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Robert Schwab

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In the Chemo Room: Out With a Tumor

Posted: 11/23/11 01:59 PM ET

I'm sitting at my computer on the day after a thoracic surgeon, John D. Mitchell, took out a relatively large colorectal tumor from my trachea, and I've been left wondering if all the muscle soreness in my body (as if at age 64 and totally out of shape I had just played in a two-hour pick-up, touch football game) is the result of not taking the heavy painkillers they usually give you after a major surgery?

Is that the pain they are trying to kill? Is it pain that results from full-body anesthesia? No matter where the surgery?

Because that's most of the pain I am feeling today on the day after. A mild sore throat, and little chest pain, but they pulled the tumor (literally) from the wall of the trachea and kept me overnight at the University of Colorado Cancer Center to make sure they didn't also pull out a hole in the trachea wall, which would have caused me further problems.

They did the work with a bronchoscope and had they accidentally pulled open a hole in the wall of the tube from my throat to my lungs, they would have had to split open my chest to go in and repair it. That's why I am home today; they did not open a hole, and I was released this morning as my over-all-aching increased by the minute.

But this has been the latest chapter in my fight from the Chemo Room against this four-and-a-half-year-old case of colo-rectal cancer.

The tumor grew in my throat while I was enrolled in a clinical trial testing a drug that had mild-to-moderate side effects and held most of the rest of the many tumors in my lungs and chest in check during the test. But then I started coughing badly, they ran a CT scan and looked closely, and ordered up the bronchoscopy.

So now I've been dropped from the trial because it was clear the drug I was receiving and have written about here before wasn't doing as good a job as we were thinking it was doing. But the trachea is a strange place for colo-rectal cancer to matastisize, so you can probably blame my individual cancer for the unexpected response to the drug.

The good thing is they found the tumor before it stopped my breathing altogether; they learned a little something about the drug; I'm breathing better now and no longer coughing as much. The bad thing is the tumor could grow back from the place where it was taken from, and the rest of the cancer mets (metastases) remain in my lungs and chest cavity (lymph nodes) and must be dealt with.

So you could call this chapter of In the Chemo Room, 'In, Out and Back Into the Chemo Room' because that's where I'm destined to return. As soon as all these aches and pains go away and my body heals from the surgery.

Dr. Wells Messersmith, my oncologist now, said he'd find a new way to treat me, which probably will involve a new clinical trial. But that's what the Cancer Center has come to be known for nationally in a very short time.

And that's why Mitchell, one of the nation's best thoracic surgeons I am told, is working there on patients like me. You can't say I'm not getting the best of care. And so are hundreds and hundreds of others who are passing through the center's gates.

 

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