December 13th, 2012
My medical team, Hill and Special Ed, went to a second opinion with me yesterday.
A very cheerful nurse checked me in and took my vitals, chirping the whole time that everything was going to be just fine.. that I was in very good hands.
Finally she asked, “what’s the diagnosis?”
“stage IV rectal cancer.”
“everything will be just fine.. he’s a very good doc.” (!!?)
The doctor came in with my 70 page medical history. He read it back to me to make sure that he had everything.
He examined me. Poked and prodded. He smiled and said, “you seem to be in terrific shape!” (I’m getting there, I thought.. you should see me ride a mountain bike!)
He then took us to his office and presented us with an identical prognosis and treatment plan as my own oncologist had.
Without treatment, 6 months before I start being very sick indeed. With very aggressive treatment, if everything goes perfectly, single digit years.
I had written to my own doc (through his assistant) to clear up what felt like a missing statistic. Just what did he actually figure my chances were of responding well enough to the chemo to proceed to surgery? And what were my chances of having a successful surgery that left me in remission?
“An almost impossible question.
Up front, I’d have to “guess” that he has about a 40-50% chance of getting to surgery and about a 50-60% chance once there that all disease is resectable.”
This new doc, when prompted said that my chance was about 30-50%. Pretty similar.
This number game will be pretty tedious for a lot of you. And for an individual, statistics obviously mean nothing. Then again, it’s what we have to go on when trying to make a decision.
40% of a 60% chance, in order to get to a 20% chance of having single digit years.. Whoa. (that’s just under a 5% chance, for those of you who are flummoxed by the math. I can throw a bullseye left handed with better odds than that!).
And yet, this doctor felt that it was a no brainer. Obviously I should go ahead with treatment.
The whole thing leaves me scratching my head a little.
Ok. Just an update. Second opinion was just like the first.
Now I’m going to tune up my mountain bike and spend a couple of days riding. My brother and his wife and my good friend Todd have all come down from vermont to crash around in the woods with me! Life is good!