Last night, Dr. E texted me.
“Just checked. Pathology report not yet back.”
She knew I would be having my first post-op visit with Dr. S today and hoped to manage my expectations. Dr. E is thoughtful and kind like that.
The medical team had warned me that the report could take a week and I had been driving myself crazy, trying to decide what “a week” meant. Was it one week to the day from my surgery? Or perhaps one week from the day after my surgery to allow time for my excised tumor to be transported to the lab?
I opted not to bother the doctors or their staff with my pointless worrying. The report would arrive when it arrived. Nothing gave me the impression that the analysis of my tumor was anything but a priority.
So I arrived at Dr. S’s offices today expecting to have the dressings on my five incisions changed, to be weighed and to have a conversation about swelling and expectations for improvement. Dr. S’s PA J, who has been my go-to for email questions, thought all but one of the incisions looked very good. Just the one by my hip will need some extra TLC.
I told J about my appetite swings – from ravenous to unable to eat anything in the span of minutes – which she pronounced as normal for the post-op period. While I had a few days of pretty normal eating (just small portions), I suddenly found myself unable to tolerate much beyond applesauce and toast. And it showed when I stepped onto the scale: ten pounds lost, approximately two of which was the tumor.
Did I mention that the mass was enormous? I feel tumor-famous with Dr. S’s staff. Either that or they think I’m dumb and oblivious for not realizing I had a giant burrito in my belly. But whatever.
With my dressings changed, J called for Dr. S.
After a cursory examination of my exposed belly, he put both of his hands on my forearm and gave me the good news that the just-in pathology report revealed my tumor was NOT either of the worst possibilities (adrenocortical carcinoma or a form of lymphoma).
Instead, the mass was found to be something called a “oncocytic tumor with low malignancy potential.” I would need regular follow up in the forms of scans, but this was a good outcome.”You got very lucky,” he said, somehow mixing gravitas with a gentle smile.
Today Dr. S acted differently toward me than during our previous encounters. While I would never call him “cold,” he was clinical and didn’t waste a minute. I chalked that up to his life as a surgeon, his role as Chair of Surgery and the number of patients he sees each day. It didn’t bother me (at all) for I came to him for his expertise, not his friendship. Now I am grateful for not just his professionalism, but also his humanity.
As soon as Dr. S left the room, I burst into tears. All of the fear I had tried to keep in check finally leaked out via my eyes.
I’m waiting for J to email me the full pathology report [so I can google like a madwoman] but the reality is, I’ll probably crash before the message arrives. Recently I haven’t been sleeping well, even with the pain medication, but I am hopeful that this good news lets me relax a little.
Once I get through the next few weeks of healing, you should fully expect me to live like someone who just got very lucky.