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Friday, February 19, 2016

Cancer Sucks - Part 2

In my previous post with this title, I was worried about Pat Killingsworth, who tragically passed away last week.  I feel like I have lost a real friend, though we have never met.  However, I also had another reason to worry that is closer to home.  My sister-in-law, Kathy, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer!  By the way, she doesn't smoke and she is only 56 years old.  Our whole family is stunned.

Kathy had no symptoms, but she recently noticed an enlarged lymph node on her neck.  A biopsy then showed it to be adenocarcinoma.  A PET scan then showed several other cancerous lymph nodes near her lungs and a possible lesion in her lungs, so it was diagnosed as a Stage 4 lung cancer!  Furthermore, a follow-up MRI showed that it has metastasized to her brain.  Yikes!

Since I have been through this drill for myself, I have been helping her with online research and trying to help find her the best care possible.  Gretchen and I have been supporting her by attending her appointments.  Fortunately, with the help of other close friends, we have been able to direct her to one of the best lung cancer oncologists in the country,  Dr. Jennifer Temel, the Clinical Director of Thoracic Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.  She is now Kathy's oncologist.  MGH, along with the Farber, is one of the best cancer treatment centers in the world.  I think finding Dr. Temel at MGH is similar to my finding Dr. Richardson at the Farber.  She couldn't have found anybody better.  Starting next week, she will begin whole-brain radiation therapy for about 3 weeks, to be followed by chemotherapy.  Kathy is a real trouper, and she has been handling this extremely well with strength and optimism, which will help her greatly as she and her family and friends face the long road ahead.  Cancer sucks!

Another friend of ours, a cancer survivor, has recently been experiencing very low white blood cell counts.  She just had a bone marrow biopsy to determine if she has myelodisplastic syndrome (MDS).  If so, it could have been caused by her previous radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  We are awaiting these biopsy results, which should be available in another week.  Cancer sucks!

My daughter-in-law, Pam, phoned me two nights ago about a friend of her close friend in Holland who was just diagnosed with lung cancer.  He wants to come to the U.S. for treatment, and she wanted my inputs.  I am waiting to hear from him with more details, but I might be able to help set up appointments for him either at MGH or Dana Farber.  Cancer sucks!

On a much less dramatic note, I had an appointment with my dermatologist yesterday, and quite a few anomalies showed up.  She used liquid nitrogen spray to treat fifteen (!) pre-cancerous actinic keratoses on my scalp, face, and torso.  She also took two biopsies of sites on my face which she suspects are either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.  I will get the results in a week or so, but I'm pretty sure I'm headed for more surgery.  All of this has occurred since my last visit 6 months ago, after which I had surgery to remove a squamous cell carcinoma from my forehead.  That's a lot of shit to happen in only 6 months!  After the biopsies, she suggested I make an appointment to come back in a year.  (!!!)  What the f**k!  I told her she had to be kidding me.  She looked shocked and asked if I wanted to come back sooner.  "Damn right I do", I responded, so she then scheduled an appointment for me to come back in 4 months.  I won't keep that appointment, however, since I plan to have a new dermatologist by then!  This is another example of how you have to take charge of your own health care.  Cancer sucks!

Tomorrow, I am headed to Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. for a week of golfing with my son, Jeff, my friend, Bobby, and about a dozen other old farts like me, all of whom are from the Pittsburgh area.  (Maybe I should leave my Patriots cap at home.)  After all the stuff going on around here, I think I need a break, although thoughts of Kathy won't be far from my mind.  I'll just hit the shit out of that little round ball and not care much about where it goes.

Oh yeah, and I think I will take some sunscreen along.

By the way, cancer sucks!

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