The Thoracic Surgeon

The Thoracic Surgeon

I was fine most of the day leading up to the appointment, but as the time to leave came closer, I started to think about what he might say. Was he going to tell me that it was something that could be treated? Or that I should go home and get my affairs in order?

As I waited in his office, I was completely consumed by the possibility that it was terminal. What a surreal mental state – going from thinking of your life in terms of decades to – in just a matter of days – collapsing that down to years, or possibly even months.

We are called back to the exam room, and in short order the doctor comes in and says, “oh wow, you’re a young man, I was expecting a 70 year old man, because that’s a big,scary tumor.” Yeah, thanks there doc, that really took the edge off the moment.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

We looked at the CT scan, and based on that he thought it was Stage IIIa. He said we needed a PET scan and a brain MRI to rule out metastasis (when it moves from one part of the body to another), but if it had metastasized, that would not be good.

After that, we talked about what things might look like if it hadn’t spread anywhere else. His plan was that we should do chemo and radiation, shrink the tumor, then cut out 1/3 to 2/3 of my lung, which would give me a good prognosis. He told me the fact that I’m young, a nonsmoker, and in good health otherwise, that the statistics out there weren’t my numbers, so plenty of room for optimism.

While it started out poorly, I left thinking, “okay, worst case, I get three years and I can work with that. Best case, I am missing part of my lung, but I get to hang around longer.” As odd as it may seem, this all sounded good to me, and lifted my spirits immediately. Why? Because I wasn’t told to go home and wait to die.

That said, this doctor was still not who I wanted to entrust my life with. Tori reached out to her people for referrals, and we were directed to Doctor Chiu at UT Southwestern. Since this is where I was treated for my tinnitus, it was already on the top of my list, but after researching this doctor and the organization overall for their cancer treatment, it became the obvious choice. So, an appointment was made, and soon we met with the stoic Doctor Chiu.


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