Two days after being told I have cancer in my eye – I remember waking up optimistically numb. My parents had arrived and Paul, mom, dad and I headed over to meet Dr. Hovland. Dr. Hovland is one of the ocular oncologist in Denver, expert in the field of OM. (Sidenote: you’ll start to see a trend, but I am more than ever lucky to live in Denver. Before because of the weather, the views and everything Colorado had to offer, but now that is just therapy – my healthcare provider team is why I am truly lucky as folks travel from around the country/world to have what I have in my backyard) We had done our research to learn more about Dr. Hovland. Pretty much heard the same thing over and over – he was the best, with the best bedside manner, and we would be in the best hands. Before we walked in to see him – the plan was to get the confirmation this was NOT ocular melanoma, I don’t have eye cancer and we would then head to Del Frisco’s for a fancy steak and celebrate.
Well – the day went completely different. After many pictures, scans, and ‘eye stuff’, Dr. Hovland and Amanda walked in. Their grace, their bedside manner, their composure was exactly like others had shared, but today they shared and confirmed my diagnosis was ocular melanoma. I remember so vividly Dr. Hovland outlining the next steps.
Order of importance: Life, No Metastasis, Kill Tumor, Sight
Treatment Options: Nothing – eventually the pain would be so bad, and I would need my eye removed, Enucleation – remove the eye, Plaque Brachytherapy – A thin piece of metal, sewn onto the outside wall of the eye. The radioactive seeds in the plaque give off radiation, which aims to kill the cancer, or Proton Beam – A tube-shaped proton beam and clips are sewn onto they eye at the tumor base and an external beam of radiation is aimed at the tumor, most often through the front of the eye.
It’s important to note here – if I could have removed my eye initially and been cancer free, I would have. Unfortunately, Ocular Melanoma is not that easy. It is a blood cancer so even killing the tumor or removing my eye I will never be in remission…I just pray it doesn’t land somewhere else – more to come on that later.
Because of the size and location of my tumor the likeness of losing sight was high but we all felt the best chance of saving any sight was proton beam radiation. Dr. Hovland got excited about referring me onto another specialist in the field that may be able to do that. I learned in the beginning that OM docs or at least each OM doc I encountered would be the most patient centered, selfless docs and would do anything to ensure their patient was in the best hands. From the beginning moments of meeting him I could feel he was in my court and was doing what was best for me as a patient, a person.
Amanda, Dr. Hovland’s right hand superwomen/patient advocator (truly) soon took us back to her office and outlined the next steps. More information to digest and she explained she was my contact for care and support. From the moment I met Amanda, I knew she was in my court, I could feel she would have my back – but never in a million years knew how she would really change my life. More on Amanda soon too, I could easily write a book over the impact she has had in my life as well.
The next week flew by: Since priorities 1 and 2 were life and no METs, I had my first scan – PETCT to check for any metastasis, CLEAR! Huge win. In the moment, I didn’t understand the importance of that test. I didn’t understand the aggressiveness of this cancer, but I was clear – thank god –check – move on.
After feeling confident to move forward with proton beam radiation, Amanda worked with another specialist in San Francisco to take on my case. It was now time to get to CA and start the process to kill this nasty dude trying to mess with my sight.
#mrscaptainron #youcantakemysightbutyoucanttakemyvision #FUOM #seriouslyFUOM