On July 20, 2017
It is now 2017 and I have stayed cancer free since 2004. After surgery in Nashville and 35 radiation treatments administered over seven weeks in Jackson, TN, I continued to see my oncologist for check ups. For the first two years I would see him every three months. I would go to the cancer clinic in Jackson for a CAT scan and then talk with my oncologist. Then I met with him three times a year for a year. Then twice a year for a year and then once a year until 2015. At that point (10 years after my treatment ended) we felt that I would stay cancer free. I am now 61 and really have not noticed any effects of the cancer. Well, one: my neck sags from where the neck strap muscles were removed. I thank God for my recovery and pray for all those who struggle with this disease.
On August 9, 2004
I underwent surgery to remove a mass at the base of my neck. After surgery I was told the mass was too large for the surgeon to remove and that it was cancer. The surgeon removed a portion of the mass for biopsy. A week later I was told that no pathologist or doctor in the Jackson, TN, area could identify the mass and it had been sent to the Mayo Clinic for identification. On August 25, 2004, the report had been returned by Mayo and I was told I have Thymic Carcinoma. Well, no one here had ever heard of this and I have been referred to the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston, TX. My appointment is scheduled for September 8, 2004. At this point I don’t know the stage of the cancer or what treatment is available. I don’t know what is going to happen in Texas. I have searched the internet and there is so much, yet so little, information about this. I get confused by the connections between thymoma and thymic carcinoma. As best I can tell, if the mass can be removed and has not spread, I stand a pretty good chance for survival. If it cannot be removed or has spread the outlook is not quite as good. I have contacted Dr. Patrick Loehrer of the University of Indiana but as yet do not have an appointment to see him. As I understand it Dr. Loehrer is the best doctor in the country for this type of cancer in the country. I will keep in touch with this forum and pray for the best.
More Details From Philip…
In March of this year I noticed I was starting to lose weight. At that time I weighed 265 pounds and was putting in 65 – 70 hours per week at work. (I am a maintenance mechanic at a factory that produces corrugated (cardboard) boxes.) I figured the weight loss was due to the work load. By June I was down to about 230 pounds and decided to see my doctor, Dr. Robert Barker of Humboldt, TN. He took some blood for the usual tests and everything came back normal. One value (I don’t remember the name but it had something to do with the thyroid) was within limits but was on the low side. Dr. Barker ordered a thyroid scan to be performed at the Hospital in Jackson, TN. The results of the scan show a “spot” on the thyroid and Dr. Barker ordered an ultra sound and a chest x-ray. The radiologist, Dr. Webb of Humboldt General Hospital, did the ultra-sound and based on his findings recommended a CT scan. The CT scan showed the mass and was reported to be 2.9 cm. By this time my weight was at 223 pounds. Dr. Barker recommended surgical removal of the mass and referred me to Dr. Thomas Edwards of the Jackson Surgical Association. I met with Dr. Edwards on July 28, and he wanted another ultra sound of the thyroid. This was done and nothing new was discovered so surgery was scheduled for Monday, August 9. After wakening up from surgery I was told the mass was too large to be removed and that it was cancer. I was told on Friday, August 13 (a sign? LOL), that the section that had been removed for biopsy could not be identified and had been sent to the Mayo Clinic. Until the report was returned from Mayo we (me and the doctors) were working under the impression that the thyroid was the problem. I met again with Dr. Edwards on Wednesday, August 25, where he told me I had thymic carcinoma. He said he knew nothing about this type of cancer and that he was going to refer me to The MD Anderson Cancer Clinic.
Well, that is it. I walked out with a bunch of questions and no one who could answer them. I started researching the internet to learn what I could about this but really come up with such a range of answers that it all became quickly confusing. Slowly I am beginning to get a better handle on this and I am anxious to get to Houston so I can find out just what I have and just how good or bad it is.
As a side note since surgery I have gained about 20 pounds. I am now up to 245 pounds. I am hungery ALL the time. My physician thinks the turmor was pressing against the thyroid and screwing up the hormone production. Now that a chunk of it has been cut off the pressure has been relieved and thyroid is working as it should. This, of course, is just a guess on his part but it sounds logical to me.
September 9, 2004
Well, I made it to the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston and man this place is BIG! I saw the doctor, Dr. George Blumenschien, and he has scheduled me for lots of tests: chest x-ray, bone scan, ct scan, MRI of the brain and, of course, blood work. I have a consultation with a radialogist next week and should have one with a surgeon. Then see the doctor again and find out just what we are going to do to treat this thing. I told Dr. Blumenschien, I wanted the thing cut out and then put it in my hand. I was going to throw it on the floor and stomp the ever living crap out of it. Man, am I psyced up!!!
Let y’all know what happens next week.
I made it back from Houston today and I have GREAT news: the cancer has not spread! After a battery of scans, x-rays and interviews with doctors the report is that the one tumor in my chest is the ONLY one. Dr. Blumenschein has recommended three months of chemo, surgery, radiation and another round of chemo. I am going to have all the work done at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, TN. I have an appoitment tomorrow (Friday, September 17, 2004) in Nashville. The reason for the chemo is that there is some concern about the tumor being violated by the surgery I had in August. The doctors feel that by taking the wedge for biopsy, some cancer cells have “leaked” out and are now floating around looking for a place in my body to call home. The hope is that the chemo will kill any and all of these wayfareing cells before they can become established. I will post another message later with the names of the chemo drugs that have been recommended. I have to take my son to soccer practice!!!! 🙂
Back from soccer practice and Cub Scout meeting. Whew! What a day this has been. Driving from Texas for 10 hours and then the normal “Dad” duties to perform. I am loving every minute of it. LOL Anyway, here is the list of drugs that are being recommended by the good doctors at MD Anderson.
Cyclophosphamide – 500 mg/m2 over 1 hour
Doxorubicin – 60 mg/m2 over 72 hours
Cisplatin – 30 mg/m2 over 2 hours daily on three days
Prednisone – 100 mg
Let you know when all this will start.
I recieved an e-mail from the surgeon at Vanderbilt Cancer Clinic in Nashville today. This is what it said:
“I discussed your case at conference this afternoon. The consensus opinion was that we would recommend surgery as initial therapy and then follow that with chemotherapy and radiation as required. Please call my office for an appointment at your convenience so we can finalize plans.”
I called and made an appoitment for this Friday at 1:00. Funny how two hospitals can prescribe a different course of treatment. Well, it’s not really different just in a different order. I don’t care
what the order is just as long as something is finaly being done. I have looked at the statistics on this and I came up with one that really makes sense to me. I have never died from cancer before so I have a 100% chance of not dieing from it now.
Let y’all know what happenings,
Oct. 16, 2004
On Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004, I underwent surgery to remove my thymus gland and the tumor. Surgery went very well and I was back home on Friday, Oct. 1. Mr surgeon, Dr. Eric Lambright, of Vanderbilt University Hospital, said he was sure he removed 100% of the tumor. He also removed a portion of the thyroid gland and a neck strap muscle. I spoke with Dr. Lambright again on Oct. 6 and he told me the pathology report was back. The margins (the area of tissue surround the tumor) was clean (meaning no cancer cells found) but that the lymph nodes tested positive for the cells. I have an appoitment with an oncologist on Oct. 26, to discuss starting a treatment of chemotherapy to mop up those cells. All-in-all, things have gone very well. I will keep you informed about the future treatments and the outcome.
My oncologist, Dr. Alan Sandler, conferred with Dr. Loehrer and they decided to stick with the PAC regime. Dr. Loehrer said the radiation therapy would not be necessary but Dr. Sandler feels (and I agree) that we should proceed with it any way. I want to do everything I can (including quitting smoking) to try and prevent any more tumors. I am going to have four rounds of chemo spaced 21 days apart with the next round scheduled for Nov. 30. The third round will be administered on Dec. 21 and the final round performed in January 2005. I have been as nervous as a cat about getting this done. In my opinion chemo is little more that rat poison. But, I have some baby rats in my body and I guess it takes rat poison to get rid of them all. This will be followed by six weeks of radiation therapy. I don’t know what else I can do for this. Prayer, surgery, more prayer, chemo, lose hair, laugh, pray, radiation, pray some more. That should just about do it! It seems I got off the path here. Yesterday, Nov. 9, I had the first round of chemo. I was placed in an ‘Infusion Room” at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Clinic in Nashville, TN, and for six hours was given the drugs. First I was given some pills to control nausea. Then an IV was inserted in my left arm. (I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I hate needles!) I was then given Doxorubicin followed by Cisplatin and then Cyclophosphamide. Also, as the drugs were being administered I was given saline solution to get me hydrated. All in all it was not so bad just a rather long day sitting in the chair. Really the worst part (after getting the IV put in) was having to go to the bathroom every half hour or so but I survived it all. Most of you have already been down this road so you know what I’m talking about.