We’ve been back and forth to the Tri-Cities so often in the past few weeks it’s beginning to feel like a routine. It’s only about an hour drive and it gives us some one-on-one time to chat. On Friday we made the drive to Kennewick to meet with an Oncologist. John’s identical twin brother Tony drove from Spokane to be there with us and I was grateful for his analytical brain. Sometimes he asks the question I didn’t even know I wanted the answer to.
Here’s the reader’s digest version of what we learned during the 45 minute long appointment:
- His Melanoma is most likely stage 3 and not stage 4, and that’s what we wanted to hear. While we won’t know for sure until after he has his PET scan this week, the doctor said there’s no indication that he has the more invasive (as in, has already spread to his other major organs, bones, etc.) stage 4. He’s super healthy and has no other symptoms at present so we’re focusing on it being stage 3.
- The initial treatment for this stage is surgery at the site to remove the entire lymphatic system there as well as the cancer tumor itself if they can find it. They still can’t find the lesion on his skin (and the doctor said there is always an outward lesion with Melanoma, but it can be very small), but he’s confident it’s somewhere in his left leg/thigh/hip in the region where the original lump was found.
- Sometime late this week or, more likely, early next week, we’ll get the call from The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and head over there. That’s where they’ll do the surgery and their team of experts will let us know what the next course of treatment should be.
- The Oncologist said the most recommend course of treatment for this stage of Melanoma is to get into a good clinical trial. It’s such an aggressive cancer that he said you want to be on the cutting edge of researched treatment and a clinical study is the best way to do that.
- He also mentioned a controversial treatment called Interferon for malignant Melanoma. He said some Melanoma Oncologists love it and some hate it (guess that’s why it’s controversial).This is what Google told me about Interferon:
“Interferons are a family of naturally-occurring proteins that are made and secreted by cells of the immune system (for example, white blood cells, natural killer cells, fibroblasts, and epithelial cells). The mechanism of action of interferon is complex and is not well understood. Interferons modulate the response of the immune system to viruses, bacteria, cancer, and other foreign substances that invade the body.
Interferons do not directly kill viral or cancerous cells; they boost the immune system response and reduce the growth of cancer cells by regulating the action of several genes that control the secretion of numerous cellular proteins that affect growth. Flu-like symptoms following each injection (fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches and pains, malaise) occur with all of the interferons. These symptoms vary from mild to severe and occur in up to half of all patients. The symptoms tend to diminish with repeated injections.”
That’s basically it. So we don’t really know a whole lot more, but we feel very optimistic that this is stage 3 and beatable. The doctor looked John dead in the eye and said, “If it’s stage 3, you are not going to die.”
Right now we’re working on staying present with what we know and not speculating about anything based on what we don’t know. We’ve heard great things about The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. They are aligned with The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, The University of Washington, and Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and we feel we’ll be in great hands. We’re also looking into some diet-based treatments to augment whatever medical treatments John gets.
I’ll update the blog again this week once he’s had the Pet Scan and we know more about exactly where we stand.