One thing I’ve learned in the past three weeks…with Cancer, things can change really quickly. In the week since my last post, we’ve gotten a lot more information and three important percentages. We’ll start with the best one.
100% clear. That’s what Dr. Ness, John’s local oncologist told us at his appointment on Monday. After almost a week of waiting for the PET scan results, it was the best news I think I’ve ever gotten. No spread to any of his other organs, bones, or blood. No sign of the entry point tumor. This, Dr. Ness said, was a huge relief. To his credit, the week before when we met with him initially before the scan, he had purposefully glossed over what the prognosis would have been had the scan showed the the cancer had spread and we were looking at stage 4 cancer. During this appointment, safely on the other side of that scary bridge, he told us. Stage 4 would have been very bad. Potentially a terminal diagnosis. So 100% clear was better than great. We’ll take Stage 3, thank you very much.
John has a 50% chance of the melanoma spreading or recurring in his body. That’s a lifetime statistic and was a bit of a reality check for us this week when we finally sat down with Dr. Thompson, the specialist from The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance on Wednesday. I’ve played with worse odds before (every time I sit down at the Black Jack or Three Card Poker Table), but it’s still a bit sobering to realize that this threat will be hanging over our heads forever.
He also told us that, once John has a complete resection of the lymphatic system in his left groin area, there is really no further treatment they can do for Melanoma. Interferon is a nasty drug with horrible side effects and it hasn’t been proven to make a significant difference in survivability or lessen the recurrence of melanoma in the several years they’ve been using it. Flu-like symptoms and a brain made so fuzzy he won’t be able to work during the year of the treatment don’t seem worth the less than 10% improvement in the odds, so we’re opting out of that course of treatment. There are a few clinical trials going now with a new drug but they’re all full. So he’ll have the surgery and then hope for the best as he’s monitored.
So where did this Melanoma start? That’s where the 1% comes in. After a thorough exam by Dr. Thompson during which he didn’t find a single suspicious mole or lesion, he told us that in 1% of the diagnosed cases of Melanoma, they never find the entry point for the cancer. John says that makes him special.
I didn’t need any statistic to tell me that.