Posted by: wrmcnutt | September 2, 2009

A Chat With The Surgeon

Well, Dad’s surgeon returned a call to his office today.  (The pulmonologist gets a wedgie for having not called back.)  As has been mentioned, Dad has lung cancer.  As I have also mentioned before, I left the surgeon’s office with the impression that he was going to flatly refuse to cut.  There was talk of a needle biopsy to verify that a mysterious mass in his lower lung was not cancer before we went in to operate, but since we’d gotten the impression that the surgeon was unwilling to cut at all, we both sort of blew that off and started trying to work our minds around what was coming next.  The surgeon and the pulmonologist were going to confer and then schedule a needle biopsy if they agreed it was necessary.  The radiologist, who does this, was expected to resist the procedure, since it was unlikely they were going to cut.  What’s the point in putting Dad through this, right?

Imagine our surprise when the St. Mary’s called to confirm the time of his needle biopsy.

Ah hum.  Okay . . .  So I called the pulmonologist.  (To be fair, he did call back once. He missed me, and both did not call me back, nor has he been responsive to my subsequent call.)  So I called the surgeon, and was left with a very different impression.

The surgeon returned my call this afternoon, and seems to have changed his tune.  I got the feeling that he and the pulmonologist had consulted with the oncologist, who has been advocating surgery since the beginning.  Apparently, judging from the change in attitude, the oncologist was able to do a better job of communicating just how bad a candidate Dad is for chemo and radio-therapy.  Because now the surgeon appears to be willing to cut.  Mind you, this is a giant, mixed bag o’ feelings.  If the needle biopsy comes back negative and if he survives the procedure, and if he is able to recover enough to get off of a ventilator and move around on his own, this presents an opportunity for Dad to live cancer free, with a low likelihoodof recurrence.  However, those are lots of if’s.  The most likely thing to happen is that Dad will survive the surgery, but never get off of the ventilator.  The second most likely thing, if I understand them correctly, is that he will die.  We’re treading on very dangerous ground.

My deepest concern is the change of heart of the surgeon, because he did everything he could to convince us that we were looking at disasterous consequences if we insisted on going ahead.  That he is now looking at it so differently means there’s something they’re not telling us.

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  1. Wow, Bill – I don’t know what to think. I will continue to send positive thoughts in yours and your Dad’s direction. Just keep keeping us up to date, and take care of yourself.

  2. Sounds like the Oncologist has indeed been keeping something from you. Either that or he is very persuasive in convincing the other Drs. to now follow his lead.
    Sad that MDs have gotten so specialized that they cannot see the forest or the trees.
    Sucks all around for you both. Wish I had something better to say…

  3. A lot to take in, for you and the family. Remember patients have rights, and if you truly feel they are not informing you completely make a list of questions.
    Doc’s are only human and your questions might help them communicate more efficiently.

    Good luck, and prayers to help all those ifs headed your dads way.

  4. And having done the BTDT theing with Elsie’s oncologist, it *REALLY* pisses me off when they won’t tell you stuff. Between me and you and the fence post, I’d get a second opinion until I found somebody that *would* level with you. (and yeah, this is my hot button) If you don’t know what they know, how in the hell can you make an informed decision!

    I know they don’t *KNOW* — but geeze-o-pete, if I can find stats on the web ….

  5. It sounds like the key was the involvement of the oncologist; from what you’ve said, the oncologist triggered the change in heart of the surgeon?

    We’re finding more and more that the lung cancers and liver cancers are actually manageable with the therapies they’re coming out with now, and I think I’d go have a heart to heart with the oncologist. Have you gotten a second opinion from another surgeon yet?

    BTW, I do the cancer claims for Sodial Security Disability.

  6. Tough decisions ahead. Keep asking questions of the doctors (all of them) until the story matches or you’re satisfied. My prayers are with you and your Dad.

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