I have some motivation... As much as I am building it to travel with B, I also want to knock out a trip or two with my dad in it. Some extenuating circumstances have realigned my priorities regarding getting it completed. I will share them with you, but fair warning is I don't really tell a short story well. So grab a comfy chair and read on if you desire.
My parents “reside” in Florida but are reasonably nomadic in the summer, bouncing between a summer place in Ohio and relatives in VA and CT, and even an occasional trip to OR. With the onset of covid, they were faced with setting out from FL and all that entails, or sequestering in their condo and calling it good. They made the decision to stay in FL, but since they weren’t going to see their “up north” doctors anytime soon, they found someone local and had their annual checkups. As part of this, my mom almost had to hold a gun to my dad to get him to go. Something about healthy people mixing it up with sick people in a doctor’s office during a pandemic didn’t sit with him. Eventually, she got him to shut up and go.
Then they called back. They saw something which looked weird. They wanted to do some additional testing. “Of course they do”, said my dad. “They are down on business and need to milk some $’s out of the insurance coverage to make it up.” He went back anyway and had some scope work done, and they may have taken a sample while they were in there (it’s been a while and my memory is a little fuzzy).
After about 2 weeks, they finally got back to him. He had small cell carcinoma of the bladder (SCCB).
This is a ridiculously aggressive form of cancer which metastasizes extremely quickly and can be resistant to treatment. And it’s incredibly rare, as in only about 1 in a million people who have cancer get this type of cancer. The survival statistics aren’t good- less than 15% see another 24 months. The oncologist we worked with shared that there were only 12 cases of it in the states last year. Time to go buy a lottery ticket, right?
Within days, my parents were at my sister’s outside Washington, DC, and had appointments with a doc experienced with SCCB and who was actually treating someone for it already. And she worked in some fly-by-night place called Georgetown Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Somehow, my sister-in-law was able to get my dad into their facility.
Extremely quickly (a couple more days), they had the tumor out. It was the end of May. The tumor was 83mm along its major axis. The next ~3 weeks were recovery from the surgery so he could start chemo. Just prior to starting his chemo, they re-scanned him. To underscore just how aggressive this type of cancer is, the tumor had re-grown to 54mm. That was in the space of just 3 weeks. Miraculously, the scans for the rest of his body showed nothing (we enjoy reminding him they didn’t find anything in his brain), so the focus was on the bladder. He was prescribed a regimen of 6 chemo rounds, with about 3w between each.
Somewhere around this time (early July), my mom had her annual appointment as well. Since they were already in DC, my sister took her up to CT to see her normal doctor. A couple of days later, she got her call- a small tumor for her as well. Thankfully, a biopsy and further evaluation confirmed it was very small, slow growing, easily removed, and responsive to treatment. We were also able to get her into the Lombardi Center for treatment.
Things went par for the course over the next few months- you know, after walking miles a day for years without issues, dad now gets bitten by a dog. And twists his ankle. And then there was a cardiac issue with some chest pains, which delayed a round of chemo a week or so... You know, all the usual stuff.
I will spare most of the rest of the details. The Cliffs notes version is mom’s treatment came and went without issue. She had her surgery in August and followed up with radiation. She is showing all clear and feeling back to normal.
Dad made it a little exciting, but we continued to get encouraging news each time we talked to the doc. His tumor shrunk during chemo a little bit and his scans continued to show no metastasis. He finished his chemo at the end of September and they gave him a month to recover and prep for surgery. On Mon, Nov 2, he had a ~10 hour procedure to remove and reconstruct his internals. He was expected to be in the hospital 7 to 10 days but in his usual over-achiever manner, was out on Friday- 4 days later. Another 3 days after that and he was out walking again. Not far or fast, but he was out walking again. He continues to gain strength and endurance and drive my mother crazy again.
And now for the closer... Just before Thanksgiving, we reviewed the pathology results from the removed organs. It was literally the perfect results- the tumor was only 70% necrotic but did not breach the bladder wall and all his nodes were clean. And BTW, there was also a malignant prostate tumor which is now nothing to worry about as it’s been removed from his body. He’ll be on a scan surveillance protocol going forward, but at this point we think it’s been beaten. He is looking forward to seeing how quickly he can get back to normal.
So for as hard as 2020 has sucked, here is a glimmer of happiness to brighten all your days:
So long story short, it thankfully appears I have a little more time to get the camper built but I'm full speed ahead on it anyway- when I can. I've been out to DC about 10 days a month since this all started, so progress is in fits and spurts. If I am scarce around Odd Thursdays for a while (once they get started back up), you'll at least know why now.
I hope you all are healthy and making lemonade with all the lemons stacked up around us!