Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oncologists (Cancer Story, Part 5)

My wonderful surgeon, Dr. P, had asked me which oncologist I wanted to work with. I gave him the name of one at a hospital about 30 miles away. This particular oncologist had treated my father-in-law when he was in that hospital. Unfortunately my father-in-law's case was pretty advanced by the time he sought medical treatment and he passed away 6 weeks after being diagnosed. Anyway, I had heard wonderful things about this particular oncologist, so I was hoping we would hit it off.

Apparently, this guy had an extremely heavy case load at the time, so he referred me to his partner, Dr. V. My mom went with me to the appointment. As a retired RN she would undoubtedly think of questions that escaped my feeble brain, and she was another set of ears for all the information we would be given.

Oncologtist #1, Dr. V finally came into the exam room. She appeared to be young, beautiful, possibly from India, with a slight accent. She seemed knowledgeable in the field of oncology. HOWEVER, her bedside manner, for lack of a better term, needed some serious work. There had been a question of whether or not I would need chemo because of the tumor being staged at level 2 and not having gotten into the muscle or lymph nodes. Naturally, I was hoping that chemo was not going to be necessary, but according to Dr. V, it was something I should have. She told me so matter-of-factly, that it irritated me. She probably tells 10-12 people a day that they need to have chemotherapy, BUT hopefully I will only hear something like this ONE time in my life, so don't make it sound like it's not a big deal, BECAUSE IT IS A BIG DEAL. She also sounded like she was reading from a textbook when she told me the kind of chemo I would need, 5FU, and made it all sound like it was nothing to deal with. Yeah, I wonder how many times SHE went through chemo.

We left there with an appointment scheduled for the following week, and a LOT to think about. A few days later I cancelled the appointment. I was not comfortable with her at all, and I didn't feel like she would be treating me as an individual.

Oncologist #2 was someone local that I had heard some good things about. Again, my mom went with me and things were going fairly well during the actual appointment, until this man said, "You are aware that I only do radiation, right?"

"Uh...I guess we are now."

Then he asked us to wait a minute and left to call a colleague about my case. He came back and mentioned another oncologist who did chemo. This was another man who came to our area one day a week. I told this Dr. S that I would like to see the chemo guy, Dr. R.

Oncologist #3, Dr. R seemed kind. He was very thorough in what all he told me and how my cancer was usually treated. He discussed 4 different options with me. Two of them were clinical trials that involved wearing a bag of the chemo mixture and having it go in through a port, 24 hours a day, 48 hours at a time. I put my hand up at that and told him that I already had ONE bag hanging from me and that was enough. He mentioned 5FU, like Dr. V had. Because my veins are so terrible, he said I would probably need to have a port put in. Oh wow, how much more fun can we have??

Then my mom asked about chemo in a pill form. That was indeed an option. He gave me all kinds of facts and figures about the type of chemo and then said that basically that the xeloda (pill chemo) would give me the same results as 5FU (IV chemo). I listened to everything and then said, "This is pretty much a no-brainer, I'll take the pills."

I had another appointment a week later and started the pills. I took them twice a day, every day for two weeks, then had a week off. Each dose consisted of 6 pills. I was SO fortunate! There were a lot of possible side effects, but I felt like I could handle them. I did NOT get mouth sores, thank goodness. I did NOT get nauseous. However, I did get tired a lot. My skin became very VERY dry. My hands and feet became sore. My hair thinned out a fair amount. But everything was tolerable.

Every three weeks I had an appointment with Dr. R and got my next set of pills. When I would go in there, I would have to go back to the chemo room to get them and I would see other patients, hooked up to IVs, and thank the Lord above that I was not there with them. Had it been my only choice, I would have done it, but I was fortunate that there was another option for me.

I had a total of six rounds of chemo, and when I took my last pills (January 29, 2006), we celebrated by going to a nice, local restaurant.
Whew! I was now ready to move on and get ready for the colostomy take-down.