Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Doctor's Office

There are lots of challenging times in dealing with a tough disease. Some are at home, and some are at the various medical facilities. Meaqan has been scanned so many times - from MRI's and high resolution ultrasounds - to CAT and PET scans. No, a PET scan is not to see if she is a good dog owner - our long history with dogs and one cat is verification enough. A PET scan is a Positron Emission scan - they inject you with radioactive sugar and the cancer cells gobble that up at a faster rate than normal cells and the scan let's you see the cancer cells and tumors light up like a Christmas tree. She's also had 4 surgeries to remove tumors and install her port-a-cath, a slick device that lets her get infusions through a special device below skin level hooked up to a main artery. That way treatments don't cause her veins to shrink. It's all the rage in chemotherapy,and proved useful for her Ipilimumab treatments and will for upcoming ones if needed.

Truly though, some of the difficult times are at the doctor's office (oncologists) when Meagan is discussing treatment options with Dr. Kaplan. It's her body and life on the line and therefore it is up to her to decide and to make sure she has all the information she needs to make a decision that is right for her, based on Kaplan's recommendation and her trust in that recommendation. My job is to make sure she asks all the right questions, and to do background research on what we think might be likely treatment scenarios. So I mostly keep my mouth shut, remind Meagan about questions or issues we want to discuss (yes, we've gone over them before hand) and only ask a question if it seems appropriate. I'm the Cabana Boy, not the patient.

As good as Kaplan is and as much time as he is willing to devote to us, sometimes it's difficult to control the pace in the room. There is that sense of urgency hanging about, and naturally a desire to get on with the right treatments. But treatments vary and efficacy will vary based on one's unique genetic makeup. So we try very hard to control the pace and make sure all the questions get answered. It's murkier when we are talking about "what if" scenarios, when we really won't know what the choices will be until scan results are in. But even those times, as unsatisfying as they can be due to lack of resolution, have value in that they help us understand what direction we might be headed, and get mentally prepared, and emotionally prepared, to the extent that's possible.

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