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 for...it'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!