We’ve met with Dr. Eng, met with a geneticist, given blood samples and are now waiting for the CT scans and X-Rays. We’re really early – they aren’t scheduled until nearly 7PM but hey, what else to do? Maggie’s making a necklace out of beads* and Chris, well, he’s typing something on his laptop.
* Lauren Davis kindly gave Maggie a hospital care package of a beading kit to help her pass the hours while she waits around.
Dr. Eng was very nice and very direct – both good qualities in a doctor. And she gave us a lot of information and some of what she had to say stung the ears and hurt the feelers. She said that Maggie has probably had this disease for 3 – 5 years now and that it’s likely caused by a relatively rare hereditary genetic condition called Lynch syndrome. They aren’t sure which is why they brought in the geneticist. They plan on attempting to verify that diagnosis but, for Maggie, there’s no real benefit other than gaining knowledge. Confirmation could, however, save the lives of other people in the Maggie’s same genetic line.
She also told us was that it’s pretty highly unlikely that Maggie will be eligible for a liver resection due to two things. One, the number and size of the tumors in her liver surpass the standard cut-off. Two, the length of time Maggie has been on chemo has likely caused significant damage to her liver which would substantially increase risk from any type of liver operation. Apparently the tumor killing effects of the chemotherapy also heavily scar the liver. Another surgical option that we’d hoped for is called liver ablation. However, again due to the size of the tumors in her liver, she’s definitely not eligible for that. This is not really very good news but it’s also not really a big surprise. We’ve been told all along that due to the huge size and number of Maggie’s tumors our treatment options were minimal. But, as you might imagine, we were really hoping for something better. She did hedge her statements however because she wants to see the new CT scans we’ll be getting in a few hours. Those scans, taken with thinner slices*, will give her a much clearer picture. All of this just continues to reinforce the need for an early diagnosis of colon cancer. Don’t wait. Get checked now.
* For a description of what the term “slice” means in this context read the explanation of about Maggie’s previous scans.
Chris, of course, asked what this means for Maggie’s future. She said that, unless she’s surprised at what she sees in the scans, Maggie will have to depend on systemic chemo-therapy treatments and the best she can hope for is for the treatments to keep the tumors in check until a better treatment becomes available. She did stress that Maggie’s great health, youth, and tolerance of the chemo treatments thus far go a long way toward helping her. She also reminded us that the four of the best tumor-fighting drugs they use today just became available in the last five years (since 2002). We hope there are some real winners in the pipeline.
We have another appointment with Dr. Eng to hear her evaluation of the CT scans and X-Rays on Thursday late afternoon.
Giving blood samples gave us quite a fright. When we walked into the den of bleeding we were met by the pib (people in black) phlebotomist twins. With matching black hair, black smeared eye shadow and black scrubs, the two looked as though they had just stepped out of a goth club in search of victims. But standing there draped in the requisite phlebotomist’s robes they looked a little lost if not even a little scared of us. Maggie fearlessly sat down along with the rest of the small crew of six donors that was called in simultaneously and the Pib #1 started examining her arm for good target veins. This pib was clearly uncomfortable and exuded timidity which didn’t boost our confidence much. Chris (and Maggie, so he learned) was certain that Maggie was in for a bruising punishment from the end of that needle held in that little, pale, shaking hand. After clumsily wrapping the little rubber tourniquet around Maggie’s arm a couple of times she poked and poked at Maggie’s arm with her finger looking for the hidden vein of gold. Meanwhile, Chris noticed that ALL of the other folks that had come in with us had already completed their blood-letting and were gone. They had been serviced by the other two clearly more experienced technicians. We, however, were still there all alone with those whom we feared. Finally the pib #1’s lack of confidence prevailed and she called in pib #2. Pib #2 explained that pib #1 had just had some sort of problem and that she was still a little shaken up. That was a real confidence builder. Pib #2 also explained that they were both students on their first day in the lab. Hooray!, thought Chris. A newbie! Chris jumped over to pinch Maggie’s knee, something he does as a distraction when Maggie’s gets poked. But before we knew it Pib #2 had done the hokey pokey and blood was flowing! Pib #2 performed a perfect, painless prick! Whew. Maggie even commented that her stab was the best she’d had since this Cancer Dance had started. Man, that was a relief.