I got a call from my surgeon Monday night at home. Yes, that's correct. A top surgeon, a department chair, a world class specialist from one of the top cancer centers in the world spent Monday doing surgery, and then took the time to call me at home to follow up on my care.
He had finally had a chance to read my latest CT scan. In his opinion, there is no need to do two more rounds of chemo. He wants me to heal up - let my immune system recover - and then move to surgery.
We talked for maybe 10 minutes, and at the end of that time, we had selected a surgery date.
I will get to NYC on 6/5, have some pre-op testing done on 6/6 (not a very exciting birthday for my poor wife), and then do surgery on 6/8. I will probably stay in NYC until the 18th or so.
So, I'm going to have to skip a couple concerts. I'll get over that. I have to skip a short fly fishing trip. I'll get over that as well. I will miss about a month of trout season. Oh well. There are simply priorities in life, and living through cancer is one of them.
My wife's company is talking about sending our entire family to the big city a couple days early. I'm not sure who would pay what, but all four of us would go, stay in a hotel, enjoy the weekend before the surgery, celebrate my wife's birthday, and then the kids would come home when it got time to deal with the real medical issues.
Over and over through this ordeal, I've been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in our life. My wife is really an amazing lady. Upbeat. Positive. Always willing to help others. And, it gets paid back to her in spades at times.
Currently, my primary care provider is on maternity leave. I needed to see a primary care provider this week for a minor medical issue related to the cancer. Not a big deal, but it did involve pain medicine, and unless people are living under a rock, they know that pain meds are a big issue these days, even for cancer patients.
So, I met a new provider today. She did a full "systems" check. How is my wife? How are the kids holding up? Do I have the support I need? Is there anything else I need that I'm not getting? Those kinds of things. She made me pee in a jar to prove that I'm taking my pain meds and not selling them. Given that I have scripts for pain meds, medical MJ, and a benzodiazepine, I will easily "fail" this test. Which, in this case, means I pass.
One of the topics that came up today was the concept of patient vs. caregiver. With 3 distinct cancer diagnoses between us in the past 3.5 years, we've each gotten to play patient and play caregiver. Being the patient sucks. I won't lie about that. But, to be honest, being the loved one of a person with cancer is even tougher, IMO. It's really a tough place to be. You need to take care of yourself. Get to the gym. Eat well. Sleep enough. Etc. But, at the same time, your real priorities are with the person who is sick. And, you can't control it. You can't change it. You can't fix it for the patient.
You can be there. You can support them. You can love them. But, you can only do so much, and after that, you feel powerless. There are forces in charge that you can't control, you have a problem you never wanted, and in a worst case scenario, you are looking at losing your lifelong partner. I don't know how my wife does what she does. Yet, she never complains. She puts my needs first. She is a mom to our kids. A wife. Maid. Etc. It's a role she does pretty well.
I'm pretty much a mess as the patient. I'm not sure how I'd do as the caregiver in this particular scenario. I'm just glad that I married so well.
So, we might get a brief weekend as a family in the big city courtesy of my wife's co-workers and the owners of her company.
My biggest goal right now is to live long enough to pay back all the kindness that we've received in the past few years.
And, maybe find some time to catch a few more trout along the way.