Note: You will want to mute the music below prior to watching the videos.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Siteman Cancer Center...Here We Come!!



I have finally found some time to update the blog. I will warn you, this is going to be quite lengthy. As many of you know, on Tuesday I headed up to The Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. The point of my visit was to get a second opinion from another oncologist in regards to my chemo regimen. I wanted to make sure that I was going to receive the best treatment with the right drug combinations. My mom and Ryan both accompanied me to the appointment. Now, before I go any further, I think it is important that you know why we chose Barnes.

Last month, my mom and I attended her monthly breast cancer support group meeting. I was the "newby" and by far the youngest one there. Each woman took the time to introduce themselves to me. One woman in particular mentioned that she always advises anyone with any kind of cancer to seek a second opinion. She explained that she had seen a wonderful oncologist by the name of Dr. Ellis at Barnes in St. Louis. With that being said, my mom and I began to consider doing the same for me. After researching the doctor online, we found that Dr. Ellis had written numerous research reports on breast cancer and that he is currently Head of the breast cancer program at The Siteman Cancer Center. Everyone agreed that I needed to try and get an appointment with Dr. Ellis. My mom began frantically scrambling around to get every film, slide, path. report, and doctor's note from the past two months. Within one week, all my reports had been sent to Barnes and they had called to schedule me an appointment with Dr. Ellis. We were thrilled.

As my mom, Ryan, and myself waited in his office, we began to wonder how our visit would turn out. Would Dr. Ellis be personable? Would he be optimistic? Would he agree or disagree with my diagnosis? Would he find something that I didn't know about it? After a short while, a doctor that works closely with Dr. Ellis came into my room. He asked me some standard questions and went on to say that Dr. Ellis was very interested in my case and that my kind of cancer was right up his alley. After he left the room, we sat there still hoping we had made the right decision. A few moments later, Dr. Ellis entered the room. He was followed by the doctor that had been in just a couple of minutes earlier, a Washington University student doctor, and a nurse. There were now seven people in a small room.

Dr. Ellis introduced himself to us as Matthew. He looked around the room and the first words out his mouth were, "I see we have two breast cancer survivors in the room." I almost fell off the table when I heard those words. I couldn't believe that he considered me to be a breast cancer survivor. Since my surgery, I had always considered myself a survivor; but now a doctor (a really smart doctor) agreed with me. Wow! He then went on to say that his hope was by the end of our meeting we would all feel reassured and more optimistic about my diagnosis. Is this guy for real? With his entourage of doctors, he explained, in very detailed terms, my kind of cancer. What it meant, what it didn't mean, how to treat it, how not to treat it, and so on. He said it was very unlikely that my cancer would ever spread beyond the breast because it was caught early. However, he said if by chance a cell had floated off to a distant location, the chemo would, not may, would kill it.

He mentioned several times that my mom was such an inspiration for me and how I can look at her and know that breast cancer can be beaten. He is so right. When we started talking about treatment he agreed with the drugs I would be given during chemo, but not with the way they were going to administered. Rather than taking all three drugs at the same time over the course of 18 weeks, he suggested I take two of the drugs together four times, for a total of 8 weeks, and then the other drug by itself for the same amount of time. So, instead of having chemo for 18 weeks, it would only be for 16 and it would be easier on my body. He explained that by administering the drugs separately, they work more effectively. Sounds good to me!

When I thought our appointment was just getting ready to wrap up, Dr. Ellis asked if it would be reasonable for me to take my treatments at the Siteman Center. I thought this meant taking my treatments there, but still seeing my oncologist here. No...he meant that I would take my treatments there and that HE would be my oncologist. I could not believe that one of America's Top Doctors (not-kidding) was offering me the chance to be treated by him at a top-notch cancer center. I'm not sure I even thought twice about it. Neither did Ryan. Neither did my mom. Dr. Ellis explained that I will have an entire team of doctors assigned to me, not just one doctor with one nurse. As he left the room yesterday, he stopped to look at me and told me that one of the most important things about the entire process is the relationship an oncologist has with their patients. Then he told me there was NO REASON to believe that I am not cured and will not be cured for the rest of my life. You could feel the presence of God in the room and with each word spoken we were reassured by our decision to come to St. Louis for what we thought was just a second opinion.

I feel overjoyed that I am not only going to get the very best treatment, but I have a doctor who truly believes that I am healed and has my very best interest at heart. The Siteman Cancer Center is a place of hope and I feel so blessed to be a part of something so great. I know this is just another wonderful part of God's plan for my life. I can't wait to see how God uses me each time I go to St. Louis. My prayer is that I can continue to be a blessing to all those I meet throughout this process.

I am currently scheduled to begin chemo next Wednesday, August 13th, at 11:00 am. I still have these dumb old drains (although they are improving) and as you all know they have to come out before treatment. The plan for now is to have the drains out by next Tuesday. On Tuesday, Ryan and I will travel to St. Louis and return home on Wednesday after chemo.

I would like to add that Dr. Ellis was kind enough to prescribe something to help me sleep. It also helps with nausea and anxiety. I took one of the micro-mini pills last night. Are you ready for this......I did not wake up all night long. This is not to say that your prayers aren't working, I just needed a little boost so I could get some much needed rest. Here in about an hour I am on my way to get my pre-chemo haircut. It is probably going to be the shortest I have ever worn it. However, I figure in just a few weeks it is going to be a heck of a lot shorter!

God continues to work miracles in my life. I pray He blesses you in the same way.

I found this video on YouTube. It will give you an idea of how incredibly blessed I am to be a part of Siteman Cancer Center and patient of Dr. Ellis'.

2 comments:

Cheryl Jones said...

Melody,
I found your blog through "no surrender" Gina's board! She helped me through one of the very lowest times in my whole life. The day I received confirmation that I had breast cancer. I am also triple negative. In just weeks, I will be celebrating l year from my date of surgery. I had a lumpectomy and chemo and radiation at The James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. They were amazing and I love my oncologist.
I was so excited to read this post from you! You are on an amazing journey, that I promise you that you will grow spiritually by leaps and bounds and God is at every turn you will take. He will guide you and direct each new page of this chapter in your book. He is the author!
We never have to fear, for we know that until our job is done in this life, he will not take us home.
Isn't God SOOOOOOO GOOD to open this door up for you. I am rejoicing with you my dear sweet sister in the Lord.
I wanted to share with you the video my sister (who is a stage 4 ovarian cancer for 4 yrs. now!!!) put together for me. I picked the song and pictures and then she wanted to do this for me. It is so special. She did it right after my last radiation treatment and I was done!!!!!!!
I am feeling GREAT!!!!!! I am here for you and praying each and every day and I just wanted you to know that.
Here is the video. (Whenever you see hair on my head (except for the lst picture) the rest is my wig. I had chemo from Oct-December 28th and then to radiation until March 20th. You will see our daughter (we only had one daughter) in the pics and my 2 beautiful grandchildren. The end picture is my sister and I and then pictures of my last day of radiation. We CELEBRATED!
Any questions you may ever have feel free to email me.
cherlilly12@yahoo.com
HUGS and I am right here praying and you are going to do awesome. God will carry you through this fire and you will NOT get burned! That was one of my favorite scriptures through this.
HUGS from OHIO! oops...here is a link to the videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3kVNx44MiU

Cheryl

Anne said...

Mel,

I am so glad that everything went well! I knew it would. They treat everyone up there so wonderful, my mom has nothing but good things to say about the people there.
After we know how the chemo goes and how you react to them, hopefully I can come up to St. Louis before you leave after a treatment!!

Talk to you soon!

Love, A