Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"More Time" {part two}

So, here's our cancer story:

During the last week of August, Chris (aka Butch) started seeing a "floater" in his left eye that looked like a Chinese dragon.

Labor Day Weekend~We had some friends in town, and Chris continued to complain about something in his eye. At dinner on Saturday night, I remember Alyssa digging through her bag to look for eye drops. The next day, I even took pictures of them "inspecting" his eye, because it was funny to me that this little thing in his eye was such a big deal to him.

9/3/08~After about a week of the floater not going away, Chris went to the eye doctor. It had been about 10 years since he had been to see one, and he used to wear glasses some, so it was past time to go! He was immediately sent to a retina specialist who told him he had a melanoma that had hemorrhaged on the back of his eye, and that the standard treatment for this was either radiation or enucleation (removal of the eye). The specialist referred him to an oncologist and said that they would have to do a full body scan to see if it had spread to the liver &/or lungs (which is common for this type of cancer). Talk about a shock!

9/11/08~It took some time trying to schedule an appointment with the oncologist that Chris was originally hoping to see, but that turned out to be a blessing. As it turns out, he found out about another doctor to see for a 2nd opinion. Dr. Boniuk turns out to be an authority on ocular melanoma, and the 1st oncologist would've sent him to this guy anyways! So, Chris went to him on the Thursday before Hurricane Ike made landfall. He didn't talk about enucleation, so that was encouraging! He seemed much more optimistic about treatment with plaque radiotherapy (a radiation implant), and they scheduled an MRI & PET scan for the following Tuesday.

9/17/08~A grueling two weeks after the initial diagnosis, we found out from Dr. Lehane (the oncologist for the rest of his body) that there was no metastasis to the liver or lungs. Praise God! This doesn't mean that we're in the clear, but we'll take any bit of good news! I was so afraid that it had been growing there for years & had already spread without us having a clue, because he hadn't had yearly eye exams. [Please take my advice & have yearly dilated eye exams by an ophthalmalogist--yes, I now know how to spell that word correctly!]

9/18/08~It took forever to get to the ocular oncologist, because there were still a lot of traffic signals out because of Ike! After reviewing all of the films, Dr. Boniuk recommended that Chris go forward with surgery to implant the radiation plaque over the tumor in the back of his eye. They scheduled a consultation with the radiology department for the following Tuesday and started the pre-op forms.

9/23/08~All of the traffic lights were working as we drove in to the Medical Center to meet with the radiologists that would build the plaque. They explained the process of making the plaque slightly larger than the tumor & putting radioactive seeds in it that would destroy the cells. They also stated that the tumor is 8mm in diameter, which means it is medium-sized. [Update: Later reports from his ocular oncologist say it is 12mm, so we're not real clear on this. Finally, in January 2010, we actually found out that the estimated measurement was actually 6mm deep and closer to 14mm in diameter. It is at the top of the medium-sized tumor range. Apparently, Dr B doesn't care to share too much information that might freak us out! There is not an official staging system for OM, but according to the AJCC TNM staging system, it is Stage IIA (T2a, N0, M0). And according to COMS, it is considered medium. For an explanation of the staging, go here.]

So, this Friday (10/3), Chris is scheduled to have the surgery to implant the radiation plaque on the back of his eye, where it will remain for 4 to 7 days. Then, for the next few years, he will see the ocular oncologist every 3 months, and the regular oncologist every 6 months for MRI & PET scans to see if it has spread. Overall, it spreads in half of the people diagnosed.

It's pretty scary. I think Chris is doing well emotionally, but I'm not so much! I would like to have the same outlook as he does. I'm trying real hard to trust God with all of this. I want to be strong, but I've never really considered myself a strong person. And I'm reminded of that with each phone call that I make & email that I write to tell our friends and family the news. In case you are one of those people that I didn't contact directly, please don't take it personally. It is so hard to say the words, because each time I say or write them, it makes it that much more true. Does that make sense? And I didn't want to just send out a mass email, though I may end up doing that for updates. Or, I could just direct everyone here for the updates, but that would mean I have to actually tell people about this blog! I haven't told anyone except Chris about it, but I guess that's pretty dumb. What's the point of having it if I don't tell anyone to read it, huh?

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