An answer or two

Woke up bright and early on Wednesday not exactly pumped about the Wilt Chamberlain procedure, but ready to do the last final thing that would give us a diagnosis that we could really hang our hats on. We had a little cold snap here in Nashville- it snowed on Tuesday morning- and Wednesday morning was bright and sunny and about forty degrees. Lately my world has started and (mostly) stopped with doctors' appointments, but I can't expect everyone's to, so I excused Caitlyn from pre-op duties; they are boring, so I told her just to be there when I woke up from the 1 o'clock surgery. She drove to work and I walked the three miles down to the hospital and got there at about 10:15am. For better or worse, most of the admitting staff and nurses recognized me.

Caitlyn had had a long talk with Dr. Gibson the night before, grilling him about why it was necessary to go in yet again when we thought the previous procedure was supposed to clear everything up. Basically, they try and do as little as possible to get the information they need. They'll start with the minimally invasive bronch- not enough. Next up, mediastinoscopy- still not enough. And down the line. Hopefully this one would be the last stop on the road to being turned inside-out like a Bodyworlds cadaver.

Dr. Gibson texted Caitlyn in the morning, informing her that he'd be talking to me about doing a bone marrow biopsy in addition to the planned procedure. Of course I was hesitant to have another procedure tacked on, but Dr. Gibson made this simple and convincing point: If it is Lymphoma (which we think it is) we are going to have to do this eventually. After my cursory research confirmed that a bone marrow biopsy involves jamming a very sturdy needle through bone to get a sample of the marrow- and is usually done only with local anesthesia- my pain-avoiding instincts took over, and I told 'em to let it rip.

So I was in the anesthesia lounge, 2-for-1 coupon in hand, when a nurse casually asked about putting in a PortaCath. She told me that Dr. Peacock had ordered it, and my response was "I haven't even fucking met Dr. Peacock- why is she ordering anything done to me?" Turns out the PortaCath is something that, just like the bone marrow biopsy, would have to be done if lymphoma was the diagnosis, which the docs were banking on (The PortaCath is basically a valve they plant in your chest so they can give chemo treatment without punishing your veins with the toxic treatment- very thoughtful. If your chest is a basketball, and the PortaCath is the needle valve.).

So my 2-for-1 was now 3-for-1, and they wheeled me off to the OR. I breathed "oxygen," and then it was three hours later and Caitlyn was there. I didn't expect them to rush out with a diagnosis- I had an appointment with Dr. Peacock on Friday, and I expected to learn everything there- what I had, what stage it was in, and what we were going to do about it.

The Gibbonses fed me on Wednesday night, and we did not hesitate to tear into the generous vinous care package sent by Scott Uyeda via Ridge Vineyards (well, not until Thursday- something about general anesthetic and alcohol and depressed breathing and blah blah blah).

On Thursday evening Dr. Gibson called to tell me that the diagnosis was Hodgkin's lymphoma- not good news, but not unexpected bad news. And there was some good news attached- the lymphoma was not present in the bone marrow sample, so chances are the disease is not too advanced.

This morning I met with Dr. Peacock, who needs one more- just one more- scan to really say what stage this disease is in, but she is leaning Stage 2. My chest is bare and bruised and carved up a bit, but the surgeries are over for now, and I believe we are turning from figuring it out stage to figuring out what to do.