Thursday, December 10, 2009

Surgery...it's really going to happen!

Well, the last few days have probably been the most difficult I've had in a long time. On Tuesday, the tumor review board at Methodist Hospital in Houston (where I will have the surgery) and a group of doctors from MD Anderson (Dr. Ravi's group) both met independently to determine whether or not surgery was reasonable. I'm not generally a pessimist, but I couldn't shake the feeling that this was going to be a repeat of what happened at Dana Farber in July, when their group of doctors determined that I was not a candidate for surgery.

I've been given the best Christmas gift ever as I will be on the operating table on Tuesday, December 22nd (time TBD). This surgery is my only chance at being cured and I am so happy, excited and grateful that I will be given this opportunity. I feel like everything I have gone through the last fourteen months (34 Taxol treatments, 6 AIM treatments that required 5 day hospital stays each, 20 days of radiation to my spine and ribs and a VERY painful surgery to drain fluid from the space around my heart) has been done with this as the ultimate goal. Given what I have, I feel very lucky to be in the position that I am in and I have got to be the only guy in the world that's actually looking forward to open-heart surgery.

My oncologist, Dr. Ravi, has been very stern the last few times we talked about the risks involved with this surgery. We talked at length about these risks and I accept them, and firmly believe that this is the right decision, no matter what the result. The primary risk is that there are cancer spots in my body that are too small to be detected by scans - this is something that I have been told is likely many times over the last 14 months. If there are, once I have the surgery, I am essentially defenseless against them. Given how aggressive this cancer normally is (though I don't think mine has been that aggressive) I can understand why they are worried about that. I believe I can go back on chemo (which I am going to do to stay aggressive) 5-6 weeks after surgery. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to seeing what happens when I am off chemo for 10 weeks as I will be for this surgery. This is something I have to do sooner or later.

The other risk is the surgery itself. I am sure there are many things that can go wrong with this surgery. Dr. Reardon gave us some examples, but I think my overall health, age and strength all give me advantages going into this surgery. On top of that, Dr. Reardon is one of the most (if not the most) experienced surgeon out there when it comes to tumor resection. When Dana Farber was considering surgery they consulted with him and if you Google the surgery his name comes up very frequently. Patients come to see him from all over the world, so I feel very lucky to have him as my surgeon. When you talk to him his confidence is very reassuring.

Here is what I know about the surgery. The surgery will be on 12/22 and I will be in the hospital from 8-10 days. There will actually be two parts to the surgery (not sure which order they will be done in). Dr. Reardon will remove my sternum (part of it anyway) which is the bone that connects your ribs and protects the organs in the center of your chest. This is because the cancer is there and we opted not to treat it with radiation because of the proximity to my heart. The major part of the surgery will be the tumor resection. The tumor is in my right atrium and is located on the outside wall. Dr. Reardon will remove the tumor and some of the atrial wall (I belive the tumor is about 3.5 CM right now) and then rebuild my right atrium using synthetic cardiac patches (I know they have a name but I can't remember them).

I know there are hundreds of people who have prayed for this and I thank you so much for all your support. I feel like a broken record when I say THANK YOU so much for all of your support but it means so much to Shana and I, and my family and you've all helped me get this far. I couldn't have done it alone. I will be sure to keep the blog updated as I learn more over the next 10 days or so, and I will ask Shana to update the blog the day I have surgery. Spending Christmas in the hospital will be interesting, but this is the best gift I could ask for (and hopefully it will be nice and quiet!).

22 comments:

Andy Wiechmann said...

The power of Mattydale is behind you my friend!! Congratulations - I know this is what you've wanted all along! You can beat this!

- The Mayor

Chris Shields said...

This is great news Will! I will continue to pray for you. I too feel that you are strong enough to go through this surgery with positive results in the end.

Anonymous said...

Will,

Wow- hard to believe that surgery is finally going to happen! This is what you have wanted and Im so glad you are getting the best Christmas gift ever! Your AMAZING! I love you and will always be here for you!
Love-
Steph

Anonymous said...

Oh Will we are so excited to hear the news about your surgery. The surgery that you have been waiting so long for. You have come such a long way and we are so proud of you. Your positive attitude and willingness to beat this is truly amazing. Please know that we are always here for you and Shana and that you are always on our minds!!! You may not hear from us often but trust me when I say we think about you each and everyday. I am so proud to call you my nephew. We will miss you on Christmas Eve but this is the best present for all of us. You can beat this! No make that you will beat this.
All our love and prayers are coming your way!!!!!
Aunt Sharon, Uncle Steve, Nick and Colby

Rob & Ethel Schmitt said...

Will:

We are so pleased to hear that your surgery has been approved for 12/22/09. Ethel and I find you just amazing.Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all the family as you take the next step to beating this ordeal you have been through. It will be a very Merry Christmas this year knowing that the surgery has been successful. Keep up your faith and strong "WILL" Power as you continue down the road to full recovery.

Rob and Ethel Schmitt

Anonymous said...

Hi..Will...I just read your latest entry to the blog and I see that you are finally having the surgery that you have been waiting for. I know in my heart that everything will go great! I am a firm believer in fate and prayer. Happy holidays to you and your family.
Toni Grundig

Anonymous said...

Will
The news of the surgery is great keep up the strenght and the will power and you will get thru it like
everything else.the whole family is
behind you all the way.we all love
you very much and know you can do this.Let Shana know if she needs
anything to let us know.Again we
all love you.
Larry Teresa Breanne and Austin

Anonymous said...

Will,
We are with you in prayer and have a big heart around the 22nd. Such good news and to get the present that you were hoping for.
Best of wishes and prayers,
Helen and Bob Schmitt

Anonymous said...

Will,
What a great gift this is..I am so happy for you that you are finally going to have this surgery. You are in our prayers and will beat this. Merry Christmas. Love, Marianne & Scott and family

Liz said...

Will,

So happy you are finally getting what you've wanted since the beginning of this. I pray so hard everyday that everything is going to work out for us after this surgery. What a great Christmas gift!! I couldn't have asked for a better gift and there is nothing I want more than for you to be ALL better. I pray for it everyday!! I love you so much and I am constantly thinking of you, I have lots of positive thoughts and I know in my heart that you are going to be fine, there is just no other option for me. I am always right by your side, whatever you need you just say the word. You are SUPERMAN and I know you hear this all the time but you are the strongest person I think I will ever know. I don't know what I would do without my big brother!! Love you go WILL !


Love your SIS!

kel said...

Congrats on the surgery date will!!I will pray for you and a fast recovery!Stay strong and positive!I wish you the best

kelly

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Will! Lots of positive power coming your way...

Matt Bannister

Anonymous said...

Hey Will,
You probably do not remember me from the Utica office of the Heart Association, but I know you form helping in the data room. I have been following your blog since Kristine gave it to me and let me say you are a inspiration to all. My brother too has been to MD Anderson for treatment of leukemia and I can say you are truely in the best place you can be. Best of luck and you will still be in my prayers.

Audrey

Anonymous said...

Hello Will,

Stay strong and with the help of family and friends you will be successful in your fight against cancer. I really do pray for you each night and hope that my prayers and the prayers of hundreds of others help you in your cause. Christmas is the time for giving and you have given so much to so many. It's your time to receive. Good luck!

Mr. Leskoske

Anonymous said...

Will,

I've been sending up prayers each and every day for you and Shana since you were first diagnosed.

With surgery on the horizon, I guess I'd better crank the old prayer machine into high gear!

Keeping you tucked in my heart, and praying for your comfort and courage.

Remember that Florida is a great place to recover from anything.
So, when you're feeling stronger,...ya'll come on down!

-Margaret Kirk

Anonymous said...

WILLPOWER!!!!!

Love You Will!
Love-
Steph

Andrea said...

Hey Will! We are so glad you are finally getting the surgery you have been wanting all along! Everything is going to go great! We continue to think about you and pray for you every day!

Andrea and Dominic

Anonymous said...

Will, Shana, and Family,

Again what a wonderful gift for Christmas! The journey's been long but it will be worth it! Our loving thoughts and prayers are with you at Mass on Sunday!
It was also great to see you last night, you look wonderful! Aunt Sue, Uncle Dick, and then Jimmy Goode called to say please tell Will we are thinking of him and we will be with you on Tuesday in Spirit! "WILLPOWER"

Love All your Cousins :)

exmearden said...

Good luck, Will. I will be thinking of you. I, too, have a right atrium angiosarcoma (shrunk from 7cm to 4.7cm in the last three months with chemo). Hopefully I'll have a chance like you have with surgery.

What a Christmas gift!

Anonymous said...

Will,

Sorry about the Bills game yesterday. Look at it this way...you didnt have to go to see it in person.

All kidding aside....Best of luck tomorrow. You remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Chip

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