Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Doctor is My Hero

Monday, April 27: Testing, testing...

My oncologist is an exceptional doctor and human being, and I knew he would help me find out whether I had had an episode of syncope or a seizure the previous Friday. On Sunday, I was so weak I couldn't even walk. Just a trip to the bathroom left me waiting at least 10 min for my heart to recover. I decided I would call him Monday morning.

It turns out I didn't have to---my doctor woke me up Monday morning. The fact that he does that is just one of the reasons why this guy is my hero. He wanted to know what had happened, why I wasn't in the hospital, and why the hospital hadn't called him. I told him what had transpired in ER, but that I still felt I needed emergency care.

"We have to find out why you lost consciousness," he told me. "I'm ordering tests today. " Whew! What a relief to get the ball rolling. Too bad ER didn't bother on Friday! Live and learn...I would've been better off skipping 911 and having someone drive me into the cancer center. But I just couldn't take that risk, or put my family through that. No perfect choices, are there?

An hour or so later, my daughter was driving me into town for an MRI of the head (to rule out or include metastasis to the brain; the ER CT scan would not be able to rule that out) and a CT scan of the chest and abdomen (to see what was up in there).
I had to use a wheelchair when I got there; I was too weak to walk. I checked in and drank the lovely "stuff" (hey, this one tasted much better, like lemonade, and really hit the spot since I was breathless and thirsty). Then I had to wait at least one hour for the "stuff" to be in me. We could've died from boredom.

First I got called back for the MRI. While I was waiting for it, I got called for my IV for my CT scan. Then I can't remember which came next; the CT or the MRI. My daughter was running from waiting area to waiting area, hauling all the gear. Finally we were done and headed for home.

We were less than 5 miles away when my cell phone rang. It was the Imaging Center, telling me not to leave, to go see my doctor right away. I told them we would head back. My daughter got us turned around. My cell phone rang again. This time it was the doctor's office, telling me to come back right away. I told them we'd be there in 10 minutes. Guess I flunked the test, huh?

We got back to the medical center, back into a handicapped parking space, and my daughter got me back into the wheelchair. It was exhausting. She got me upstairs and the nurse took me back as soon as my face appeared in the door.

"Do you want to hear the news with me, or would you rather I filter it to you later?" I asked my daughter. The doctor came in; she elected to stay.

So the good news was: I passed the MRI; there are no signs of metastasis to the brain (Hallelujah, 'cause that is a biggie!).

The bad news? Pericardial effusion was compressing my heart and causing cardiac tamponade. Okay, so it's a real good thing I didn't try to push myself last Saturday on Mt. Williamson, huh? I asked him what caused the pericardial effusion. He said it could be metastasis to the pericardium. Hey, wait a second---that wasn't in the brochure! Nobody ever said the cancer could metastasize there!

"My liver really hurts, too," I told the doc, "Especially when I walk." "The CT shows a couple new lesions in the liver," he told me. "But we have to take care of this cardiac issue right away."

He had already arranged for me to see my cardiologist first thing in the morning to have an echocardiogram confirm the pericardial effusion. Once the confirmation was made, I would be scheduled for surgery to have a "window" made in the pericardium to drain the fluid off. He promised I'd feel a whole lot better after that! And then we would get started again on the chemotherapies to start knocking the spots out of my liver.

So we finally headed home after a full day of testing, knowing a whole lot more about what was going on and with a game plan in place.

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