Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No, I'm Not Crazy

When Honey had his surgery, he had a large abdominal wound that was closed with staples.  Two days after he left the hospital, he developed a fever and the surgeon had to open about 6 inches of the wound to allow it to drain.  He told me, "You're going to think I'm crazy, but I want you to get this stuff."   It's an antimicrobial spray that they use on horses.  He said to spray the wound with it every dressing change, that he had patients who had used it before and it worked great in helping wounds to heal. 

He gave us directions to the vet's office and off we went.  It was located out in the country, but we did find it.  I went in the front door and there were two doors, one to the right and one to the left.  I entered the office, stood in line until it was my turn to talk to the receptionist. 

Receptionist:  Can I help you? 

Me:  Yes, my husband's surgeon told me to get this spray called PuriShield to use on his surgical wound. 

Receptionist:  Excuse me? 

Me:  I need to buy some PuriShield to use on my husband's wound. 

Receptionist:  Ma'am, that is for animals.  I don't think we can sell it for human use. 

Me:  Well, my husband's surgeon said to get it and he said to get it here. 

Receptionist:  Let me ask someone about it (disappearing into the back of the office). 

Receptionist:  Ma'am, you need to go to the large animal side.  This is the small animal clinic. 

So I walk out the door and go in the door on the right this time. 

Receptionist:  Can I help you? 

Me:  Yes, I need to get some PuriShield spray to use on my husband's surgical wound. 

Receptionist:  From Dr. J, right?  Don't you just love him!! 

(Apparently he's a good customer!!). 

So we got our "horse spray" as we call it, after Honey had the surgeon reassure him that he would not want to whinny or run at Pimlico after using it.  

And it did work great!! 

Until next time ... 


Playing the Waiting Game

It's been 2-1/2 months since the diagnosis, and it's been pretty much of a waiting game.  Honey had to have CT scans of the lungs, abdomen, pelvis and whole body bone scan done.  He had to have a lot of blood tests done.  He had an appointment with the oncologist, who said that the CT scans showed an area on his right femur (thigh bone) with enhanced signal, so he wanted to get an MRI.  There was some inflammation in the lymph nodes in the groin that were "of concern" so he thought that Honey might need to have a lymph node dissection, which is removal of the lymph nodes in the pelvis and groin to see if there is cancer there.  That is a major surgery with a difficult and often complicated recovery period and can cause lifelong problems with swelling in the legs, so that was NOT good news.  However, after talking to the surgeon, who said there had been a lot of inflammation in the area of the surgery, they decided to put Honey on a course of antibiotics and repeat the scan in 6 weeks.  So we waited.  

It turns out that the increased signal intensity on his thigh bone is probably a bone cyst, which is not a concerning finding, and six weeks later, the lymph nodes had returned to normal, so no lymph node surgery was recommended. 

So the question remaining is what to do now?  There few studies on this cancer because it is rare in this country, and Honey's case is not typical.  Usually, chemotherapy and/or radiation is given first to shrink the tumor, then surgery is done, the cancer is removed, and if there is no spread, follow up is with CT scans every 6 months for 2 years to check for recurrence.  If the cancer has spread, it is generally fatal, but they can do chemotherapy to slow it down.  In Honey's case, the surgery had to be done immediately because of the size of the tumor and the incredible pain he was in.   

Now, the problem is that the oncologist isn't sure what to do in terms of radiation and chemo, since there are no precedents for doing chemotherapy after surgery when there is no spread to other organs.  So he is sending Honey to the University of Michigan to see an oncologist and radiation oncologist for their opinions.   That will probably happen the first week in May ... so we wait some more. 

In the meantime, Honey's wound is not completely healed yet, but it is getting close.  As of this week, I no longer have to pack the wound and he just needs a small dressing to cover the open area.  

The best part is, he says he feels better than he has in years, and in so many respects, it's been wonderful to have him back to his old self ... even with the chemo stuff still hanging over his head.  We've been able to do things together again, like go to a movie, or out to eat, or even just a drive or run errands together.  Things he couldn't do because the pain was too unbearable.  We've been taking advantage of that while we can before he starts chemo and will have to be careful about being in crowds for a while. 

I have to admit, I'm afraid of the chemo, though.  My dad had cancer and it wasn't the cancer that killed him, it was the chemo, which suppressed his immune system and allowed an infection in his leg to run rampant.  He started complaining of pain in his leg on a Sunday evening and 36 hours later died of septic shock because the infection spread so fast the antibiotics just couldn't get in front of it.  That scares me ... a lot.  

But I'm trying not to borrow trouble and not worry about it too much until I have to. 

I'm getting kind of good at that. 

Until next time ... 



Thursday, February 20, 2014

The C Word

A little over 2 weeks ago, we found out my husband has cancer.  

It's a rare cancer, with an occurrence rate of about 1 in 100,000 in the United States.   We knew when he saw the surgeon that he would be having surgery, but the cancer diagnosis was very unexpected.  

Since then, he's had major surgery, bone scans, CT scans, blood work, oncology appointments, followup appointments with the surgeon, and he potentially has more scans, more surgery with more biopsies ahead, possibly requiring us to travel to the University of Michigan, all before we'll know what treatment is recommended after the surgery. 

I've spent the last 2 weeks packing and dressing his wounds 3 times a day, caring for his catheter, helping him dress and bathe, all the while working my 4 to midnight full work-at-home job as a medical editor/transcriptionist.   

This cancer is so rare, that there are no studies with a large enough sample of patients to be able to even predict 5 year survival rates, recurrence rates and so on.   The statistics that are available are not very encouraging, with life expectancy of 7 months to 2 years after diagnosis for the more advanced stages. 

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all this.  We've been together for 43 years, since I was 18 years old.  We have worked together in the same home office for the last 18 years.  We're sort of joined at the hip.   When you grow old with someone, you expect that at some point, one of you will die.  Somehow, I always thought that if his time came before mine, that it would be a heart attack, or something quick like that, where he's here one day and the next day he's gone.  

It never occurred to me that I might have to watch him die.  

I don't know how to deal with that, so for right now, I'm hanging on to hope that when all the testing is done that there will be a treatment that can cure him, and if not, at least hold it at bay for a few years.   In other words, I'm holding on to hope until somebody tells me not to, and that day is not here.  . 

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, but somehow, you never think it will hit this close to home ... until it does.  

Until next time,