Saturday, November 22, 2008

Head Spinning, Body Waiting, Soul Embraced

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!


~Lisa said...

As we sang to Ana and Noah last night when they expertly managed to eat their WHOLE pizza slice holding it folded like the big kids do, "BRAVO, FRANCO, BRAVO!"

My motto, day in and day out, is "I can do this." I can. So can you. May continued love, and especially laughter, come your way. It is by far the best medicine. I'd like to help you laugh your pancreas off!

I watched a one hour video of the surgery - I'm not squeamish at all - and I have a lot of faith in this procedure and really believe it is a curative measure. I'm feeling some relief for you after watching it. I'm glad it looks like you'll be local so we all can visit and jolly up your room for the holidays.

We must leave no room for the negative, Franco. From here on it only positive and light. I think you're right, there ARE moments of bliss to be found among the chaos. There are many cathartic moments to come.

Your beautiful soul and spirit deserves, and will have, decades to ponder all of this. I say this not only because you and Jacqueline were incredibly kind and generous to us when Lance went to war, but also for how now and for the past two years, you've taken me in to your family so that I can taste and smell and feel the happiness that is the Juricic Family. Your blessings abound and you willingly share them with me. I'm forever grateful. You have a tremendous amount of good karma on credit in this universe, and we already know how much God loves you in the persons of Jacqueline, Ana & Noah, so the Vegas odds are surely set in your favor.

See you soon dear,

AllenY said...

It certainly seems like the stars are realigning in your favor. It goes without saying that all our wishes are for the best. Viewing all the posts on the blog has been very heartwarming. I guess part of the process is always to ask 'why?' Perhaps we'll all look a little more at the blessings of the world, at the family and friends that we are all so fortunate to have.

annmarie said...

Hello Franco

Friends are NEVER far away...please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I learned from Chig (of course!!)of your very shocking news. Thanks for helping us by organizing this blog.

I am so happy to hear that your body signaled you of this evil early and you are making smooth and steady progress with your medical research. I truly believe that the marathon was a blessing for you. You are my inspiration to run another....although I can never be as fast as you-- the gazelle!

Let me know if there is ANYTHING at all that I can help with....ANYTHING!!

Love you guys

shaq said...

Too long no contact, but that's no longer! Sent you a long email on work address that I won't begin to dupe here -- but wanted you to know that I'm adding my love, prayers & healing energy to the mix -- I feel very positive and optimistic about a positive outcome. Remember the "orange" they removed from Lukas when he was 7 mos. old, and now he's 10 and such a wonderful and incredible being, as is my daughter, and as are your family and YOU!! Sending absent reiki, blessings, positive thoughts, and much love!! Cindy a.k.a. Shaq

Marie Q said...

Franco, Franco, Franco. I am praying for you not only to beat this like no one else can but for God to make the battle as easy as it can be for you. I have just started reading your blog and found it very moving. My prayers go out to you and your beutiful family every day. I have worked with Dr. Yeo when I was a resident and was superimpressed with him, even after seeing the ubertalented GI surgeons at Mount Sinai. If he is your Plan B, then you are in good hands with Dr. August.

You are one of the nicest people I've met and known in my entire life. You are due some blessings as you have given so much of yourself. I feel the positive vibe in your blog as you have always been a very positive person as long as I have known you. I believe that those endorphins can make a huge difference in any outcome regardless of the any studies out there.

I am here for you in spirit and in person if you or Jacqui ever need.

Love you guys, man!

Kathleen said...

Franco and Jacquelyn,
I am relieved that you will be having this surgery asap so that you can move on to healing and getting better, which I know and have faith that you will. You have touched and made a positive difference in so many lives, as well as mine, and I believe that postive energy will come back to you. The world is a better place with you in it and you will come out even stronger, if that's possible, after this is over. Ralph and I are here in your corner rooting for you... If you are feeling tired or just need a shoulder, I am here for you as well as Jacquelyn... Keep the faith and I will see you soon. I love you my friend very much... You, Jacquelyn and the twins are in my thoughts and prayers (as well as the Merck Prayer Chain).
Love, Kathleen

Lisa said...

My thoughts are with you.
Wish I still had your number.

Charles said...

Franco -

God Bless you and your family during this trial. You will be in my prayers.

Channel the energy you would have used for the NYC Marathon to decimate the cancer.

Charlie Patzelt - Prep

Graciela Duras said...

Graciela said...
Dear Franco, Jacquelyn, Ana & Noah,God bless you, you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. Thank you for helping us with updates by starting this blog, it's great, I wish that I did this for Mario. I am so glad that you decided to go for surgery a.s.a.p. I watched the video it's amazing what the Doctors can do today. My dear Franco you are young and very strong, I believe with all my hart that you will be OK very soon. Franco you have a great family, Jaquelyn Ana & Noah will give you so much strength. Remember you have so many cousins, friends and family who will pray for your speedy recovery. Jacquelyn if I can help you with any thing, please let me know. I Love you all, Graciela

DJ Gannon said...

Franco- It's interesting how there are some people you remember as clear as day after 25 years. I remember that smiling, positive super- friendly guy. Keep up the blog so we can all hear about how you beat this thing.
God bless you and your beautiful family.

Dan Gannon SFP '84
Los Angeles,CA