I've been finding actual people who have been through the HIPEC procedure that Rich will most likely have. That has been interesting to say the least. We were feeling pretty good about our choices for doctors in Baltimore. One is the department head at University of Maryland Cancer Center and the other is the department head at Mercy Hospital. We are unable to have Dr. Sugarbaker do Rich's surgery because as he said, he is 80 and not able to stand in an operating room for over 12 hours. Kudos for honesty. But Dr. Sugarbaker recommended four different physicians and we're meeting with two of them next week. If we can't have the dude who invented the treatment, we can at least have someone he trusts and mentored.
My cousin put me in touch with a friend who had the HIPEC treatment four years ago. This friend said in an email, "it was the worst thing imaginable." Seriously? Have you been in cahoots with Dr. Sunshine? Reading that email upset me more than I thought it would. Was I undervaluing the severity of this whole thing? Was I being foolishly optimistic? Glib, even?
I reached out to the friend in an email, asking for details. She wrote back with more information and contact info for another friend that also had the HIPEC treatment. In reference to this "nightmare" she added, "all in all, it is horrific." Jesus, is she talking about the same procedure I've been googling?
A few more emails with both of these patients, one who was treated in Pittsburgh and one who was treated in Baltimore and I'm learning more about what "horrific" means. Both women said they spent nine days in the hospital. Both women said they spent another week to 10 days with family/friends recovering further before traveling home. I was prepared for two weeks in the hospital and another two weeks in friends' care so this was actually very good news to me.
And that's when I decided I didn't really need their input so much anymore. Their experiences don't apply to us other than Rich will have a similar surgical procedure.
Rich worked with a guy who used to be a military medic but later worked in IT at Philip Morris. The guy complained that he would get phone calls from staff saying they had an "emergency" only to discover an executive could not get to his email. Mr. medic would tell Rich, "an emergency to me is a sucking chest wound, not an error in Outlook. These people need some perspective."
My definition of horrific? The Congo rape crisis. The Holocaust. John McCain spending five and a half years in a tiger cage as a prisoner of war. But when I asked if the side effects were similar between systemic (intravenous) and intra-peritoneal (sloshing fluid in your belly) chemotherapy, the answer was that Rich's belly kind was "no hair loss or nausea. Just yucky feeling."
Nine days in the hospital and feeling yucky does not a nightmare make, in my book. So in many ways these other patients have reaffirmed my optimistic outlook. I'm grateful for them sharing their perspectives because it's helped me solidify mine.
Rich and I have a joke that stems from my nosy neighbor open house when we moved to this home. I made flyers and put out a big sign on the porch and prepared for an afternoon of neighbors coming by to see our home. Rich wanted to protect me from getting my feelings hurt, so he sat me down and said, "not everyone is like you, Genie. People might not want to come look in a stranger's home." And we proceeded to have a steady stream of traffic from nosy neighbors all afternoon as a great introduction to the street.
So again, not everyone is like me. They have very different definitions of what an awful situation is. But that's not how I was raised and it's not how I'm wired. This will be a hassle and it will be stressful and it will be rough. But we will be fine. I know it. And if I say it enough times, everyone else will figure that out too.