Let me give you a great piece of advice right here at the top: If you get stricken with a serious illness that is going to require you to see a bunch of doctors AND accurately recount the dates and times of stuff you’ve had done medically for you and to you over the years, start out from the day of your diagnosis and WRITE IT ALL DOWN!
We reported today at 9:00 a.m. for my 9:30 appointment on the 7th floor at elevator U in the Mays Clinic of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. We finally saw the doctor at 2 p.m. For some reason it was comforting to know that even a world-class, mega-cancer center is too busy to stay on schedule for appointments. But first, let me back up a bit.
Last night after a gloriously authentic Tex-Mex dinner at El Tiempo Cantina, we were gassing up the car and my phone rang. I looked down at the screen and saw my card playing buddy, Fred Morgan’s, name. I refused the call, cause I still think if you answer a cellphone while gassing up your car you could end up in flames like a freebasing Richard Pryor. Since I am really not in shape to run down the street, regardless of whether or not I happen to be in flames, I decided to call Fred back.
Then it hit me. I had planned to call Fred and Susan (he’s just getting over cancer surgery our here at M. D. A.) and see if there was anything we could bring them from the homeland. I could pack my pockets full of Krystal hamburgers, Country’s BBQ or a Dinglewood scrambled dog. But NO, I was caught up in my own little world, I didn’t think to call them until we were four hours out of Houston. What was I going to do then? “Hey Fred, can I bring you a Lone Star beer?”
So, I called him back and was apologetic about not thinking to call them earlier and we discovered that we were both due at the same waiting room within 15 minutes of the other the next morning and decided to meet up this morning. Standing next to me, Fred looks like a very skinny version of the Unibomber. Here I am, dressed all in black trying to look svelte and he strolls up with that freshly surgerized swagger in a hoodie. If I was a neighborhood watch director, like my friend, Rick McKnight, I might of put a cap in Fred, all hoodied up like that. Once I checked his ID and knew him not to be an innocent, young black man who might be out to do me harm, we had a nice visit over a cup of Joe and moseyed up to our appointment.
After we checked in, we were handed an itinerary and assigned another waiting room. They triaged me (checked my BP, temperature and pulse) and we waited again. We were called back to an exam room at around 11:45. A young M. D. Anderson Fellow, Dr. Kwang, spent about an hour with us going over my history. Why I didn’t think to grab my iPad and call up that March, 2012 blog post that chronicled my history from diagnosis until today is beyond me! I stumbled over dates and times and treatments. It was like a reenactment of one of Basset and Becker Alzheimers poker games, where Fred Morgan, Bill Becker, Jack Basset, Bobby Smith, John Kelly, Ted Short and Berry Henderson and I sit around without a single shred of ability to remember what game we’re playing, who has bet or even what day it is.
We stressed the importance to Dr. Kwang that we are traveling from afar and that we would like to move things along quickly and that if surgery is required, we’d like Dr. Christopher Wood to do it and preferably now. Once he gave us a thorough going over, he came back with Dr. Lance Pagliaro. Not that it matters, I was surprised to see Dr. Pagliaro, roll into the exam room in a wheel chair. He greeted us and went over his discussions with Dr. Kwang and their review of my extensive file and all the scans we had brought with us.
Here is his conclusion: “Mr. Venable, the cancer you have seems to not be an agressive cancer. It appears that you have only one site of metastasis and it definitely can be managed surgically. We’d like to do our own CT scans, a brain MRI, a bone scan, a chest x-ray and blood work. We’ll schedule them quickly over the next couple of days and I concur with your request to have Dr. Chris Wood do your surgery if surgery is required,” he said.
If he was the olympic wordsmith that I claim to be, he would have busted out the word “indolent” this morning. Indolent has become one of my very favorite words. It has, thankfully, been used on numerous occasions to describe my slowly progressing cancer. So, we’re here for the week. I have a brain MRI and a bone scan tomorrow. We hope to meet with Dr. Chris Wood on Wednesday for a surgical consultation. The CT scan and x-ray are scheduled for Thursday. That is all we have on the agenda for now.
Dr. Pagliaro went on to say that, “considering the passive nature of your disease, you could live for a long time by addressing these single mets surgically. You could always go on one of the many other therapies available to you that are FDA approved and then after that there are always clinical trials.” I recall what Dr. Dan George at Duke University Hospital told us when he said, “I have thousands of patients who would trade places with you in a heartbeat.” We appear to have been dealt something of a tentative inside straight. Not the straight flush we had wanted, but definitely better than that 7-high hand that so many of the people we have been among on this day have in their pockets. We are blessed.
As we know more, we’ll share it. Unless we go to a movie or shopping or something, We’ve got a lots of free time.