We just got back from Boston (2AM Wednesday morning...) as our appointments/meeting with the doctors all went a lot longer than we thought, but it was a GREAT day as once again the news from my latest scans and tests was very positive. I had a cardiac MRI (this one only took 90 minutes...I felt blessed) and a full body PET/CT scan and both brought good news. My primary tumor continues to shrink as it's roughly 25% of the size that it was in October and it's shrunk again since January. The PET/CT scan shows no new lesions or tumors in my organs or bones and the other metastasis' remain the same.
Now for the big news that almost ensures my blood pressure will be high for the next 3-4 weeks. I will be getting two more doses of chemotherapy (5/1 and 5/8) and then it's time for the surgery I have been anxiously awaiting (and dreading) since October 13th. I don't have an exact date yet (we expect that by Friday) but it will be very close to Memorial day. I will have chemo on May 8th and must wait 10-14 days after that treatment for surgery so it will fall in that window. I will use my next blog post to update you on why Dr. Butrynksi is recommending we stop chemo (temporarily) for surgery, as this obviously comes with some risk. I have to admit that I was surprised as I completely expected to be coming home for another cycle (12 treatments) of chemo.
We actually spent a lot of time with the surgeon today (Dr. Shakar). Just talking to him about the surgery eases some of the anxiety as he is very knowledgeable and confident. Lucky me, I actually get two surgeries at the same time. The main surgery involves resecting the tumor from my heart and rebuilding my right atrium. They will also remove any scar tissue that exists as a result of the shrinking tumor. To rebuild the atrium they will either take a piece of my pericardium (the sac around my heart) or use a piece of either a pig or cow heart (cool!). This depends on how much of my atrium they have to remove, and they won't know that for sure until they get in there.
The second thing they are doing is addressing the cancer that's attacking (or past tense attacked...hopefully!) my sternum. I was surprised to learn today that they are going to actually remove my entire manubrium, which is the large bone at the top of the sternum that anchors the collar bones and top two ribs. They will have to stabilize my collar bones with a plate and won't need to re-attach those two ribs to anything. I was told this will leave a big depression (dip) in my upper chest as the plate will only be used to stabilize the collar bones and won't cover the entire area.
The surgery itself will take from 4-6 hours and I will be put on the "Heart and Lung Machine" while they work on my heart. We were told that I would be in the Intensive Care Unit for 1.5 days after surgery and then at the hospital for 6 days after so it looks like I could be in the hospital for up to 8 days. There is a chance I will need a pacemaker immediately, and if that's the case it will be done a few days after surgery, and may extend my stay by a day or two. I was told that I would be "out of commission" for 6-8 weeks which doesn't seem bad considering the type of surgery. I am positive I will be on the low end of that and plan on being back on my feet much sooner...
So, there's that...the day I have been waiting for since getting diagnosed is less than a month away. As I learn more about the surgery and what I should expect, I will keep updating (if people keep reading!). Thanks Shana, Mom, Dad, Matt, Liz, Joan and Michelle for coming to Boston with me...in between all the tests, injections and appointments, we all found some time to have fun. We went to the Yankee/Red Sox game on Sunday night...all of us decked out in our Yankee gear (except Shana with her Sox stuff) and we were actually treated pretty well (maybe the felt bad for us with the sweep and all...). Check back over the weekend!!