I am currently sitting at Black Canyon Coffee at the Chiang Mai airport waiting for my flight back to California. In a few days, I hope to be getting surgery to remove an alien growing on my mesentery. This is a good thing.
It took me 4 scans, 2 biopsies, 8 shots in the ass, and more trips to Bangkok Hospital than I can remember, to get to this point. Finally after ruling out prostate cancer, and getting a diagnostic confirmation from the Cleveland Clinic, it all comes down to this one 2.5×1.5 cm tumor. The consensus is get it out if at all possible.
I talked with two surgeons affiliated with Bangkok Hospital. One was willing to do the traditional slice and dice procedure, and the other one was an expert in laparoscopic (minimally invasive aka. key-hole) surgery. Neither had any experience excising neuroendocrine tumors. I had to wonder if they would even know what one looked like. So I went on the internet. It turns out there are only a handful of facilities in the USA that have a specialization in Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs). It boiled down to choosing between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, The James Cancer Center in Columbus Ohio, City of Hope in Duarte, California, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. One didn’t take my insurance, and one didn’t follow-up after 3-4 emails. In the end, I chose the Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine Tumor Program at Cedars-Sinai. In about 48 hours, I have an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in NET tumors. Not to disparage my doctors in Chiang Mai, all of whom gave me excellent care, but this feels like moving up to the big leagues.
My prospective surgeon, Dr. Kosari, has reviewed my scans and believes the tumor is resectable (Doc speak for “yea, we can cut it out”) and likely can be done minimally invasively using a robotic assist. As the above picture shows, the robot looks a little scary. Sean Connery would agree.
I want to emphasize that my disease has not worsened or progressed. Surgery, if possible, is a good thing (my new mantra). My disease will still be there, will still be incurable (BUT NOT TERMINAL). If successful this will be a step towards my ultimate goal – high life-quality while waiting for something else to kill me. Stay tuned.