At long last, a plan: I’m scheduled for surgery on 9/14 (a week from tomorrow) with Dr. Dietz at UH in Cleveland, with some prep appointments the morning of Friday the 11th. We’re heading up next Thursday and planning to stay a week. After he cuts out as much of the rectum as necessary to be confident the cancer is gone, I’ll have a colostomy bag for about three months, then a procedure to reconnect things, with the idea being that I’ll resume or approach normal bowel function at that point. The chemo plan will be determined post-surgery, once they’re certain how many layers of healthy tissue the tumor penetrated.
We never got a complete second opinion from OSU. They weren’t able to read my final MRI because of interference from some metallic clips put in during my colonoscopy to mark the location of biopsies. So while OSU was helpful in presenting their view of my options in light of the information they had, they wanted to wait another 3-4 weeks for the clips to fall out naturally before conducting a pelvic MRI of their own. Needless to say, I would have gone crazy sitting around another month doing nothing about my cancer.
It would’ve been nice to have a second hospital say, “Yeah, we agree with what UH is doing,” but we ultimately didn’t need that. We’ve been very impressed by UH and Dr. Dietz, a leader in rectal cancer surgery, and we feel really good about putting things in their hands. We gathered as much info as we could from multiple good sources, so despite making our share of rookie mistakes, I wouldn’t change how we approached the process in general.
I will admit, though, that our frustration peaked last week when we had two hospitals looking at the exact same MRI, with one confidently basing a recommendation off of it and the other claiming it was worthless imaging. I totally get that hospitals like to do their own scans, which can create some weird dynamics when files are shared, but such a large discrepancy was hard to grasp. But, UH did the scan (with a radiologist in the room, actually) and felt comfortable with the results despite the clip artifacts. I guess I don’t blame OSU for having reservations about drawing conclusions from imperfect data that they themselves didn’t collect — plus, they didn’t have the benefit of having performed a full exam under anesthesia. Still, weird.
Mostly, though, I’m relieved. Relieved to have a sense of the road ahead, and relieved to be crossing the threshold from diagnosis to treatment. It’s been a lot of very long days and weeks waiting to hear how we’re going to attack this thing. Am I nervous for surgery? Yeah, absolutely. I’m nervous for life with a bag, I’m nervous about whether it really will be temporary, and I’m nervous about chemo. I’m nervous about issues with fertility (we’d love for Addie to have a sister) and sexual function in general.
And as the proud owner of an anxious, overthinking mind, I’m also nervous about a bunch of totally irrational stuff like waking up mid-surgery to see an alien bursting from my guts and attacking all the doctors. Ok, I just added the alien part now — which means it’s time to put down the pen and get some sleep.