Thursday, July 17, 2008

Greetings from Mayo

We arrived in Rochester on Tuesday Evening, and woke up bright and early to be at our appointment at 7:15am Wednesday. I was to bring all of the reports and results from pathology, CT Scan, colonoscopy etc.

I've been in only a few hospitals, but right off the bat coming here you notice that it is exceptionally clean and well run. It feels like more of an office building that a hospital. My parents, Justin and I were trying to decide if this was because the buildings we were in were newer, or they really just keep it that immaculate.

When I checked in I was given a printed out itinerary of tests that had been scheduled for me as well as consultations. After filling out all the necessary paperwork I was given a pager that would go off when it was my turn to meet with the physician’s assistant. If you can imagine a very large room with tons of seating, every 50 feet or so was a double door marked with a letter. You would hear a pager go off simultaneously while a nurse or other worker would appear at one of these doors so you would know where to go. The process was so impressive!

After reviewing my itinerary we noticed that I was scheduled to have many of the same tests and procedures done over the next few days that I had already done back in AZ. We met first with Mr. Roger Thompson, the PA, who had reviewed all my information that was brought and he determined that my doctors in AZ had done an excellent job documenting the colonoscopy for example, and that there was no need for me to have another one while I was here at Mayo. The same for a CT scan. Mayo wanted to do their own blood work, chest x-ray, ECG and PET Scan as well as review the actual biopsy slides that were taken during my colonoscopy at home. Not having to do another colonoscopy (or the preparation for it rather) was something to be thankful's a given that I'm going to be getting them at regular intervals in the future, but I was jumping for joy inside that I didn't have to do it again quite yet!

Before heading off to do those tests, we were able to meet with Dr. Lisa Boardman, a specialist in gastrointestinal malignancies. If I decide to be treated here at Mayo, Dr. Boardman would be assigned to be the Physician over my case. She along with Mr. Thompson, a surgeon and an oncologist would be my 'team of doctors'. We had a nice meeting with her where she answered all the questions we had prepared. My brother, Zach, found this article about Dr. Boardman's research in early onset of colon cancer in people younger than 50. Needless to say we feel very good about the possibility of having someone who has a particular interest in cases like mine oversee my care.

On an interesting side note, I was asked to participate in the study mentioned in this article by providing a blood, stool, and during the time of my surgery a sample of my colon/tumor. I'll also fill out surveys about my eating habits and some other variables they are researching to see if there is a correlation to early onset of colon cancer.

After this meeting with Dr. Boardman it was off to have my blood drawn, chest x-rayed and a quick ECG test of my heart. The blood test was for the research study, to examine my genetic markers, and try to determine if because the tumor is bleeding it needed to be removed before starting chemo. The chest x-ray was to again rule out that any cancer has spread to my heart and lungs and look for any indicators my heart is not healthy enough for surgery. Same with the ECG which is a heart test. I couldn't believe how quickly and efficiently they moved through these tests...being that part of what MediServe (the company I work for) does is automate hospital departments to help them run at optimal efficiency, I was very impressed.

Later in the afternoon we met with a colorectal surgeon, Dr. Devine for a surgical consultation. In my meeting with Dr. Boardman she made it clear that depending on what the genetic tests find, they may advise me to remove my entire large intestines to avoid future tumors, this in turn would decrease the likelihood of the cancer spreading to other organs like it already has. This was not really something that I wanted to hear, but it is also not a decision that needs to be made right away, so I'm not going to dwell on it at the moment. She assured me that even if this happens I'll be able to be as active as I was pre-cancer, which has been a concern of mine. The surgeon agreed with Dr. Boardman that Chemotherapy should be pursued before surgery to try as quickly as possible to stop the growths affecting my liver. Because there are not only one or two tumors on my liver they believed radiation was not going to be necessary and that our best shot at getting rid of them was chemo.

On Friday we hope to get a PET Scan, and we will talk with an Oncologist, which is the meeting I'm looking forward to the most...we have more questions for him. The surgeon was great about answering our questions, but it's really very black and white...we don't have a lot of options to consider or decisions to make, regardless of where I go. The strategy of the oncologist on the other hand could vary to some degree.

There was lots to internalize after the first day of meetings yesterday. Overall I really liked all of the people we met with and that would be working with me here, the facility and all the people have been great. Justin and my parents felt the same.

We'll also find out tomorrow how quickly Mayo would be able to get me started on Chemo. We may not have much of a decision to make if we don't hear back from the other facilities we were considering, and Mayo could get started right away. They have gone out of their way to make appointments for us with the surgeon, and oncologist tomorrow, and we really feel like this is a blessing.

On a lighter note...we ate at the "Canadian Honker" restaurant for dinner.... I haven't felt too nauseous through this whole thing, but yesterday was some exception for whatever reason. I tried really hard to finish the soup I had ordered, but all hope was lost when I overheard the waiter say, "Liver and Onions" as she put this plate in front of a lady across from me. I had to excuse myself and sit outside while the others finished their food. I let my imagination get the best of me!!

Thanks again to everyone for your words of encouragement and prayers. I will try to write an update after our meeting tomorrow!


Lauren Porter said...

I am so glad that things are going smoothly and you guys feel good about the doctors and their decisions. If you are going to do chemo there and have questions about your hair or wigs please feel free to call me!! Thank you also for the updates and the details. Lauren Walters Porter

Aaron Strom said...

Susan - my thoughts are with you kiddo. I wanted to comment since Jenn (my wife) works at the Mayo. It IS, as you see, run with amazing precision and professionalism. They spend millions on the customer experience, and I have heard nothing but praise from Jenn.

Michael said...

Your strength in the face of adversity is amazing. You're surrounded by those who love you and that's a blessing in itself.

I don't know Lauren Porter, but maybe one of those wigs will help me. ;) ...and if you need a PT to help in recovery, I know a good one. Mike Stevenson

Our Family said...

Thanks again for the update. You are so awesome, Suz!! We love you lots and are ALWAYS praying for you!

Derek, Kellyn and Camden said...

We love you Susan! Keep smiling and know that we are all praying for you in AZ.

Adriana said...

I just wanted to let you know that we are praying for you as well. In looking at medical schools, we know Mayo to be one of the best! You have the support of a wonderful family and strong is a word I always associated with you.

My sister is a Naturopathic Doctor. She knows a Naturopathic Oncologist that is very good. If you are interested, please contact me. They try to take a look at the whole body. I think that it can never hurt to join the two types of medicine.

Dustin said...

Susan - We were shocked to hear your news but have been very inspired by the way you are handling this. We are have fasted and are praying for you we wish you the best as you go through this very difficult time in your life.

Dustin and JaLane Gardner

Lennie & Karla said...

Susan, Amber told us about your blog - what a good idea, I have learned a lot- you are in our prayers. Karla Olofson

Mike Steph and Brooklyn said...

So glad things are going good so far at Mayo, sounds like a great place. Mayo has such an awesome reputation so I am sure you will have a good experience with them. Thanks for always taking the time to update the blog, it really helps us feel like we are still a part of whats going on. We are always thinking of you and know you are in our prayers always!

Rachael (Romney) Carlson said...

Hey, I linked to all this through your facebook and wanted to let you know you're making smart decisions. I work on the Oncology floor at Scottsdale Shea and we had a nurse who used to work oncology at the Mayo in Rochester- it's impeccable, and top of the charts for care. I think you'll be pleased from everything she's told me about it! I hope you continue to get questions answered. You are an oncology doctor's dream because of your age and healthy living, excercise before all this, you can fight it so much harder than others who are diagnosed. We're cheering for you!

Cabra Forte said...


I'm a little late here, but I just wanted to let you know about my Aunt who was diagnosed with Phase 4 Colon Cancer in 2001. She had to do the whole surgery/chemo/radiation thing but has been completely cancer free for years now.

I know the treatment wasn't easy, but I know that you have the strength to face it head on.

I'm glad that things are moving along quickly and smoothly for you, and want you to know that we are praying for you out here.

-Matt Snow

megan allen said...

Susan! It's your long lost sister-in-law, Megan! I just got back from girls camp a few hours ago and read Justin's email and know here I am on your blog! Susan, I can't tell you enough how much I love you!!! I ran in to a few old family friends of ours up at girls camp and we talked a little bit about what's happening and then I realized how great it is to have a support system like we(you) have. You have so many people fasting and praying for you constantly...People who I didn't know even knew anything, had already told their family members and have already had family fast for you and Justin. It's so incredible. I love you!

Our blog is

Andréa Morrow said...

we enjoyed having Justin with us for dinner last night :) the song was hilarious! can't wait to find out if you'll be able to transfer here..if not, I will be visiting! (if that's ok) Brant's sister lives in Minnesota!

Jessica said...

Dear Susan,
Just wanted you to know we are thinking of you and praying for you morning and night. Thanks for setting up this blog so we can get updates on everything. I'm inspired by your positive outlook and faith. Jessica Holm Kempton

Battman said...

Hello Susan, I think it has been about 3 years since I have seen you. Hmmm, I wonder if you even remember who I am :-} Thank you for doing this incredible blog. You have helped lift my spirits and know I can get through my struggles. I was just talking to Kadi Jo telling her what a great example you are of one who knows her faith and displays it 100% in adversity. I just returned from a 3 day Pioneer Trek and want to tell you that I think you are truly a "Modern Day Pioneer"! As you know, the Lord is with you and will bless you and your family as well as those who serve you. Enjoy your family. You were blessed with a choice family! Please tell them hello for me. Congrats on your 7 month anniversary. Your friend, Brian Batt