Our Cancer Journey

Kathy heads to surgery tomorrow at 7am.   She’ll be NPO (nothing by mouth) after midnight.  She’ll wake at 5am, shower with Hibiclens (a antibacterial prep), and I’ll drive her to surgical check in.  Prior to surgery, the radiology department will insert a wire adjacent to the titanium markers that were placed in her tumor at first diagnosis.   Her surgeon will use this wire to guide the lumpectomy.

Her left breast will become smaller than her right.  She jokes that her career in exotic dancing will come to an end.

The operating room will call me at the end of her procedure and I’ll pick her up.   Since she’ll not have had general anesthesia, we’re presuming she’ll feel good enough for a bit of an extended ride home.   The last of our chickens arrives on Friday (Buff Orpington’s) and we’ll pick them up as we drive back to our new farm.

We’ll anxiously await the results of pathology.   If the margins on the lumpectomy tissue are clear, Kathy will start Radiation Therapy 1-2 months after surgery, likely late June or early July.

By Labor Day, if all goes well, this phase of our cancer  journey will end, although our continued vigilance for reoccurrence will be lifelong.

Her hair is beginning to regrow and she’s progressed from peach fuzz to GI Jane.   Her nails are becoming less brittle and losing their black pallor.    Her body is beginning to recover.

2012 has been a year of learning.   We’ve learned how to deal with the unknowns of cancer care.   We’ve learned the value of personal health records.  We’ve learned how to buy and sell a house in the middle of chemotherapy.  We’ve learned how to keep our sanity and patience in the face of adversity.    Although we would have preferred not to learn some of these lessons, we’re stronger for it.

Onward to the next step in the morning.

John D. Halamka, MD, MS, is Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN), Co-Chair of the HIT Standards Committee, a full Professor at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing Emergency Physician. He’s also the author of the popular Life as a Healthcare CIO blog.

6 replies »

  1. Best wishes to you and to Kathy, John, and thank you both for your openness. Also, as a fellow chicken owner, I can tell you that Buff Orpingtons are the best.

  2. Keeping you in my thoughts. Make sure to pick up some really good dark chocolate or ice cream on the ride home.

  3. We will all be thinking of you in this important step. As a pathologist, I recall how anxious the patients were while waiting for my diagnosis, but I always said getting it right is foremost. Hope it turns out well.