(See my previous blogpost, "Dear Dr Pan".)
When I wrote Dr Pan, I had no idea of what to expect. He's a pretty busy guy, carrying both an oncology practice and as an Assistant Professor at U of M. I didn't know when he would see my email, or even when he would have time to figure out something that would help Tom.
But, as Tom keeps reminding me, God works in mysterious ways. (I say it differently: "God is weird but good, and I am thankful.")
Less than 30 minutes after I wrote that email, Dr Pan was on the phone with us. Thirty minutes!! I was astounded.
And here's what he said:
First, he apologized for not making his treatment plan clear to us. He told us that Tom would be starting radiation treatment, and that this treatment would help both with Tom's esophagus and with the lymph nodes and spine, as they were all in close proximity to each other. He did confirm that the bone biopsy Tom had last week showed cancer in the spine.
Dr Pan said that after Tom's radiation treatment, he would begin chemotherapy, the goal being to try killing off any floating cancer cells that might be wandering around.
That's the part that we didn't get. I don't believe it was Dr Pan's fault that we didn't hear that part. When we learned that Tom might also have colon cancer, it was so overwhelming that we just missed hearing Dr Pan's game plan. At that moment, Tom and I definitely went blank, and we missed the full scope of Dr Pan's treatment plan. (But how endearing that he would take the blame . . . )
We completely misunderstood what was to happen, and believed that the only treatment on the table was palliative care through radiation. But - thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr Pan - this isn't what is going to happen, and within the next couple of weeks Tom will be undergoing his first step his fight to live.
Dr Pan talked with us for more than 30 minutes. He wasn't in a hurry, and he answered all our questions, making sure that the treatment plan was covered thoroughly. Dr Pan is my Hero of the Day.
He explained that after radiation, Tom will then start chemo. The good news is that the chemo he will be using is also the type used in colon cancer, meaning that this will overlap and have a positive effect on that too.
Dr Pan made it clear that at this moment, they do not know for certain that Tom has colon cancer. It is possible that the MRI may be showing the colon overlapping itself in such a way that it looks like a small mass, but might not be. He's more concerned about fighting the other cancers, and for now, since it's not causing any problems we've agreed to put specific colon cancer treatment on hold.
Now more than ever, we are convinced that U of M Hospital is the right place to be. Although it means long driving trips for treatment, and more time away from home than we wish, we know that we are getting the best treatment possible. They are People Who Care, and Dr Pan is one of many. In a huge medical system where it would be so very easy to treat patients as numbers, we've found compassion and understanding every step of the way, from nearly every medical professional we've met. We love University of Michigan Hospital.
(Dr Pan, if you read this, thank you for taking such a heavy load from our shoulders. The last couple of weeks were tough, and your call was so welcomed. We realize that there are no promises and understand that there's a long road ahead, but at least now we know that Tom has a fighting chance, and we are so grateful for that. You made our day.)