Saturday, January 9, 2010

Recovery Going Great!

Well I am two and a half weeks from surgery and things are going pretty well. We had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon yesterday and they were pretty happy with how well things are going. I am so happy we came here for this - Dr. Reardon and his staff have been great to us and I am lucky to have him as my surgeon as there is nobody with more experience than him when it comes to removing cardiac tumors (I think I was his 30th resection).

The pain has abated significantly and the incision is healing (though it’s still a little sore). Right now the worst part is the limited mobility (I threw a toy for my dog yesterday and it felt like someone stabbed me in the chest) and discomfort sleeping but it seems to get better every day. I am hoping to be able to walk a mile (I still get short of breath easily) by sometime next week and maybe two miles by the time I am four weeks out of surgery.

We’ve received the operative report and the pathology report and overall I think the news is pretty good. As we knew all along Dr. Reardon was able to resect 100% of the tumor. While I was on the operating table the checked the margins and the part of my heart where the SVC artery comes in didn’t have clean margins, meaning there were still traces of the tumor in the heart tissue they cut out, so he cut a little more away from my SVC and was able to get clean margins all around. Though the recurrence rate for these tumors is very high, the fact that he was able to get clean margins weighs heavily in my favor. We talked to him about the decision not to remove the sternum and he reiterated to us that it looked healthy and he didn’t think removing it was nesissary. We talked about the possibility of either treating it with radiation or removing it in the future if scans ever show the cancer I have (or had?) in that area to be active. I was concerned because in July, when the Taxol chemo stopped working, my sternum lit-up on the PET scan indicating active cancer cells. The hope is the AIM chemo killed them (we’ll get a better idea of that in February when I get scanned again).

The pathology report didn’t deliver the news I was hoping and since we haven’t met with my oncologist yet I am not sure how to take it. The tumor in my heart was 90% necrotic (dead) when it was removed meaning the chemo killed 90% of the cancer cells in my heart. Though 90% is a high number, 100% would be much better as this would show a complete response to the chemo. In theory, I think you can apply that 90% to all the active cancer cells in my body which means it’s unlikely the chemo alone was enough to kill 100% of the cancer in my sternum, spine and rib (hopefully the radiation took care of the rest in my spine and rib).

So the big question is what’s next? Though the primary tumor is now gone (which really puts my mind at ease) the fact that the cancer was metastatic means I have to stay vigilant and aggressive. The possibility that the cancer exists in other parts of my body but is too small to show on scans will always be there. When all is said and done I will be off of chemo for 10-12 weeks and if nothing happens (meaning I get clean scans) in that time I feel that means very good things. In my talks with Dr. Ravi it’s apparent that we are going to stay aggressive in combating this disease which means I will likely have two more AIM treatments (which will put me at my limit) and then move on to another chemotherapy to keep killing the cancer cells we can’t see.

I go home next week and I can’t wait to get back to Syracuse and the two feet of snow that’s there because something just doesn’t feel right when it’s January and there is no snow on the ground (though I am enjoying Houston a little!). I've had a lot of support from family and friends while I've been here and I am so thankful for everyone who came or helped out at home. Shana and my mother have been here since 12/22 with me and are taking such great care of me and I hope they know how much I love and appreciate them for everything they have done and all they have sacrificed (same goes for my dad, who went back to Syracuse last week). I can’t wait to get back to work and back to normal (at least what I think of as normal) sometime in the next few weeks.

I am working on getting the video and pictures from the surgery - still mulling over whether I will post them here or not, but I am anxious to see them. Thanks for reading my blog and thanks so much for all of the messages and support. I thank god everyday for all my wonderful family and friends and the messages, emails, texts and phone calls really keep me going. I am a pretty lucky guy.


Chris Shields said...

Will, as always it's great to hear things are looking up for you. As for your wishing to walk up to two miles soon, the offer to use my fire department gym is on the table if you want to come out a few times a week and use one of our treadmill's or any of the other equipment to help you with your recovery. The environment will be much quieter for you than a normal gym along with some safety measures in place that none have such as oxygen, an AED, and oh yea, EMT's (lol). Please think about this and either Shana or Liz can come with you!

Anonymous said...

It great to hear the news you will be home soon. We all think about you
everyday and miss you.We will talk to you soon.You are still amazing in
our eyes.We all love you very much.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you are mending well. As for being lucky, I would say you deserve a great recovery as you have fought so hard. You also deserve to be cancer free & I know you will continue to fight that fight. We are the lucky ones, for knowing you & bearing witness to your amazing journey. Have a safe trip home & welcome back to a good life!

Cindy D. said...

Will, you sound great! I'm glad this surgery is done and you're recovering so well. What a milestone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your updates.
We all love you very much, Will!

Anonymous said...

Time to come home!

aunt kate

Anonymous said...


Cant wait for you to come home! We miss you tons! You are so amazing! We love you!
Steph, Darryl, Kyle, Sydney & Alex

Jenessa said...


I'm so happy to hear that you are doing well. We can't wait to see you back in the office. Keep up the good work and know that we are thinking of you here.

John said...

Hi, Will:
Thanks for the update. Glad to hear the surgeon had 100% clean margins which is great news. Hopefully you will get some snow in Texas to make you feel more at home. What are your thoughts on the list of potential Bill's coaches?
Kind regards,
John McKenney

Anonymous said...

Oh Will, I'm so glad to hear how well your surgery went. I'll be honest, I was afraid to look at your blog, as we were going thru a very challenging time as you were.

Ruben's unexpected emergency surgery was 3 days after Thanksgiving, which was probably the roughest one he's had, not to mention the news that week that just about knocked us off our feet. The mysterious growths that showed up that week are now gone & he's still a medical mystery but healing rather well this month.

I finally had the courage to read your blog today & I am so happy for you that I have to hold back tears while I work. I know exactly what your family is going thru. I will continue to pray for you. Stay strong.

With kindest regards, Sandra Mendoza-Avila

Anonymous said...

Will, its beyond wonderful to hear that your recovery is going well and your attitude continues to be an inspiration. We're so looking forward to you coming home and back to work, but in the meantime, focus on taking good care of yourself...and walking those 2 miles! WillPower!

Liz C

Anonymous said...

We are all missing you. Glad to hear that you will be going home can keep your snow up in Syracuse...we had our 2 feet for a few days and that was more than we could handle..i am counting down the days till Spring. Your recovery sounds like it is going great.

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Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Wiiiilll.....happy birthdayyyy tooooo yooouuuuu!

Believe me, this is much better than me really singing to you. I can't carry a tune in a bucket.

Safe travels home, Will. See you soon!

Liz C

Maryjean said...

Congratulations! I'm so happy for you. I was really worried, but I knew you'd pull through. It's good to know you'll be returning home soon. Take Care --

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