Greetings from Vanderbilt Hospital. We are now on the other side of phase one of what we hope to be a four phase process with Joanna’s unwanted adventure. The last 24 hours have been very up and down, and I’ll say for me, have taught me (more) about unrealistic expectations. I think perhaps Joanna has also learned a bit about more that walking through this.
In a nutshell, here is a variation of story I was telling myself:
The doc walks in post surgery to give the family the update, and says “we’ve made a horrible mistake, Joanna didn’t have cancer, when we got in there, we discovered that there was just the one tumor, and everything else was benign. She’s recovering, and once she wakes up, she’s free to go. And, she doesn’t need chemo… have a great rest of your life.”
Unfortunately, that was not the message Dr. Crispins delivered.
Joanna has stage 3C Fallopian cancer. As I understand stages, 1-2 is very confined to a localized area, stage 3 is when the cancer has moved beyond a local area, and the A-C classification is based on the size of additional tumors. They found on large tumor (4cm) in her omentum, along with some extraneous smaller cells in the general area. All of this is the bad news.
The good news is that we caught this early (thanks to Maggie Grace), and there was much less visible cancer in and around the abdominal area than in many cases. The doctor removed nearly all of the visible cancer (leaving behind less than a half a cm trace – a process called debulking) and what remains will be dealt with in phase three. Along with all that, Joanna is young, strong (and I’ll add feisty has hell), and has a lot positive going on in her life today.
Phase two is simple. Recover from the surgery. Recovery in the physical sense will be fairly easy, assuming there are no complications. Crispins is a rockstar in the field (actually, I called her a badass, which clearly was a compliment she had never been paid before, based on her reaction to it…think I’m going to get cards printed with that in her title…) and the folks at Vandy have been unbelievable to us…including letting Maggie and I stay with Joanna during her recovery time in the hospital. Home is a great place to continue that recovery. We have built a sanctuary, and along with the physical space, both my family and Jo’s family will be on hand to help us as we need it.
Phase three is also straightforward. Chemotherapy, both intraperitoneal and intravenous. Agressive cancer calls for agressive chemo. This part will suck ass, what’s that line “sometimes the cure is worse than the disease”? In this case, I think I’d take chemo over dying. Jo will lose her hair (gonna shave my head bald in solidarity) and her particular reaction to the chemo remains to be seen.
Phase four; survival, remission, cure, get on with your life, wow – my priorities are way different (for both of us), motherhood, enjoying the moment, good friends, music, sunsets, life!
This is a marathon. Persistence and attitude is paramount. We will do everything in our power to beat this thing’s ass (fuck cancer is the new house mantra), and recognize that the footwork is our business, the results are God’s.
We are blown away by the offers of help, prayers, support, “I’ll do anything”, from our individual & joint circles – and beyond – total strangers… certainly not what we’d expected. Gratitude is not a good descriptor of how we feel at this outpouring. It’s truly amazing.
I’d expect that Joanna will be back on the keys from here forward. While I’d really prefer to not have this particular life experience, I have already learned from it, and look forward to the lessons yet to come.
(do me a favor, hug your wife – husband – mate; call your Mom and tell her you love her; do something nice just because you can… savor your relationships, they are all we have in the end.)