Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Cancer? At 32?

June 14, 2019 will forever be remembered in our family - both for a very happy event and for a very scary event. 

Our first grandson, Leo, was born that morning at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Unbeknownst to us, our 32-year-old son, Peter, was also at Swedish that morning. He and his wonderful new girlfriend, Shannon, had decided to do what mature, responsible adults in a new relationship do - get an STD screening. Peter, a healthy young male, hadn’t felt the need to see a doctor in a very long time - since moving away from home about ten years ago, in fact - so he didn’t have a primary care provider in Seattle. I had been urging him to have a check-up for years, but it wasn’t until this decision to be screened that Peter decided to finally make the call. 

It was a call that likely saved his life, prompted by a girlfriend who just happens to be, of all things, an oncology nurse. 

 On that call to set up a screening appointment, Peter mentioned “a swelling.” The intake receptionist immediately kicked into high gear, knowing (as we have learned since) that any painless lump and/or swelling in the testicle is to be taken very seriously, especially in young men aged 15 to 33, as this is the group most affected by testicular cancer. (Peter is actually on the old end of the spectrum!)

Suddenly, the low-key STD screening that Peter initially expected had become a “triage” day of blood tests, an ultrasound, and a chest x-ray. At the end of the day, all alone in a radiologists examination room, Peter was given the very distressing news that he almost certainly had testicular cancer. Regardless, he was told, his testicle would need to be removed (an orchiectomy) - and soon. 

Peter must have texted me soon after hearing that news. 

I sensed no urgency from Peter’s text, nor from his call about an hour later, which he began by congratulating us on becoming grandparents. 

“Thanks! And congratulations to you on becoming an uncle!”

Peter then mentioned something about also being at Swedish all day and having some tests, and... wait... something about an ultrasound that showed... what... wait — 



Yes, our oldest daughter had a baby and our oldest son was diagnosed with cancer on the same day and in the same hospital. How crazy is that? Talk about an emotional rollercoaster! 

Peter has since said that the phone call to us that day was the hardest part of his ordeal with cancer - including the surgery and all the waiting. 

Exactly a week after Peter’s awful day alone at the hospital, he underwent an orchiectomy.

Peter’s support team consisted of Erin, Alex’s wonderful girlfriend (Alex was in San Francisco house/pet-sitting while his twin sister, Kat and her SO, Ian, were in Thailand), Tom (not pictured), me, and Peter’s sweet girlfriend, Shannon. 

Fortunately, the surgery, which went well, was out-patient. 

That weekend, Peter had his own private nurse to take care of him at home. Thank goodness for Shannon!

A few days later, Peter received his pathology report. His cancer was staged PT2, PNX, meaning his primary tumor was relatively large and it was unknown whether cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. 

After Peter’s surgery, we identified a Testicular Cancer Specialist team at Virginia Mason Hospital - the same hospital where Shannon is an oncology nurse.  Testicular cancer is a relatively rare disease, and most urologists see one or two cases in their careers. We wanted Peter to be under the care of the best of the best, so his next move was to request an appointment with Drs. Porter and Flores at VM, as they see eight to nine cases of testicular cancer per month in patients who come to them from throughout the country. 

We all squeezed into an examination room a week ago today for our first appointment with this team. We were told, first, that testicular cancer is a highly curable (not just treatable) disease and that, ultimately, Peter would be fine. At that time they also ordered a CT scan of Peter’s chest, abdomen, and pelvis, along with a few blood tests, and made a follow-up appointment for today, when we’d get a definitive idea as to next steps. Possible next steps would be Active Surveillance (just keeping an eye on things, via regular blood tests and CT scans, for a few years) or, if the CT shows cancer, radiation or chemo. 

Today we all nervously met again with Drs. Porter and Flores.   

We were so incredibly relieved and thankful to hear that Peter’s CT scan is COMPLETELY CLEAR! The doctors found nothing of any significance on his CT scan! (Peter called that one small insignificant spot on his liver “college”!) 

Peter now refers to “that week I had cancer” - but that week (or rather, with all the waiting, that month) has changed him, I am sure. Like his dad, he will always now be a cancer patient. That, in itself, must change a person. 

I know that cancer has changed me this year, too, as two men who I love most have dodged it - Tom, as he beat prostate cancer earlier this year, and Peter, as he beat testicular cancer last month. 

Can we now please just be finished with cancer for a while?!  That would be nice. 

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deekeller said...

Gosh, what a scary time for everybody! I’m glad he’s in the clear now. Your family is so close and so afmire that.

Margaret said...

What a roller coaster indeed! So happy that the news was good!! The c word terrifies me.

Susan @ A Slice of My Life said...

Wow! Scary stuff! I'm glad all is well now and hope it stays that way. Also, congrats on becoming a grandma. What a crazy day/month you've all had!

Goofball said...

wow I'm so glad he's going to be fine !! And yes, your family had its share so I vote for it to stop now

Colleen Stratton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colleen Stratton said...

I am so happy to hear that this is all behind you!!!

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