This is Birdie again. As Pete hasn't felt up to writing a blog like he originally intended, I will share with you what I understand of yesterday's surgery, for those who are anxious to know where we're at in this process. Happily, Pete is still sleeping soundly after a very long day at the hospital yesterday. He feels like he has a 2x4 nailed to his neck, so he was anxious about getting sleep last night. (Obviously, we figured out the right combination of pillows!)
We originally went in for surgery on Monday, but after the radioactive isotope injection, they were not able to find a sentinal node to biopsy. So we went back again yesterday. And after 4 hours of searching, they thought they might have found one in two possible places. The reason for a lymphoscintigram is to find microscopic cancer cells in the lymph nodes that a PET scan would not be able to find. The PET scan can only find masses of 1cm or more.
Unfortunately, what they thought might be lymph nodes were not. Therefore, we will not be able to get a biopsy of the lymph nodes, and thus, no complete staging of the cancer. The surgeon believes that there is no sentinal node due to the radiation Pete received 20 years ago.
However, they did remove the tumor and there will be a pathology report in about a week to let us know how far the cancer has spread. The good news is that after the tumor was removed, there was no more radioactivity in the surrounding area. Thus, we can hope that the cancer cells were encapsulated within the area they removed.
The sad bit of this, is that desmoplastic melanoma is tricky. It can spread through the blood stream, the nervous system and the lymph system, ending up anywhere in the body. In our surgeon's experience desmoplastic melanoma doesn't stick to statistics. That is why it scares him. It can show up later, anywhere in the body, bones, organs, etc.
When first analyzing melanoma, it doesn't matter how large the surface is, it is the depth that matters. The pathology report will tell us how deep the cancer cells have gone. If they have gone deeper than what they found in the original biopsy, then a PET scan might be the next step to try and look for it in other parts of the party. The doctors will confer on this.
This is all we know for now. We want to thank you again for all of your kind words, your encouragement and your prayers. Thank you for watching our dog, for bringing us food, and for cleaning our house. I sure haven't been up to any of it. (I'm just trying to learn how to dress a grown man who can't move his neck. It's tricky!)
We love you all and we'll keep you updated as we know anything.