In Honor of My Husband, Ron

Friday, January 16, 2009

UW-Madison is our answer!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009: Our big day at UW-Madison. The weather was horrible! We had driven to Madison the afternoon before and spent the night with our daughter and son-in-law because the weather sounded bad. When we woke up, it was freezing cold, snowing and blowing all over. Our son-in-law drove our car, and with the help from my new TomTom, we made it. The minute we walked in, I just had a feeling about this place. It was beautiful but huge! I thought I had just gotten St. Luke's down, and now I will have to try to navigate another huge hospital complex. We got checked in right away, and got good directions for the first office. We made it to the right place, and of course I had a 2 page form to fill out. I had barely started when we were called in to the office. We went in and sat down, and met our future "liason", the Head and Neck Cancer Coordinator. She was very nice, and sat and talked with us for quite a while and asked a lot of questions about Ron's previous treatments. She gave us a guidebook that we will bring with us every time we come here, which will be helpful because up until now, I have used datebooks for everything, so now I carry a total of 4. It will be easier to carry just one.
The coordinator then left and the Dr. came in with his assistant. What a nice man! I feel like I should not use his name on this blog but I wish I could. He immediately put us at ease. He said that he had read through all of Ron's records, and felt that this was a last-ditch effort, which we knew already. He does feel, however, that Ron's chances are good with an extensive second salvage surgery. He said that he would not use hip bone as this was quite a painful procedure. He talked with Ron about what Ron wanted to do afterwards. Ron said that he wanted to be able to ride his Harley and shoot guns, including shotguns. The Dr. said that in that case, he was not going to use any bone from Ron at all. He will use metal plates to replace the mandible. He had thought that he would use part of the scapula, but since Ron wants to shoot guns, that would have an impact on his ability to handle the recoil. He will also replace Ron's tongue using abdominal muscle. He explained that this would give him the most favorable outcome in using his tongue again, for speech and for eating. He did say that Ron would probably never eat steak again, but he will be able to eat most things. Ron will have to have a PEG tube again of course, but the Dr. said that hopefully, it would not have to be permanent. The Dr. will have to use a lot of tissue to rebuild what is lost. This cancer is quite large, so a lot will have to be removed. He is hoping not to have to remove the entire tongue, just a portion of it. Ron's speech may be quite different, but he should be able to be understood. He will definately have speech and swallowing therapy to help him get used to his new tongue. The Dr. also explained that radiation would not be an option for Ron. The tumor is too large to do any Cyberknife treatments beforehand, and he has already had his limit of radiation. He does agree that Chemotherapy is necessary after the surgery, and after Ron has healed somewhat. I am hoping that we can do the Chemotherapy locally, with Ron's Medical Oncologist that he has seen for the past three years. The Dr. also used a scope that went down Ron's nose to view his larynx and throat area. He said everything looked great, and he feels that Ron will not have to have a permanent trach. He will have to have a temporary one placed during the surgery again for possible swelling. The Dr. spent at least an hour with us and answered all of our questions. I can't explain the immense confidence that I felt immediately in this man. I truly believe that he is Ron's best option for the best possible outcome.
After this appointment, we had a little while before the next one, so we were shown to the cafeteria area to get drinks. We then went to the next office to meet with the Radiation Oncologist. Again, I had just started filling out the form when we were called in. The RO came in and he was very nice also. He went through Ron's entire history, and explained that he thought Ron's best shot was the surgery. He didn't feel the Cyberknife would work for Ron because the cancer is so large. The Cyberknife is a much better option for one small tumor. Also the Cyberknife therapy would affect the surgical option. So this appointment was kind of unneccessary, but the RO was very nice and he also spent a lot of time with us explaining everything. All in all, we left the hospital feeling very hopeful for the future.
One problem did come up that day. We found out that UW-Madison was "out of network" for Ron's insurance. Wow, I was not expecting that. I didn't even think to call ahead of time to check. This didn't mean that they wouldn't pay at all, but they would pay less than normal. Now, for most claims this wouldn't be a big deal, but we are talking about a huge surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. In other words, a big deal. We called Ron's agent, and he said that he would call the company to see if anything could be done. He called back and said that if we could have the Dr. write a letter explaining why Ron needed his expertise, we would have a better chance that they would accept the claim as normal. I called our liason and told her what we needed. She said that she would work with us and help us as much as possible.
Friday, January 16. The Doctor called Ron today and said that his surgery would be on February 2. The surgery will take all day, so he is his only patient that day. I am wondering just how long it will be because the last one was 9 hours and that was with two doctors! He also said that he will be in the hospital for 7-14 days. Ron got a call later to schedule his pre-op appointments. They will be on January 27. First he will have his pre-op tests done, and then we will meet with the surgeon again so he can explain in more detail what the surgery will involve. I think I will call Ron's Oncologist next week and make an appointment with him to let him know what we have decided to do. He has been with Ron every step of the way for the past three years, and we like and respect him very much and would like to continue with him for Chemo. We are now in waiting mode again, but very much looking forward to the future!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finding a treatment facility that really cares about you. Good luck with the surgery and recovery. Just know that you are in our thoughts everyday. Craig and Sherri