I was very dissapointed and disturbed to learn that Alta Bates only gets local channels, which means no ESPN or Fox Sports Net. Supposedly they can wheel in a VCR or something. So I’ll most likely completely miss the Cal – Washington game; I’m hoping someone tapes it and brings it by after the game.

I asked if I could set up a spare DirecTV dish and bring my own TV and receiver, but they said no, it might interfere with someone’s cardiac equipment. Sheesh. Some priorities, huh!

As for the rest of it, I’m getting nervous and a bit irritable before the surgery. I guess that’s understandable. Friends have been calling and wishing me well, but I just don’t know the answer to virtually any question, from “how long will you be in the hospital” to “how long will the recovery take” to “what will you feel like after the operation”. I just don’t know!

I do know the drugs for chemo sickness were pretty darn good, and I was out of it. I imagine the drugs for major surgery would be better, right? So expect an incoherent person if you do manage to get ahold of me!

Call my cell to get my brother’s cell number — he’ll have all the info. Just leave a message on his cell voicemail and he’ll get back to you. If I answer my cell, you’re in luck! You might be able to ask me anything, because on the drugs they’ll probably give me, I’ll be likely to simply make something up.


For those curious, what they’re going to do on Monday is have me lay on my right side, and make a vertical inscision up the length of the torso. They’ll spread ribs apart to get to the good stuff.

The cancer was at the espohagus – stomach junction, and lymph nodes. So Dr Stallone will remove the bottom of the esophagus and the top of the stomach. I’ve told the Doc he can take out lots of the stomach — might as well get a weight-loss benefit out of all this! Not sure how much of the esophagus gets taken out, but the lymph nodes that showed up positive in that first PET scan, plus the puffy ones that got biopsied last week get removed as well.

After removing the damaged tissue, he’ll sew up the top of the stomach, and will cut a new hole in the stomach to reconnect the esophagus. However, this assembly has to be above the diaphram now, so the stomach has to get pulled through the diaphram (or he’ll cut the diapram to make this happen). Then he’ll connect the remaining esophagus into the new hole in the stomach.

All of this is supposed to happen in about 3 hours, maybe 3 1/2 — the length of a college football game. Wow. I need to be there at 6:30am on Monday; the procedure is scheduled for 7:30am. Oscar, my awesome neighbor, has offered to give me a lift over there.

Needless to say, I’m a bit freaked out. Today I have a couple of pre-op appointments and will learn more, like if I get a private room or if the hospital gets Fox Sports Net. Oh, boy.

Tomorrow I have the pre-op meetings / appointments. It’s very odd, it seems that I’m one of the few people that haven’t had surgery before. I don’t know quite what to expect, except a lot of pain, and pain medication.

Great. While logically I know this is great, somehow I can’t get horribly excited about having Dr Stallone the surgeon re-arrange my digestive tract. It took a million years of evolution to give us what we got, and Stallone can change all of it in the duration of a college football game. Yow.

I’ll find out more about what this all means tomorrow.

Well, I now understand what’s going on a lot more than before.

After a weekend call with the incredible Dr Cecchi, I now understand that surgery is what one does with this cancer. If at all possible, you cut the thing out of the body. This cancer tends to return to the scene of the crime. Unless it’s spread to a surgically difficult place, they treat esophageal cancer by removing it. It’s not true of all cancer, but that’s what they do with adenocarcinoma, if at all possible.

So, all this “surgery is only an option” was only if the outcome of all these tests were bad — that is, inoperable. Yikes.

The “complete response” is still awesome — but it means I’m on the road to surgery. Which is a great thing, I’m told. Funny, I don’t feel that way — I’m really not looking forward to having my digestive tract re-arranged.

But that’s all small potatoes compared to the big bug-a-boo — the cancer in the lymph nodes. That’s bad, and that’s what spreads to other organs. The super-sonic trans-siberian fancy ultrasound endoscopy that I had last week was done to perform another test to check the state of the cancer. More good news just came back from that test — the biopsy’s (biopsies?) were all negative. So, is more than one biopsy called biopsies? I keep reading that as “boopsies”, but that’s probably because my brain is wired all funny.

Anyway, I meet with Dr Stallone (pronounced stah-lone-eeee, not like Sylvester), the surgeon, on Tuesday. He’s tentatively scheduled a surgery date for Monday, October 16. I hope to be able to watch the Cal-Washington game from home the following Saturday, if not, boy I hope the hospital gets Fox Sports Net!

I guess there’s always Tivo.

So, I meet with Dr Stallone tomorrow morning… and discuss all sorts of stuff. During our initial consultation he said total recovery time is six to eight weeks before being able to work. I sure hope I can spend a couple of hours at a football game. Or at least watching on TV.

Probably because I can imagine what surgery is (versus having no idea about what chemo and radiation would be like), I’m a heck of a lot more freaked out about surgery than the other stuff. I have this horrible feeling that there will be lots of pain and all sorts of gross fluids involved. I guess I’ll find out more when I visit the doctor tomorrow.

The more I think about it… the more I think “yikes”. Either that, or “bring on the morphine”. No, it’s just “yikes”.

Well, the endoscopy was done last Wednesday. It all went well, or as well as could be expected.

It wasn’t at Alta Bates, I had to go into San Francisco since my GI guy doesn’t have the fancy equipment needed with this ultrasonic test. And what fancy equipment it is, indeed! It was very cool, there were 5HD panels in this one procedure room, one dedicated PC, and probably at least 3 other medical imaging systems as well. The frustrating thing was with all these HDTV monitors… why couldn’t ANY of them could get the A’s playoff game! Sheesh. Oh, that an the delay caused by an absurd insurance snafu.

The procedure went fine, although I had this weird dream I was gagging on something… which probably happened, and the drugs made it seem like a dream. They used the endoscopy to see where the problem lymph nodes were, and see if any others cropped up. As I found out later, they were able to use this device to poke a needle through the esophagus wall and do a biopsy on the lymph nodes nearby, yet outside the esophagus. All from putting a tube down my throat. Amazing!

After the procedure, I was pretty loopy. My friend Paul was great, picked me up and took me home. We stopped at Wendy’s for lunch (I was really hungry, not having eaten all day), and met a brother or cousin of Cal running backMarshawn Lynch at the burger joint. They saw my Cal hat, and asked me some questions — seeing if I was a real fan or just liked the hat. I vaguely remember this (endoscopy drugs are good), but Paul says I talked these poor kids’ collective ear off. After a few minutes, Paul says they had this expression of “why did we have to ask *this* guy about Cal?”… you know me, once I found out I was talking to a member of the Lynch family… well… GO BEARS !!!

After Paul dropped me off I logged on, did some work, watched some TV… and promptly fell asleep. Endoscopy drugs good… :^)

So here’s the real scoop. While the “complete response” is great, it’s not, well, complete. While some of the radiation equipment was really star trekian, the PET scan is not at the level of sci-fi movies. I was dissapointed to learn that the PET scan can only “see” objects about a sesame seed or bigger. Something the size of a poppy seed — no way. So, in the proverbial question “how many cancer cells fit on the head of a pin”, the same can be said for the size of a poppy seed. The answer is lots.

So, while there’s no cancer bigger than a poppy seed left in my body, Dr Cecchi, my awesome oncologist, wants one more check — the trans-esophageal ultrasound endoscopy. I misheard this and thought it was some ultrasonic trans-siberian thing, but I think that may have been a movie starring Christopher Lee.

So, stay tuned. That’s the next test. They’re looking for the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes, and seeing if they can tell if any cancer is still alive in the esohpagus. After they answer those questions, we’ll make the hard decision on surgery (which is deserving of it’s own post).