Hi everyone. It's Franco.
Thank you all for the tremendous outpouring of prayers, love, good thoughts and offers of support. It is an amazing thing that in the midst of the most difficult time in our lives, we actually feel the most blessed. Those blessings flow mostly from all of you, truly serving as God's angels to us. We also feel very blessed by the excellent medical care that I have received, by the grace that allowed my cancer to be detected early, and by the terrific feedback that has led us to the best folks to care for me moving forward.
This past week was one of research that left our heads spinning. It seemed like we were bing-bing-binging from one doctor and course of action to the next. But, now - at the end of it - we feel like we've landed in a good place. We met with 3 of the 4 surgical oncologists that we had identified as candidates to do the pylorus-preserving Whipple procedure on me. All are very able and I am sure that any one of them would serve me very well.
We were thrown for a loop on Tuesday when we met w/a doc at Memorial Sloan Kettering. He offered me a clinical trial that involved an experimental chemo cocktail prior to surgery. While intriguing, it would have meant delaying my surgery for about 3 months. In the meantime, especially if the chemo were not very effective, my cancer could grow/spread and take me from a situation where I am operable (resectable) to where I am not any longer. Considering the risk vs benefits, participating didn't make sense for me. Because of the way the whole thing was presented by the MSK doc, I lost a bit of confidence in him precluding him from even doing the surgery on me aside from the clinical trial.
The whole family travelled down to Philly and on Thursday morning, we met w/Dr Yeo at Thomas Jefferson University. He is very well-known in the field, has performed the procedure some 900 times and has a center dedicated to pancreatic cancer research. He was
impressive. We signed on to do the procedure w/him on Friday, Dec 5th.
Then we rushed back up to New Brunswick for an afternoon appointment w/Dr. August of the Cancer Institute of NJ. I had met him on Nov. 14th while I was in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) recovering from my stent replacement. He met w/us for nearly an hour and once again impressed us w/his careful consideration and attention to my personal situation. I had already been tentatively scheduled to have him do the Whipple on me on Dec 1st.
The fourth surgical oncologist is Dr. John Chabot at New York Presbyterian. I cancelled my appointment w/him for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. While he comes highly recommended, NY Presby is not on the list of 40 or so Nat'l Cancer Institute Cancer Care Centers - so even though he may be exceptional, the facility is not rated as highly as the other 3 under consideration. Besides, he's not covered by my insurance plan. So, he's out.
Basically, we are deciding between Dr. Yeo in Philly (on the 5th) and Dr. August in NJ (on the 1st). We are tending strongly towards Dr. August right now. His approach is much more about me, whereas Yeo has a set process that I would funnel through. Both are extremely talented and able. Outcomes for me are likely very similar w/each. My comfort level w/Dr August is higher. It feels a little weird to end up w/"the local guy" after searching so far and wide. But, as is so often true in life, just what you need can be found right under your nose. God provides us all that we need. The trick is in noticing.
So, we are "marinating" in the decision this weekend. But it looks like I'll be getting operated on at RWJUH on Monday, December 1st.
Like everything else related to this ordeal since it began about 1 month ago, it all seems very fast. Yet, I feel relieved to have made a decision (almost) and be going ahead w/the steps that will make me better. There's no reason for me to wait and plenty of reasons to act as soon as possible. I want this evil out of me!
I feel like my experience has been paralleling a larger narrative. In a nutshell - on Halloween I learned that I likely had cancer. As you can imagine, there were a few very sad & dark days that followed for us. By election day, I too had turned from a theme of fear to one of incredible hope. I am hoping to be well on the road to better things by Inauguration Day.
Here's to faith and hope!