I wrote a little bit about this in Karen's thread the other day ( http://www.inspire.com/groups/lung-cancer-survivors/discussion/pet-on-the-3 0th/ )... and I thought I'd recapitulate that here, in its own thread, and add a wee bit of detail to it. It's... well... different.
The way things are looking now, it could be that I only have another month or two remaining. I started-out in June 2009, diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, with metastases scattered all about my spine, abdomen and organs. Over the next 9-months, that was all cleared-up with chemotherapy and radiation... except for a metastatic tumor that set-up shop in my spine, at the C5-C6 vertebrae. Persistent bugger... and basically, it's wrapped itself around my spine. It's been busily causing soft-tissue damage, including nerves, which has resulted in my right arm being pretty-much crippled-up (can't finger-pick my guitar anymore). In addition, it's also been destroying the bony structure of the vertebrae, to the point where at C5-C6, I've only got bone remaining on the left side; the right-side has been completely eaten away. That left-side bone is all that's holding my head up... or 'on', depending on how you want to look at it.
I had a consult with neurosurgeons last week, in Miami. I am told that the bone destruction has been accelerating since December, and unless surgery is performed in the very near future, they anticipate that the process of bone degradation and destruction will complete itself, and my spinal cord will be crushed under the weight of my skull. It should be very sudden, if it occurs... and I guess it should be fairly dramatic, too, huh? Poof... gone! In other words, my head's gonna fall off , spontaneously (not REALLY 'fall off'... dramatic license)... UNLESS they can get all that nasty stuff out of there, clean-up what remains of my vertebrae, and bolt my head back on with rods and screws. (I've been told that I needed to get my head screwed-on straight. Who knew that was prophetic?) I'm awaiting an MRI, which they need in order to resolve some additional soft tissue details, and complete the surgical plan. Then... we'll schedule it. The surgeon said that I'll be 'fast-tracked' through the system... else my head may fall-off (dramatic exaggeration again... but not TOO far-off) before they can do the operation.
While the surgery has a fairly good chance of succeeding, there's a significant (but presently unquantified) probability of coming out of it as a quadriplegic... and I see death as an acceptable outcome, comparatively speaking; I won't DO quadriplegic.
Believe it or not, I'm pretty-much unperturbed by this... except for the pain, that is. The pain REALLY sucks. Fortunately, though, it's been kept in-check with morphine, for the past 10 months or so. If not for the morphine, I'd be begging everybody I encountered to please... kill me. No joke.
I stopped taking chemotherapy a few weeks ago. My oncologist explained that I had to be free of chemotherapy for 30-days prior to any major surgery being done, and we wanted to be sure that the operation doesn't get delayed while waiting for that time to expire. The 30-days will be up on this coming Friday. It's a remarkable thing... I feel great; I suppose that's a consequence of not having been poisoned for nearly a month. The last time I went so long without being poisoned was prior to last June, and since then, I've felt so crappy from chemo side-effects that crappy has become the new 'normal' for me. I'd forgotten how it is to actually feel 'good'. I seems kind of counterintuitive, doesn't it? I mean here I am, in desperate need of surgery so I don't die within the next 2-months (or less)... and I feel better than I've felt for 10-months. So, dying suddenly (and most likely, painlessly) while feeling 'good', doesn't sound all that scary to me.
Anyway... my MRI is scheduled for Thursday, this week, and I'll talk to the neurosurgeon this coming Friday, or next Monday. Then, we'll review the probabilities for potential surgical outcomes and schedule the operation... IF warranted. You see... if the probability of paralysis turns-out to be unacceptably high, there remains the distinct possibility that I will decline the surgery, and just let nature take its course. If I decide to just let myself croak, I'll be sure to let y'all know... but just so y'all are aware, though, that potential outcome does not perturb me or disturb me in the least, so I'd hate for it to disturb anybody else, unduly. I feel more trepidation at the idea of suffering weeks of pain, agony and helplessness following a SUCCESSFUL surgery, than I am worried by the prospect of not waking-up from anesthesia. So, given the choice between waking-up paralyzed, and not waking-up at all... I'll take the latter choice, thank you very much.
So, there you have it. If there turns out to be an unacceptably high probability of ending-up paralyzed, I will choose to croak, instead.
In case I don't wake-up... BYE-BYE, all. If I DO wake-up... I'll let y'all know, when I am able. (Depending on how debilitated I am following surgery, though, that might not be until around the end of April.)
While I'm out-of-contact... best wishes and good luck to everyone.
Too bad. I'd always imagined my life ending by dying in bed, at about 85 or 90 years-old... caught in flagrante delicto, with a gorgeous 35 year-old babe... shot to death by a jealous husband. Oh well...
EDIT: Corrected mistake; changed 'paraplegic' to 'quadriplegic'.
Edited March 24, 2011 at 11:06 am