In our pre-op discussion with one of the doctors at Methodist I learned two things about the surgery that kind of freak me out. First, he said that depending on the exact location of the tumor, Dr. Reardon might decide to do an "auto-transplant" which gives him greater access to my heart. This consists of literally removing my heart from my chest and repairing it outside my body, then putting it back in. I have heard about this before and how it is used with tumor resection but always assumed that because of the location of the tumor it wouldn't be needed in my case. Dr. Reardon never mentioned it, so it's possible that it's not an option, but the doctor we met with today said that once he is able to see it, Dr. Reardon would make that decision an if he felt he could do a better job using that method, he would do it. It's really weird to think about that. I don't think it will be needed, but I could be wrong. I think this doctor just wanted to be sure to cover everything that could possibly happen. The other thing that really freaks me out is the possibility of "recall". I've never heard of this, and am hoping that it doesn't happen to me, but the doctor said that many (didn't really go into what "many" meant, but we are assuming it's a low percentage) cardiac patients actually wake up during the procedure to the point where they can hear the surgeon talking and feel what he is doing (not pain, but sensation) and will actually remember this when you wake up. He said that you basically become conscious but can't move, communicate or feel pain. He said that if it happens, not to worry, I wouldn't feel pain, but wanted me to be prepared for it. That's pretty scary - I really hope that doesn't happen and like the auto-transplant, think the likelihood is low.
Really, the two things that we will be waiting to hear is how much of the tumor they are able to remove, and how much of it contains "living" cancer cells. We've never had this conversation with Dr. Reardon, but we had it with the surgeon in Boston, and are under the impression that there is a high-likelihood that he will be able to remove 100% of the tumor because of it's location and the fact it's only attached to one wall of the atrium. We will know right away how much of the tumor he is able to remove. They will test the tumor to see how much of it consists of living cancer cells, and according to Dr. Ravi, if the tumor comes out 100% dead, it's a VERY good sign for my long term prognosis. He cautioned us that the chances of this are low, but given that the tumor hasn't changed size in a long time, it's a possibility. We won't know the results of that test for about a week (maybe longer because of the holiday), so we will be anxiously awaiting those results.
I am pretty excited about getting this done and after a week or so, the worst should be behind me. The doctor said they'd give my family updates every two hours once the surgery starts (he said that it should take all day, but we are guessing that it will be done by 1 or 2 pm) and Shana will updating the blog. Thanks for checking, thanks for all the prayers, thanks for all the emails/texts/calls and I look forward to updating again once I am able to lift a laptop.