Biding our time

The business of waiting is not one either Robert or I come by naturally - we both "just want to know already" and move on toward doing something about it. From the beginning, this melanoma thing has not cooperated with our need to move things along.

We were advised on May 14 to make an appointment with the Melanoma Clinic at the Washington Hospital Center's cancer center. Easier said than done - after two days of calling and not hearing back, they told us we would have to wait two weeks just to get the first appointment. When you have just been informed that you (or your spouse/partner) have metastatic melanoma and you find out that the prognosis is six to nine months, two weeks seems like an eternity!

Luckily, Robert's primary care physician, Mitch Dunn, was able to speed things up for us! Instead of waiting until May 30 for the top guy in the Melanoma Clinic to tell us what was next, Dr. Dunn ordered the PET scan that we knew would be needed. He also smoothed the way for us to get an appointment with William Sharfman at Hopkins. Washington Hospital Center also responded by getting us an appointment earlier, at least with some of the doctors there.

Things moved along pretty well -- Robert had the PET scan, and we found out that the cancer has not spread (or at least is not evident big-time) to his organs or elsewhere on/in his body. Good news! And, Dr. Sharfman told us he is not certain this is metastatic melanoma - it may be a primary dermal melanoma, or maybe the primary site with regression on the surface. That we may never know which it is does not comfort me. However, the prognosis is better for the other two options, so that's what I'm going with at this point.

The next step is surgery to take off the cancerous skin on top of his head and take out the sentinel node(s) to be biopsied. When your doctors are in demand, just scheduling the surgery can take time. We found out June 1 that it had been scheduled for June 18 at 9 a.m. So now we wait.

Very hard, all this waiting. There's still cancer on his head. We need it gone.

And now, we have an inkling that Monday, June 18, will be another day with too much time spent waiting. The surgery is set for 9 a.m., and we have to be there four hours beforehand. They tell you that if you are late they cancel your surgery. OK, 5 a.m. it is, then ...

There's a reason to arrive early. The appointed time is for the surgeons and the procedure room (or operating room or wherever the cutting will take place). Before the surgery, Robert needs to go to Nuclear Medicine to have some radioactive dye injected and pictures taken so they'll know which lymph node(s) to biopsy. But when the nurse called to ask him the pre-admission questions (all of which he has answered many times before), she indicated that Nuclear Medicine will see him at 7 a.m. It will be interesting to see what he needs to do between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. -- I'm sure there are papers to fill out and sign, and he'll have to get undressed for surgery, but I'm not sure how that could take two hours. 

So, we'll be biding our time. We haven't yet gotten to be very good at this waiting game. But, we'll be there at 5 a.m. on Monday, June 18. And, if there's nothing else to do, we'll wait!