Not What I Wanted To Hear
“You are looking despair in the face. You are meeting people who thought they were going home and are being sent back into combat — one more time.” —Erma Bomback
Yesterday’s meeting with Dr. Middlesworth was not a happy one. He reviewed Ana’s latest CT Scan with us and explained that he will need to do extensive surgery to remove all of the tumors in Ana’s lungs, particularly the largest tumor which is about 1.6 cm at its widest point, because it’s deep within her right lung.
He mentioned two procedures. One is a clam shell procedure which would be one incision across her entire chest (right at the breast bone) that enables him to get to both lungs. My immediate response to that was, “That’s not happening…” I understand it’s important to remove the tumors, but another scar that runs from left to right across my child’s body is not something I can bear to think about. It’s not just the scar – it’s the size and scope of the surgery itself – that absolutely terrify me. Even the name of it…clam shell…
The other procedure is called a thoracotomy. This involves an incision that starts from beneath her shoulder blade and extends around her body to the top of her rib cage (roughly – I’m not able to look at too many photos for clarification without completely breaking down). She’ll need this procedure performed…twice – once for each lung. Dr. Middlesworth says he feels this is the best approach because it enables her to have full lung function on one side while the “damaged” lung heals after surgery. This is a very painful procedure and recovery will be difficult. Also, there’s no guarantee it won’t have to happen again because obviously there’s no way to be sure every single tumor cell has been removed.
And isn’t that the ultimate Fuck You from cancer? The ruthless bastard.
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. today with my heart feeling as heavy as lead. Why sleep? Why even try? I flung questions at Dr. Middlesworth about the necessity of the procedures and they keep circling around in my head with the same answers – the ones I don’t want to face. Can we wait? These scars will be devastating. She’s already scarred. Isn’t there a better way? There must be a better way.
He was calm and polite and extremely patient. He said if it was his daughter (he has a 14-year-old daughter), he would be thinking of the future and not the immediacy of the scars or the pain from surgery. He’d want to give his daughter another 70 years – and felt that this could do it for Ana – although obviously there are no guarantees. The recurrence of IMT is so rare – there are not hundreds of cases to review and compare it to – there aren’t even ten. The only way they know how to treat this is with surgery. Letting the tumors continue to grow (and we know they will grow – because they have grown, they are growing) is not a viable option.
The only slightly good news is the surgery can wait until the end of June – which means that Ana can finish out the school year and we can go on our Make A Wish trip. After that, it’s going to be a very rough summer.
What is it like to sit there and stare at the very worst possible path out of this mess, and not even know if it will be over after going through hell? What is it like to prove all the doctors wrong – in the worst possible way – and wonder if they’ll continue to be wrong again and again and again? It’s a nightmare.
Why can’t it be me? I would take this for Ana in a heartbeat. But that’s not how it works – how cancer works. It’s not fucking fair.