As time passes, the first weeks after diagnosis will become more blurry and subjective. Which is probably for the better. I did learn important things and about my health care system.
When I returned from the hospital, I tried to call to make appointment for the endoscopic biopsy. The appointment person told me, I would have appointment in 4 weeks, to discuss the procedure by telephone, with the doctor who would do it. Which wasn’t the doctor who I spoke to in the first place.
Some kind of lesson there. Tell someone they have cancer. A fast growing, lethal cancer. But, it will be 4 weeks before you can talk with the doctor who does the biopsy, by phone, then potentially another month later they will do the biopsy.
I tried to stay calm. There was no recourse as a patient. Within the medical system, there is email – something I would not use for myself. But I did. As a primary care doctor, if someone wants to be seen for anything, no matter how minor, I’m expected to get them in within one or two days. That has accelerated since then – now the patient is expected to be seen within one day or less. But a cancer diagnosis, biopsy, potentially within 1 to 2 months? Really?
Which is what I said to the first gastroenterologist. “Really”. With his email back to me, he was clearly pissed off about my response. He said there was no intention to make me have the telephone appointment, and no intention to make me wait. The plan was to do the endoscopic biopsy within one week. A few more emails, and a few more calls, and that happened. And much delicacy about the ego of the involved doctor, since he might be doing the procedure, and my angry response made him angry.
Fastforward, the biopsy went fine. I didn’t remember a thing. It was like being dead.
Before the biopsy, one gastroenterologist came by – a different one – and told me, if this cancer was GIST, which is what was suspected, Gleevec would make it melt like snow on a sunny day. That imagery stayed with me. Gleevec might be good, but it’s not that good, and I wonder why he said that, and how many people he says that to.
Next appointment, surgeon. I liked him a lot, and still do. He treated me and my partner like real beings, with respect and friendliness. He treated me with dignity. He reviewed the scan with me, colleague to colleague, we reviewed the biopsy result, GIST as suspected, and the probable surgery. The surgery would be removal of the tumor, with margins, leaving the stomach intact. There would be a liver surgeon, in case the tumor extended into the liver. The lungs were clear, which was good – he stated GIST metasticizes to lungs, lungs, and lungs. I remember, he said that 3 times.
We planned for the surgery. I brought Ning with me to all appointments. And to the workplace, where I told my boss what was happening, and 2 of my colleagues. I would be given 6 to 8 weeks off for postoperative recovery.
That’s about it for the first week. Next, surgery and surgical recovery.