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Face-to-face with the enemy

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  • Face-to-face with the enemy

    I had a very interesting experience in the lab today. My boss at Dana-Farber hired several months ago a pathologist to help with our mouse model work. Currently, he's on his pathology service at the hospital where I had my I/O, and out of mere scientific curiosity I asked him if he was allowed to check out my pathology slides and walk me through them. He gladly obliged, and he was even able to get the genitourinary (GU) pathologist on call to go through the nitty-gritty details of the pathological assessment.

    I was really stoked to be able to see things for myself. He pulled out the slides, and we started examining them one by one, starting with the cord margin slide and a section of healthy tissue. Then came the slide with the active tumor, and that's when I froze. The GU pathologist walked me through the whole thing: "this is the tunica albuginea... here's the tumor margin... seminoma cells have the shape of fried eggs... that over here is another growth that traveled as ITGCN..." I stoically paid attention through the whole thing, but the overriding emotion was one of shock and disbelief. It was eerily similar to the feeling I had when the ER doctor was going through the diagnosis talk I had 4 months ago.

    Don't get me wrong, looking at my own tumors fixed on a slide was fascinating, and it gave me more of a sense of purpose as a cancer biologist (I won't deny that deep down inside I was thinking, "Ha! I got you right before you could do more damage!"). Yet, I thought the science would shield me entirely from the emotional aspect of coming face-to-face with the enemy. I guess I should have known better. I don't regret having seen the cancer through the microscope because it made being a survivor feel more real. I've been in a somber mood since then, but I'm sure that will pass. It's good to see things in perspective, and although the emotions may be overwhelming at times, I know that I have much to live for, especially if I want to beat this to the ground in the lab.
    "Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller
    11.22.06 -Dx the day before Thanksgiving
    12.09.06 -Rt I/O; 100% seminoma, multifocal; Stage I-A; Surveillance; Six years out! I consider myself cured.


  • #2
    It does have to be a bit odd to see the actual evidance that you body betrayed you.
    Son Jason diagnosed 4/30/04, stage III. Right I/O 4/30/04. Graduated College 5/13/04. 4XEP 6/7/04 - 8/13/04. Full open RPLND 10/13/04. All Clear since.

    Treated by Dr. Rakowski of Midland Park, NJ. Visited Sloan Kettering for protocol advice. RPLND done at Sloan Kettering.

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    • #3
      I can imagine. I know my L-RPLND surgery was filmed. I've often wondered how I would react if I could watch it.
      Scott, [email protected]
      right inguinal orchiectomy 6/5/2003 > nonseminoma, stage I > surveillance > L-RPLND 6/24/2005 for recurrence, suspected teratoma but found seminoma, stage II > chylous ascites until 9/2005 > surveillance and "all clear" since


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      • #4
        Do you think they film most operations? I don't know if I could watch Jason's RPLND but if I had the film how could I not watch it. Talk about a reason for a stiff drink, Yipes.
        Last edited by dadmo; 03-28-07, 02:27 PM.
        Son Jason diagnosed 4/30/04, stage III. Right I/O 4/30/04. Graduated College 5/13/04. 4XEP 6/7/04 - 8/13/04. Full open RPLND 10/13/04. All Clear since.

        Treated by Dr. Rakowski of Midland Park, NJ. Visited Sloan Kettering for protocol advice. RPLND done at Sloan Kettering.

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        • #5
          You guys seen the pictures when the Surgeons had my monster in their hands. I have those pictures and also a film of the entire surgery. It shakes me up every time I see It. Seeing myself knocked out on the table with my stomach wide open with retractors and 3-4 Surgeons with their hands inside of me,removing the tumor, kidney,lymph nodes etc.. its like an out of body experience every time I see it- Hard to explain.. It also makes me realize how lucky I am... How lucky we all are!!!!!
          Moffitt Cancer Institute
          CANCER SUCKS
          Diagnosed/Left I/O 9/18/2004--Non-Seminoma/Stage IIIC--3X B.E.P chemo--3X T.I.P. Salvage chemo---Abdominal [email protected] 34cmX 24.5cmX 17.5cm---4/19/2005 --RPLND/Left Kidney,8 1/2lb Abdominal tumor,42 nodes removed---7/16/2005 Remission/Surveillance---Severe Peripheral Neuropathy--

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          • #6
            Russell's slide

            Whitewater emotions!!! I have one of Russell's slides. Went face to face with it one day. No words, no tears, no rage, but huge! It rode around in the back seat of my car with me for a while. Kind of felt like the kids when they got bored of riding!! Now, like the monster that greets me every morning when I wake up....it does not scare me anymore! It was a part of my son...I am proud of him in everyway! Russell's Mom, Sharon
            Click here to support my LIVESTRONG Challenge with Team LOVEstrong.

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            • #7
              In a similiar vein I would always tell Alex how good he looked when he was going through chemo and to be honest I thought he did.

              A few months ago we developed some film and there were a few pictures of him right in the middle of chemo and he did not look good at all. He was thin beyond belief and there was no hair on his head or eyebrows. My wife and I started shaking, I was close to tears. Did he really look that bad and I didn't see it at the time?

              After thinking about it for awhile it occured to me that what we did was the right thing to do. We choose to see him not as a sick young man but as a young man in the healing process. It made it bearable.

              We will never throw those pictures away, they remind us what we went through and how grateful we are now that it is over.

              Domenic

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              • #8
                reflection

                I agree! If my boys don't get a reflection of their strength and true self from me, even at the most difficult times, it might be difficult to see elsewhere. Now I have to say that I have earned my gray hairs, but always try to to find the reflections that will help them see their strong side!
                Russell's nurses like him better with no hair...the cool look. Take care, Russell's mom Sharon
                Click here to support my LIVESTRONG Challenge with Team LOVEstrong.

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                • #9
                  Wow Fed,

                  Great thread. I had a very similar experience to the one you describe. I had picked up my path slides to bring them to MSKCC, and of course I brought them to work to 'check them out' on our scopes. I too thought I could be detached from it. I also thought that a 1.5 cm tumor was small, but it isn't at 200-300x. When I saw all of those cancer cells, and I saw a few in the process of mitosis, or what looked to me like the verge of vascular invasion, my emotions were mixed. One was that "yes, we got you before you completed your evil processes" and the other was "my God, I could have died... still might". It brought a perspective to this whole thing that I didn't have begore. I showed my mother the tumor on the slide later that night (without a microscope) and it was the first time that she broke down and cried in front of me.

                  Personally, I don't think that cancer is evil, or good, it just is. That thing was part of me, part of something that went wrong with me. I hope and pray that it's all behind me. I do think that what we choose to do with our knowledge can be good or bad. Some (I guess) can become quite miserable, but most it seems get a better appreciation for life and learn not to sweat the small stuff. I feel like I have a lot more to learn!
                  Detected mass 10-6-06, Radical left I/O 10-10-06, Stage I seminoma, 1.5 cm primary, No LV invasion, No Rete Testis Invasion... Currently on Surveillance.

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                  • #10
                    The Enemy

                    I got this today from the pathologist that works in my lab (see my original post in this thread). Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the germ cell cancer seminoma, courtesy of yours truly.
                    Attached Files
                    "Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller
                    11.22.06 -Dx the day before Thanksgiving
                    12.09.06 -Rt I/O; 100% seminoma, multifocal; Stage I-A; Surveillance; Six years out! I consider myself cured.

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                    • #11
                      they don't scare me

                      When I stop to think about the fact that the cancer cells are the confused out of control ones, it reminds me of all that I have to work with! They don't scare me!! If all of us were pushed togther onto a slide and had a photo taken we would create a much more interesting and directed look, don't you think!? Take care, Russell's Mom, Sharon
                      PS I had to power up for this one, Russell's slide sits on a shelf next to my bed! Stay strong, thank's for sharing.
                      Click here to support my LIVESTRONG Challenge with Team LOVEstrong.

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