Where was I? Oh, yes, between the March 5, 2010, “Mom, the doctor called this morning; I have cancer,” and Brandon’s March 29, 2010 surgery, members of a “tumor board” met to discuss how to act on Brandon’s pathology report and we went with him to a “meet the head and neck surgeon” appointment. (I got the impression not many parents accompanied a 36 year old to such appointments!) The surgeon reviewed his plan for the surgical procedure.
Although he didn’t give the procedure a name, he went over possible outcomes based on what he might find once the surgery began. It was possible that very little tissue would have to be removed but he wouldn’t hesitate to do what was necessary to remove any disease from Brandon’s right maxillary sinus. He explained that he might have to remove some of the bone in that sinus, including bone of the hard palate, which would create a cleft palate.
March of 2010 went by in fog of hope and fear. Many prayers were said. Many tears were shed.
The day of March 29, 2010 Joe and I joined Christina and her parents at the hospital as Brandon was admitted to the pre-op area. When the transport team came to wheel Brandon to surgery, we all gave him a kiss and then headed to the waiting room for several nerve-wracked hours. We had no idea what the surgeon would find or how extensive the procedure would be. At some point one of the OR nurses said the doctor had asked her to call and tell us things were going well – whatever that means.
Finally, the surgeon called us into a consult room. Brandon was in the recovery area and doing well he said. He’d stripped the entire right maxillary sinus of its mucous membrane. No cancer was detected in any area other than one small bone facing the nose. (One of the turbinates, I think.) He’d removed that bone and sent it with the other tissue to Pathology. Brandon would be followed closely with check-ups every three months for several years, but everything looked good. (I got the impression the surgeon was taken by surprise when I threw my arms around him.)
|March 30, 2010 - the day after|
We took Brandon home to recover and after a few days he headed back to his own place. I’d found out the name of his procedure was a “maxillectomy,” and it often involves the removal of much of the hard palate or of bone underneath the eye, which means the eye must also be removed. (I was glad I hadn’t known the name of the procedure before the surgery, which really isn’t like me! I usually want to know every detail in advance!) Of all the bones that may have been affected, Brandon lost one that seemed the least consequential. Yes, it would cause discomfort and its removal involved some long-term unpleasant side effects, but compared to what might have been….
And our family breathed a collective sigh of relief and felt thankful thinking Brandon/all of us had dodged a lethal cancer bullet.