Saturday, January 20, 2007

Second Opinion

This is a quick update on yesterday's appointment for a second opinion at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I've received one concerned phone call, and Patty a worried email about the appointment because I said, in my post about Tia, that I'd write more later. I'm fine. The new oncologist, Dr. E, agrees that I have gallbladder cancer (I didn't expect a different result), and he gave me lots of information, answered many questions, and gave me much to think about. Last night and today I felt as if I my brain cells, like little cogs, were whirring and spinning, processing all of the information. And, frankly, last night I was overwhelmed by the day, having met Tia in the morning, and then spending three and a half hours on site at Dana Farber, including almost an hour and a half with the doctor.

Another detail: I have my next CT scan on Monday, and see my current oncologist, Dr. J, and my surgeon, Dr. M, next Wednesday. So I'm really in the middle of this month's process. With that disclaimer, here are some details. . . .

Dr E agrees that he would stage my cancer as Stage IV. I thought I'd heard that from my other doctors last summer, but then when I have been doing so well, I thought I'd misremembered or misunderstood. He also agrees that my cancer is slow growing, and that my progress has been surprising. His nurse practitioner called my cancer cells "indolent," a fancier word than "pokey," but meaning the same thing. Slow growing!

After examining the latest "spot" in my abdomen and looking at it on the November scan, their radiologist and Dr E agree that it's likely cancer, another implant. He gave me lots of options to consider with it, though. Have it surgically removed (but it's in the abdominal wall, which is more likely to have consequences for those stomach muscles afterward), have radiation, have chemo, do nothing. Part of the "do nothing" approach is to take the time to look into immunology treatment for gallbladder cancer. Why keep the "spot" if I'm considering immunotherapy? Sometimes they need an existing, live tumor to harvest cancer cells from the person being treated. Also, if I begin chemo and have a tumor that can be measured, it's a way of telling whether or not my cancer responds to that particular chemo. Otherwise, it's all guesswork.

There are efforts at developing immunotherapy for various cancers in the U.S. and across the globe. However, since gallbladder cancer is so rare - or exotic - there are probably no existing trials, but it's worth seeing if someone would want to do one. And, Dr. E said he thinks I'd be a great candidate for immunotherapy, because I'm asymptomatic and have slow growing cancer. After I've done some more research about the immunotherapy, and have more time, I'll post about it, including some links.

We also talked about chemotherapy, various reasons to begin it, and different levels - mild chemo, moderate, aggressive. No one had talked with me about that, and about considering my options and how to think about choosing. That was very helpful, and gives me good background as I meet with my doctors in the week ahead.

That's the quick version. I got the larger conversation about gallbladder cancer that I wanted when I scheduled this appointment, and now I have a lot to think about.

2 comments:

Carrie said...

Hi Lynne,
I'm up late because I've been listening for Mom.

Anyway, I am so utterly floored that you are Stage IV! You don't seem that way. I mean, you're working and doing so well. You definitely are doing great and I am so glad. Look into the new treatments. The chemo is not the nightmare it used to be, if you decide to go that route though. At least, from what I know of it. But we're only 10 days into it.

Since yours is so pokey (and a good thing it is too!) what about that Stereotactic Radiotherapy? Just a thought, while you're looking into things.

I'm doing my best to keep up with you and others. It was good to see you and Tia met (in your previous post) :) That must have been wonderful.

Hoping today is a good one. Don't fry your brain trying to process everything at once. Get someone to help you. When it's happening to *you* it's difficult to process, as I understand it. You seem to have a great handle on it though. Just don't push yourself in the first 24 hours. Breathe a bit first {{Hug}}

Elaine Pascale said...

Hi Lynne
It seems that you have some decisions to make. I am thankful that you have such concerned doctors helping you to make the best decision for you. I pray that whichever road you travel, you and your family are comfortable in your decision. Despite the invasive nature of cancer, it sounds as if you still have a lot of control over the direction you will take and that that is a very positive thing. Too often, people feel as if they were rushed into surgery, or pushed into chemo, or what have you. The other positive note: due to my "mutt" religous background, you will have novenas, spells and prayers being said for you!
Elaine