On Thursday afternoon, Adam and I caught the seabus from our respective offices and headed back to the North Shore. This time, we were on our way to meet an oncologist. Once they know you’ve got cancer, they really try to move things forward quickly, and one of those things is getting you in the hands of the doctor who best knows what they’re talking about.
The doctor’s reputation preceded him; I had already heard from an ultrasound technician, a doctor who looked at my ultrasound at Lion’s Gate Hospital, and my own family doctor, about Dr. Sasha, his shoes, and his difficult-to-pronounce last name. I made it a personal challenge to learn how to pronounce his last name, and I hoped very much to capture a photo of his shoes. I asked him outright if I could — he was very obliging.
We arrived at our appointed time to meet with the Doctor and proceeded to wait. I took a picture of the ceiling in the waiting room. And we waited a bit more. It was maybe a half hour until the appointment started, but I can’t say that I was particularly upset about it. I was just coasting, in a holding pattern, thinking about nothing and everything and wondering why my phone battery couldn’t hold its charge properly anymore.
Once we were in his office, I impressed him with my ability to accurately pronounce his last name, we chatted about my family doctor (she is known for caring about her patients… this doesn’t surprise me) and moved on fairly quickly to the topic at hand… namely, what were we going to do about my cancer.
He brought up my pathology report on his extremely huge iMac, and I took a photo of it. He told us that, because the needle biopsy pathology report said this:
Lymph node, right supraclavicular – needle core biopsies – Highly suspicious for nodular sclerosing Hodgkin’s disease (Hodgkin’s lymphoma)
he would like to have the surgeon we saw last week perform an excisional biopsy to be absolutely 100% certain that it was Hodgkin’s. If we were dealing with a different kind of lymphoma, he would rather be sure what it was before planning the treatment, since there are different types of chemotherapy for different kinds of lymphomas. I’m obviously not opposed to being absolutely sure about what kind of lymphoma it is, so surgery is in my very near future. But it’s not major surgery, so that’s fine. I’ve handled much more intrusive surgeries before. My fear of such things is minimal.
We discussed the treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ABVD. The letters stand for the drugs used: Adriamycin (doxorubicin/hydroxydaunorubicin,) Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine. (Note: Chemotherapy is not Radiation therapy. I didn’t really get that until I had a friend who underwent chemo. I honestly thought it was radiation, and was surprised to learn that it’s not.)
We talked about the cure rate for Hodgkin’s lymphoma – 80% – 90%, and if it doesn’t work the first time they keep assaulting it until it’s gone. This is where the ‘if you’re going to get cancer, it’s the one to get’ statement comes from.
I told him about my heart surgery back in 2001, so Dr. Sasha wants me to visit briefly with a cardiologist. He doesn’t sound at all concerned about it; he just wants to be thorough. I get the impression that this is just how he is. And so, I will see a cardiologist, who will ask me questions about whether the surgery worked and such. It did; I haven’t had heart problems since the catheter ablation. But since one of the drugs in ABVD can cause complications in the heart, he just wants to make sure.
He also said he will get the hospital to move my CT scan (the delayed one) to this week instead of next week, which is good. And he gave me a requisition to get a couple of more blood tests done that my doctor hadn’t already requested – HIV and Hep. So I’ll get those done sometime this week at my leisure.
Appointments and the Chemotherapy plan
So that’s one more appointment with a specialist (the cardiologist), one appointment for the biopsy (surgery, whee!), bloodwork, a CT scan, and then a follow-up appointment with Dr. Sasha again in about three weeks time when all the rest of the appointments are done. He wants me to see him at the chemo clinic in North Vancouver for that one, although we’ve come to the conclusion that for my actual chemo I will probably go to the Burnaby centre, because it’s closer to home.
He said that I should be starting chemo in about a month’s time. I guess in the meantime I’ll live it up and party like … wait, I have kids. Never mind.
What do I intend to do, however, is throw some sort of head-shaving party, because I have always wanted an excuse to shave my head. I will cut the hair off and donate it to a cancer wig place. I will go hat shopping, because I love hats. And I will have no hair. I’m (weirdly?) looking forward to it.
Otherwise, my chemo plan will emerge in three weeks, and start in about four weeks. Hello, November. You are going to be an interesting month.