We had a long and wonderful break from the last radiation treatment at the end of January. During the roughly 6 weeks of time off from doctor appointments and concerns, we were able to resume our regular family routines. If any of you follow Monica on Facebook or Instagram, you would have seen the return of some of the updates that she posts (for which I am super ecstatic) despite my waning enthusiasm for social media in general. A friend expressed to me this week some guilt at not having "been in touch" over these past six weeks, to which I thanked him. It was really, really nice not having the stress and constant countdown to surgery.
So here is one of the best updates I can give: Tuesday, we spent all day at MD Anderson starting at 6:00 am, which required us to leave our house around 5:10 am. Complete blood work, CT Scans, X-rays, MRI's capped off with a final consult with the Orthopedic Oncologist performing the surgery and we were done around 3:00 pm. We had not had any scans done since the final week of October, and even though Monica and I did not discuss the fears and anxiety we felt while awaiting these tests, we both were very relieved to hear positive news for every test. Monica's tumor had continued to shrink, again by 50% from the October scans. Whether it was the combination of continued chemotherapy and radiation or not, we will not know exactly. Her tumor started at 8 by 10 centimeters when first diagnosed back in July of 2018 and had shrunk to 2 by 3.3 centimeters as of Tuesday. This was genuinely a modern day miracle for us.
Surgery the following day was equally miraculous. She was supposed to have a 3 - 4 hour surgery, with the removal of 2 to possibly 3 different muscle groups depending on how the tumor was encased in her leg. After an extremely long 2 hours, the surgeon came down to talk to me and explained that he was done, and that he would have taken less time had he not spent the first 30 minutes just trying to feel and find Monica's tumor before cutting. He said the tumor was encased within a single muscle and he ended up only having to remove 4 inches (roughly 10 cm) of muscle, including the tumor in total. He even showed me a picture (and yes, I did ask for one beforehand.) He then said that they cut the tumor open and tested the margins of muscle around the tumor for potential cancel cells and all were negative. This mass will now be sent off to do more thorough pathological testing which will help us understand more about Monica's specific cancer cells and the potential future risk or likelihood for recurrence. Based on current statistics, she still has a 28% chance of a recurrent tumor in her leg within the next 2 years, but we are hopeful that the tests will place her on the lower end of the statistical probabilities of less than 10%.
Since Monica's surgery went better than expected, the doctor did not have to install a "drain" in her leg which is designed to keep the void from the removed tissue from filling up with fluid. We had planned for a hospital stay for up to 5 days, but when the doctor came to see us Thursday morning, the day after surgery, he suggested that Monica could go home Thursday and would be capable of recovering at home just fine. She had to pass a couple of tests, so a physical therapist showed up to take a walk with Monica. At this point, Monica had not been out of bed other than to sit in a chair once and had not put any weight on her leg. She got up, grabbed the walker and the three of us started to take a "walk." At first, Monica hopped for the first 5 feet, not wanting to put any weight on her right leg, then the PT said, "just try putting a little weight on that foot." Monica put weight on her right foot and slowly started scooting. After another 10 feet, the PT said, "eventually you will be able to put weight on your right foot and decrease your use of the walker." He had barely finished his speaking before Monica started doing exactly that. The next 20 feet Monica was still shuffling, when the PT said, "eventually, you will want to take normal steps and increase your gait so that you evenly distribute the weight." This time, before he finished his sentence, Monica was taking regular steps and pushing the walker. I think she would have ditched the walker had it not been hospital policy. Needless to say, we were released from the hospital by 11:00 am, less than 24 hours from the actual start of Monica's surgery. Today, Monica is taking short walks around the house without her walker. Resting and elevating her leg for pain often, but amazingly she is doing extremely well. I always thought my wife was tough, four kids and other minor surgeries have been evidence, but Monica is now without question the toughest and strongest person I have ever known. The only downside is now I'll never get to complain about not feeling well just to get some attention.