Sandy had a third surgery to remove a tumor from her sinus at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA, on February 8, 2018. She was in surgery for two and a half hours. It was much more invasive than her previous two sinus surgeries.
They had to remove some bone. She had to stay overnight at the hospital. They increased her pain meds and gave her a prescription to use for another 4 days.
She feels like she was kicked in the right eye by a horse. Her face is swollen on the right side but that is the only after effect you can see. Right before the surgery, the doctor told us that if he needed to disturb the nerve that is right beside the tumor she might have permanent numbness of her right cheek and the loss of her facial muscles on the right side of her face. That was very scary to hear. Thankfully, he told me (at 4:40 pm in the waiting room where I had been since 9 am) that he did not need to touch the nerve.
I was with her on and off before the surgery started at 2 pm (it was supposed to start at noon but got delayed due to his previous surgery going overtime) and was told she would be able to go home after the surgery (it ended at 4:30 pm) plus a 90 minute stay in the recovery room (6 pm). The recovery room time was extended over and over due to the fact that they were having a difficult time controlling her pain. Finally, they tried lidocaine, which is used for dental procedures, and it did the trick. Then, at 9 pm, I was told she was being admitted to the hospital.
I was with her as they wheeled her to her room (she told me the pain she was having in the recovery room was exactly like a toothache only a thousand times worse) and then I had to leave.
Sandy changed her chickpeas after I left (it was exactly 12 hours after she changed them that morning) and she changed them again 12 hours after that the next morning. (While I waited for the doctor to decide if she needed to stay overnight in the hospital I went to the car and got 4 chickpeas and 4 squares of cabbage plus 4 band-aids, just in case he admitted her).
After leaving the hospital I got another motel room, this time in Sunnyvale, 20 minutes south, as all the motels were full all the way up the peninsula to South San Francisco. We both stayed in a motel in Redwood City the night before the surgery as she had a full day of tests the day before the surgery. So we were in or near Palo Alto from 11 am on 2/7/18 to 3 pm on 2/9/18.
After Sandy was discharged from the hospital we went to the CVS drug store and got her pain prescription filled and left Palo Alto. We were home in less than two hours
That night, 2/9/18, Sandy slept during the night off and on sitting up in her easy chair. She had blood draining down the back of her throat, which is the only thing the pain meds didn’t help. The doctor said when she goes to bed she should be propped up at a 30-degree angle until the bleeding stops. The bleeding tapered off over the next two days.
She had a follow-up appointment to see the doctor on February 14, 2018 at 2:30 pm to find out if the tumor was malignant or not and to have the doctor look at his handiwork. She told him she does not want chemo or radiation therapy if it turns out to be melanoma again. He told us he had received the slides of Sandy’s previous melanoma tumors from December 2013 and January 2016 but hadn’t looked at them yet. She is now part of a “Stanford Melanoma Study.”
On February 14, 2018, at her follow-up appointment, we learned that Sandy’s tumor tested positive for malignant melanoma. The surrounding tissue and bone were negative for melanoma. The doctor said that part was good. Before seeing the doctor the doctor’s student-assistant (whom I believe was the one who performed the surgery) picked off the scabs in Sandy’s sinus and, even with the anesthesia a nurse sprayed into her nose a half hour before, she screamed and screamed (he removed most of them and they were sucked up with a vacuum device attached to the tweezers he was using). I watched on the monitor as she screamed but I didn’t hold her hand because her knuckles were white as she gripped the armrests of the chair. The doctor finally came in and took his “protege” out of the room for a few minutes and then they both came back in and the doctor said they both decided that that was enough for the day (he also said he couldn’t just stand outside the room and listen to her scream even though it is necessary to remove the scabs so scar tissue doesn’t build up and block her airway).
It took us 2 1/2 hours to get home that night in stop and go traffic and it was dark most of the time (during the middle of the day it usually only takes 2 hours but we left at 5:30 pm and got home at 8 pm). Sandy is my navigator and she was up to the job even after all her pain and then having to take extra pain medication just to get home. We tried to eat out at the Fish Market (where she used to be a waitress 30 years ago and where she had made us a reservation) but 1/2 way through our meal she couldn’t stand the pain in her face and we packed it up and left (she thinks the anesthetic they sprayed into her sinus wore off just as we were beginning to eat). The next day we both had sore muscles from our grips on things (Sandy the armrests and me the steering wheel). All in all, it was a horrible Valentine’s day.
In answer to Bill’s (Sandy's brother) text, “Not fun. Hopefully, they got all of the tumor! With no issues in the surrounding areas, I take it, this is good news!” Yes, they got all of the tumor, but they got it all the last two times also (but this was the first time any bone or surrounding tissue was removed). This time, with the removal of bone from the scull base and the 3 samples of salivary gland tissue from the surrounding area, all of which tested negative for melanoma, the doctor said that that news is good. Sandy will see the doctor again on the 23rd of Feb. and, in the meantime, she is removing the scabs herself with saline rinses (NeilMed Sinus Rinse premixed packets are what the doctor recommended and they are working well). She is using a Neti Pot instead of the spray bottle that comes with the packets.
Ben (Sandy's son) asked: “What "stage" is Mom in?” I Googled "stages of cancer definition" and this is what I found: "Stage 0. This stage describes cancer in situ, which means ’in place.’ Stage 0 cancers are still located in the place they started and have not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumor with surgery." I guess that's why the doctor said the results of the lab tests on the surrounding tissue and bone were good.
We are praying that the chickpea therapy will prevent the tumor from growing back and/or metastasizing. The chickpeas seem to be working well to prevent the melanoma from metastasizing. Sandy says she is willing to have the melanoma tumor removed again and again and keep changing the chickpeas in her legs every 12 hours forever if it will keep the melanoma from metastasizing. She has been on the chickpea therapy for 15 months so far and the physicist who wrote the book about it says it takes at least 18 months to get rid of metastasized cancer (and surgically removing cancerous tumors, if possible, helps). He says cancer is caused by two things: toxins and trauma.
I’m going to ask Sandy’s surgeon next week if he can recommend a psychiatrist who specializes in incest survivors and who takes Medicare. Sandy has resisted going to a psychiatrist because she didn’t want to talk about what her dad (who died in 1997) did to her and Cappie (Caprice Ann Petry, March 19, 1959 - July 27, 1980, Sandy's sister who died in a car accident) but yesterday she said she and I talk about it all the time so maybe it’s time she goes and talks about it with someone who might be able to help and not just sympathize. I agree because I think she needs someone to give her some tools to deal with her feelings instead of letting them cause the tumor to grow back.
Some psychiatrists say talking about a trauma without the tools to reduce the stress that talking about it causes makes the body believe the trauma is taking place again and again.
Sandy is feeling a little better today. She is so angry at the student doctor that she never wants to see him again. We will see if she goes back to Stanford next week or not. I couldn’t tell you one way or another.
Christmas Photo 1994: Back row: Sandra Petry, Bonnie O'Sullivan, Dale Maxwell, Nancy Petry, Bill Petry, Front row: Ben Hagen, Donovan Maxwell, Justin Petry, Shane Petry (in Nancy's arms, Billy Jack Petry.