to get the biopsy and port installation done at the same time yesterday (instead of the biopsy being separate procedure next week), we are tentatively scheduled to start chemo on Monday. We will meet with the doctor to discuss the treatment approach, then have the first treatment. We don’t yet know what the treatment will be as there are a variety of options that can be recommended. I’m assuming that each has its own unique set of side effects. I’ll deal with whatever those end up being – I’m not the first person to have these treatments.

Over the last few days I had started working out again, standing up straight without pain, and not experiencing much residual pain from my abdominal incisions – I’ve been feeling pretty good. After yesterday’s procedures, I was told I can’t do anything exercise for 10-14 days. This is frustrating, but might coincide fairly well with end of the “you’ll be tired for a few days after the chemo treatment” timeline. We shall see.

This week as been a bit of a roller coaster. I’m definitely looking forward to having a plan of action and getting the treatment started on Monday; and I’m glad that the PET scan results, though not clean, still appear to indicate a situation that is manageable.

We are taking Caitlin on a picnic for lunch today and my parents are coming into town this evening, it should be a fun weekend!

This post is part of the thread: Cancer – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.