Can you believe it? I have been fighting Cancer for 10 years now!
Our trip to M.D. Anderson was a big one this time. We had three days of appointments to get through. The biggest part of the trip was the four-month cancer check, but we also had visits scheduled to get a few new body parts (Eyes, teeth. You know, parts!)
Wednesday appointments started early, so we headed over to Houston after my evening class on Tuesday. The trip over was dull, since it was dark the entire way. Since I have given up driving at night (my vision is not sharp enough for me to feel safe ta night), Cheryl drove the entire trip. We got to our favorite La Quinta a few miles from MDA, and crashed for the night.
Next morning, we checked in at MDA at 8AM. The first stop was with Patty, my Anaplastologist (Eye builder).
Patty had made molds of my face and used my old eye to build a new one, and it was ready, except for the paint job. So we spend a coupe of hours with her taking pictures, and trimming the new eye so it fits on my slightly thinner face. During this adventure, Dr. Hofsteade and another doctor, Dr. Aswar, showed up with my new dental plates
Dr Aswar was responsible for fitting the new dental plates they have constructed for me. There are two plates, and I was surprised to discover that they plan on restoring my mouth to a full set of upper and lower teeth. The lower teeth mount on a plate much like the one I left with on my last trip, only the new one has about five more teeth on it. We matched the new teeth to my current teeth, making me wish I had done a bit more "whitening" on those.
The upper plate is huge. It is probably no worse than a full plate like both my parents ended up with, but is was a surprise. It hooks onto two of my existing (remaining) upper teeth, and sits on the roof of my mouth. The plate will have all the missing teeth in place, but they were not installed yet. I probably will not be able to chew with those, but the hope is that they make me drool less, and better able to keep food in my mouth!
It took quite a while to adjust things so it felt right, and I could get it in and out.
While Patty and Dr Aswar were working on things, we took a break for the requisite Vampire feeding. This went smoothly. Maybe I am over my issues with needles. (Naw! Maybe my arm is so scarred from all of that and I just do not feel things much any more!)
After that, we were back up in the dental area for more fitting work.
We broke for lunch (which I could not have), then went to the CT Scan area. The place was packed, but I was called in for the IV right on time.
The tech who got me ready asked which arm I wanted to use, and I told her it really did not matter. Then I asked her is she had any Lidocane, which really makes getting the IV in nice. She asked if I was a "hard stick"? I said not really, but I think I made her nervous, so she asked another, older nurse, to put the IV in.
This nurse came up, brought the younger tech over, and proceeded to show her how to do an IV. I hardly felt it as she pushed it in. Amazing! See what learning something well can do?
The CT Scan had to wait for about a half hour, then they called me back for the scan. They make you sit in a tiny room, with just one chair, until the machine is ready. They gave me a warm blanket, and I sat there for about a half hour before the tech came and took me to the machine.
I have been in this same machine many times now, and the same picture of looking up through a Dogwood was still there. Same leaves and everything. Time for redecorating?
The scan only took a couple of minutes, then I was out. It was too late to return for more fitting work, so we were done for the day.
Since Sharon and Dan, our normal Houston dinner pals, were both sick, Cheryl and I decided to have dinner in the MDA cafeteria that evening. Then we went to Microcenter, and back to the motel.
THursday morning was another round of fitting work with both Patty and Dr. Aswar. During that, Dr. Hofsteade came in to check on the progress, and they made a few adjustments in the plates.
Finally, it was time for the news.
The waiting area to see Dr. Lai was packed as well. This place is sure busy.
I spotted a man wearing an Air Force hat sitting nearby, and walked over to say hello. Turns out he was a Forward Air Controller during the Korean War. He was only in the USAF for eight years, but they were hard years. We exchanged stories, thanked each other for our service, and parted ways. He was called back in for his test results before us. (This was his 17th annual checkup! I sure hope he got good news!)
Finally, they called us in. Once again we sat in that evil room staring at that door knob. I am convinced that is the scariest object on the planet.
Finally, a new PA walked in, and she said "The scan was clean" right away!
She looked me over, and got concerned when she looked into my mouth. She thought she saw some exposed bone n the back of my mouth. She left to get Dr. Lai.
Dr. Lai walked in looking as snappy as ever. He was quite pleased with the results, and looked into my mouth to see what the PA had been concerned about He asked me if Dr. Hofsteade was watching that area, and I said yes.
In the end, Dr. Lai declared me good to go, and moved my next checkup to six months. Yeah, we are making progress!
Still more Fittings
Elated with the news, we headed back to the dental area for more fitting work. More trimming, painting, and adjusting went on for a couple more hours.
Dr. Hoftead cam ein and we discussed the "exposed bone" that was mentioned in our visit with Dr. Lai. She said is was just the back molar sitting there looking ugly. They are just letting it decay, since extracting it is hard to do with all the radiation I have had. If it becomes necessary, they will do something. Until then, it just looks ugly.
Good, nothing new to worry about!
Cheryl and I decided to go to a small Italian restaurant we found a few years ago. We had a nice meal, and a little wine. Hey, we need to practice before our trip next summer.
Then we realized something. It was exactly ten years to the day since we started off on this adventure. It was on a Thursday, right before Thanksgiving, when my first diagnosis came back. We really had something to celebrate. That diagnosis came with a 75% chance of living five years, and here we were at ten.
God has been good to us, as have all of the four dozen or so doctors, and hundreds of supporters along this journey.
Friday Wrap Up
Friday morning, we were back in dental for what we hoped was the last fittings. In the end, both Patty, and Dr. Hofteade decided that the new parts needed a bit more time to get tuned up, so we ended up deciding on a return trip after Thanksgiving.
Cheryl and I left with no parts, but very happy with the trip.
We can never say this enough.
Surviving an ordeal like this cannot be done alone. It takes a lot of support from an incredible number of people to get us through. We both want to thank all of those involved in my care and supporting us in our healing for the past ten years.
As I have said before, once you are diagnosed with cancer, it never really leaves your mind. Thanks to all for helping us live with that, and survive with that!