It’s been almost a month since I’ve updated everyone on our Melanoma journey. That’s because we’ve been mostly blissfully unaware of John’s cancer for the past three weeks as we’ve awaited our appointment with Dr. Byrd, the head of surgery at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. As I told my son Eli last week, it’s about to get really real again.
As much as we’ve tried to find another solution, the consensus for treatment has been confirmed as a radical (but fairly common) surgery called a combined ilioinguinal lymph node dissection. Basically, they’ll surgically remove all of the remaining lymph nodes in John’s left groin and lower left abdominal area (up to 20 or so). We’ve consulted with both M.D. Anderson in Houston and Huntsman Cancer Center at the University of Utah. All three surgeons with whom we’ve spoken and both oncologists agree that this surgery is John’s best chance for survival. Plus, if he hopes to get into any clinical trial (and that’s our goal), having this surgery will be a prerequisite.
Since two out of two of the lymph nodes they removed during his initial surgery (the one where they found the cancer) contained melanoma, there’s a very good chance that there is more cancer in the remaining nodes. Of course, there’s always a chance that they got it all and that the rest of his nodes are clear, but we’re not willing to take that chance. John’s been given a 50/50 chance of recurrence, so we’re doing everything we can to prevent that.
The side effects of the surgery will be lifelong and not much fun. He’s already got pretty severe swelling (lymphodema) below the knee from the two nodes they removed in October and will have to wear a custom made compression garment on his left leg (all the way up to his thigh) for the rest of his life. But he’s working with a physical therapist and an acupuncturist now and that’s helping. We look at it as a small price to pay for his survival.
The surgery will happen some time in the next few weeks and then he’ll be laid up for at least two weeks after that. It’s a good time of year for convalescing, though, so that’s good. We’re also hopeful that once he’s recovered, there will be a spot for him in one of the clinical trials at either Seattle or Huntsman.
Right now we’re focused on joy. On living our lives every day and looking for all that we’re grateful for in each moment. We are so blessed in so many ways, and I am humbled every day by John’s positive attitude and refusal to complain or look on anything but the bright side. It doesn’t surprise me, but it does humble me, since I don’t do as well as he does all the time.
We’ll update you again after the surgery. We appreciate all of your support and prayers and we don’t take a single one of you for granted.