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Several weeks ago my brother was having digestive problems. He was jaundiced, and was having problems with a perpetually upset stomach. An ultrasound was ordered, and problems were found with his gall bladder. Oh well, no problem, that can be removed with a tubal procedure. But before that they scoped his bile duct, and that told a different, much scarier story. A ‘stricture’ was discovered, which, according to the doctors, meant a tumor was present. Th oncologists informed us that ultrasounds are unrevealing for problems like this, so an MRI was ordered.

They did put in a stent when they did the tubal examination of the bile duct, so at least he would be able to eat and digest food while the investigation was underway.

The MRI found far more serious problems. It seemed to indicate a tumor surrounding the bile duct, involvement of the head of the pancreas and some lymph nodes. No problems were found on the liver, which was good news, since if that had been compromised, no surgery would have been considered, and they would have changed focus to what they call ‘quality of life,’ which basically means making the patient as comfortable as possible for what little time might be left.

A surgery was planned, to perform what is called the ‘Whipple Procedure.’ That innocent sounding name masks a procedure that represents at one and the same time a patient’s ONLY hope, and a catastrophic reworking of most of the digestive tract. As envisioned in this case, in addition to removing the gall bladder, it would remove the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, part of the bile duct, part of the stomach, and some of whatever else they find in there ... followed by reconnecting the entire system back up in ways nature never intended, in such a way to hopefully allow some digestion.

But if it is the only hope you’re given, you embrace it. The scariest scenario involved the surgeon getting in there only to discover liver involvement invisible to the MRI, in which case the surgeon would have closed and, again, focus would switch to quality of life. So a surgery planned to last five to six hours needed to NOT end early.

The day finally came, and it is the scariest day I’ve ever experienced. We were awaiting word that the surgery could proceed as planned, and yet we were terrified that the word would be bad. Finally we were told the surgery was proceeding, so we breathed a sigh of relief about that. Then, shortly thereafter, my sister encountered the surgeon out in the hallway! I was not with her, but my impression was that her heart nearly stopped! But, surprise of surprises, he was SMILING! He said he had the best possible news for her!

It turns out they got in there and found that the reality was not as they had expected from the MRI. They took a biopsy right then, and awaited results from the lab before proceeding. Their conclusion was that the cancer was a lymphoma rather than bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma, I think is how it’s spelled). Much better prognosis! The particular kind they found can be addressed with a course of chemotherapy. So they removed the gall bladder and closed.

I’ve seen a lot of doctors in a lot of different situations, but I’ve never seen doctors over the moon with a change in diagnosis as these doctors were. Best of all, my brother didn’t suffer a surgery it might take the remainder of his lifetime to recover from. Mortality during that surgery averages 5% and up, so that was a gift our surgeon gave us right off the bat. They say the chances of a cure with this chemo process is about 80%. I never heard odds for bile duct cancer, but it’s nowhere near that.

Today was his first treatment. I stayed with him all day (about 7 hours for the first session), and he did well. We still have a fight ahead, but at least so far, so good.

Please keep us in your thoughts, and I’ll try to keep everyone up to date with our progress!

Thanks for reading!

On to tonight's comments! (Special thanks to brillig for formatting tonight's submissions!)

From both WarrenS & anotherdemocrat:

Cedwyn perpetrates a pun and cuts right to the heart of the matter.

From JBL55:

From Freepers bristle at Ebert's review of Atlas Shrugged: Succinctness, thy name is Jaxpagan.

From blueoregon:

i'd like to nominate conlakappa's comment in princess6' diary. It's a basic truth.

From Mnemosyne:

Tara the Antisocial Social Worker may have figured out why Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wasn't invited to meet the prez and his peeps.

My picks.

Catskill Julie talks about the lose/lose situation Republicans create in reproductive choices, and decembersue asks a pertinent question about the 'pro-life' crowd.

Please add your own picks below!

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