Friday morning I awoke to the oncologist coming into the room, turning on the lights. I scrambled for my phone to take notes as he started talking.
He said they’re not totally sure that it’s melanoma, but further tests are being done, and they’re high priority. He did a skin and breast exam and continued to talk. He said it might be melanoma but that it’s rare in the brain. It’s considered relatively aggressive but there will be no more surgery. There may need to be some radiation therapy, but depends on the cell type.
He left and then came back just a little bit later saying that it is in fact melanoma and that they’re now sending for a genome test that will identify exactly how best to treat it. He’d also emailed some colleagues in Seattle about this and would be conferring with them.
He was going to be leaving for a family vacation for 5 days, but gave me his cell phone number. His PA was with him and she would be there to provide some continuity. He also mentioned that he was conferring with others, but wanted to do a CT scan of the chest and abdomen to verify that there wasn’t any more cancer in those areas. They would shield the baby, but he was assured by the OB that this would be safe for the baby since it is old enough and the risk is minimal.
Later there would most likely be radiation therapy with something called a gamma knife, which is not a knife, it is a way to highly localize treatment without being invasive. It has a high chance of success.
He also then mentioned that there is a possibility that we’ll need to do intravenous treatments if the cancer was found elsewhere in the body. This may mean that the baby would need to be delivered early, 28 to 32 weeks. Jenney’s at 24 weeks. Then they could do the additional treatment.
He stressed that this was the tentative plan, not a final plan of action. They needed to get more info from the scans and then they’d have a conference between Neurology, OB, and Onc as well as speaking with colleagues at the University of Washington. He would ask the neurologist when we could do the CT scan.
The thought of having to now also experience a premature birth was again extremely scary. Having Jenney hooked up to so many machines, wires, and tubes and then visualizing my new unborn son go through the same… was almost unbearable. Could I handle this? Would this break me? Be strong for your family Jerad. You got this. We got this. One day at a time…
At 9am the Occupational Therapist came to help Jenney sit up, brush her teeth, get to her feet, and then wash her face. She did a little better than the day before. No light-headedness when she first sat up, and no buckling at the knees today.
Around 11am she finished up the chalk drink for the CT scan. It’s terrible. The taste and consistency made it a struggle for Jenney to get down. Making faces the whole time. She had some head pain after that and received some meds.
Around 1pm they came to take her for the CT scan and I took the opportunity to go for a walk outside in the bright sunny day. I got some coffee and walked around the hospital perimeter in the sun, sipping coffee, and for a while, looking at the blue sky, I felt at peace. I’d cried so much I wasn’t sure there were tears left. I felt there was some small hope, and that as long as the sun kept shining I could find the strength to handle this one day at a time. Too bad I live in Washington, where the sun can be hard to come by ;)
The nurse washed and brush Jenney’s hair for her. The staff here has been so wonderful. Everywhere I go they greet you, or give you directions, or just give a smile. They are constantly asking if there is more they can do, and going out of their way for us. The nurse talked to Jenney about our life, our kids, our careers while she brushed the blood from Jenney’s hair as best she could. Then wrapped it up in a bit of a bun so she could lay comfortably and hopefully avoid tangles. It was touching, and Jenney appreciated it so very much. Then she rested.
Jim and Amanda came to visit around 6pm. We cried some more, we prayed, and we laughed. And for a moment, as we talked about life and shared stories that made us laugh, I forgot about the doom and gloom of our situation and even where we were. That visit meant a lot to us; had some semblance of normalcy. We love them so much, brother and sister.
I slept at Jenney’s side in the reclining chair, holding her hand, and thankful rested quite well among the beeps and boops as a nurse stood guard against the vampires this night.