Health Update: Tumor Boards, Blood Thinners, and Chemo, Oh My!

For background: I had a pulmonary embolism in February 2023, as told in these articles: Part OnePart Two

The bleeding I’d had before that meant I’d already scheduled a colonoscopy to look at it (which was going to happen in May), but my colonoscopy got moved up, as told here.

The bleeding I had already scheduled a colonoscopy to look at (which was going to happen in May) got my colonoscopy moved up, and it happened last week as told here.

That resulted in a cancer diagnosis , and I saw a colorectal surgeon as told here. Then a cardiologist, as told here. Then I was nearly tortured by an MRI, as told here

Then I had to offer a blood sacrifice to a CAT scan, got a massive kidney infection, and was rediagnosed as having late Stage 1, rather than Early Stage 2 cancer, as told here.

All caught up? Okay then.

So, after weeks of consultations, referrals, testing, secondary illnesses, and follow-ups, I finally got in to see the colorectal surgeon at the OU Stephenson Cancer Center, who was now in charge of my case. He had all the records of my tests and scans and elf-on-a-shelf snitching, and was ready to take my case to the Tumor Board, which is a shadowy cabal of psionic tumors who secretly rule the world from their formaldehyde jars.

Okay, no, it’s just a group of 50 cancer experts who share their knowledge through consultations on tough cases, like an older massively obese cancer patient recovering from a pulmonary embolism and still on mandatory blood thinners (you know, just to pick an example at random). But the other description sounded cooler.

(A member of the Tumor Board, I guess. His name’s Beegly. Art by Cerafts)

The surgeon had a long list of things he expected we’d try first, and a few more tests he wanted to schedule, and his best guess on how we were going to handle things sounded great, and none of that matters because the Shadowy Council of Psychic Tumors had other ideas.

A few days after seeing my surgeon, we got an evening call from my oncologist’s office, asking if we could come in for an unexpected visit early the following morning. Now, I had already exhausted myself during the week of tests and appointments, and I don’t do early mornings well, and we had things planned for late morning which we might need to bump if the oncologist visit ran long so we… said yes, absolutely, we’ll be there.

Look, it’s cancer, not a weird noise your shoulder makes if you hold your arm at just the wrong angle. When your oncologist wants to see you, even if it’s sudden and unexpected, you say yes. In fact, especially if it’s sudden and unexpected. Besides, now that the psionic tumors knew my name, I had to toe the line lest the Board send dream lemmings to gnaw at my toes as I slept.

(Okay, fine, what do YOU think politically motivated telepathic jar lumps do to punish their lackeys? I’m going with toe-nibbling dream lemmings. You want to suggest something else? Write your own health update blog entry.)

So we went, and it was stormy. (So far this month tornado sirens have gone off multiple times in my hometown, including at one point seven times in one night. Apparently having failed to kill me with pneumonia, a pulmonary embolism, cancer, and a kidney infection, now the universe was targeting me with air elementals. Bring it, universe. I’m ready for you. I’ve got backup.) During the drive in, I was nervous.

My wife kindly said “Look, I’m not going to tell you not to be nervous. STOP SHAKING.” Then, I laughed at the irony, and she came back with a friendly “Hey shut up,” and that comforted me more than any platitudes would have.

She and I have been married for more than 32 years. Our interactions don’t have to make sense to anyone else.

So, the oncologist came into the office and, long story short ([GeorgeCarlin]”Too late!”[/GeorgeCarlin]), the Tumor Board decided to start with 3 months of chemotherapy, and then we’d see where we were.


I really liked it when they said I probably wouldn’t need chemo, and we could cut this thing out and be recovered before summer. Then, risks and all, it’d be done. But, no. The Shadow Council of Trancer Cancers wanted to make me Save Vs Poison instead. Fine. Fifty evil biogrowths in jars can’t be wrong.

So, the plan is for me to get a port installed so the poison can be easily introduced into my system (heaven forbid the poisoners have to work for it). Then, shortly thereafter, I’ll go in for my first Poison Picnic. I’ll sit in a nice recliner, and have deadly chemicals pumped directly into my heart through the port for a few hours. Then they’ll swap me to a hand-carried pump, which I’ll carry with me to keep the fun of being poisoned going for 48 hours straight.

We’ll repeat that every 2 weeks for 3 months. I’m going to be massively immunocompromised, much worse than now, and that’s going to further dial back who I can see in person and where I can safely go to be out and about. In fact, I’m likely not going to leave my house except for doctor stuff for three months, and have almost no visitors.

So… thank goodness I’m an introvert. 

After the discussion with the oncologist, we got a call from the OU Stevenson Cancer Center, on our voice mail, saying we couldn’t use their physical therapy center, since it was out of network for my insurance, but we had other options and we should call them to discuss those.

Now, if you find yourself thinking “Physical therapy?! This is cancer, not a weird noise your shoulder makes if you hold your arm at just the wrong angle. When did Physical Therapy get involved?!” then you are right where we were when we played the voice mail. A flurry of callbacks and message-leaving and phone tag games followed, but eventually we got to the bottom of the issue. The Tumor Board wanted me to begin physical therapy to help harden my body against the rigors of chemo. Now, the word “hard” is rarely applied to any part of my body except in sentences like “It’s hard to get our arms all the way around you when giving you a hug,” but again, whatever the Council of Evil Pickled Polyps thinks is my best bet, I’m doing.

My first session is Thursday.

THEN it was time to see the cardiologist again, to talk about what the ultrasound showed when they went looking for my Deep Vein Thrombosis. (There are a lot of doctor appointments once you have cancer, especially if you are a unique butterfly of a case, as I am.) That involved a looooong wait in the office, and a nurse with the most unexpectedly pixie-on-helium voice my wife and I had ever heard. (Seriously, I had to fight to not blurt out “THAT’S your VOICE?!” Thankfully I managed to treat the medical professional trying to help me with the respect she was due but, folks, it was not easy.)

But, in the end, the cardiologist said my Deep Vein Thrombosis has cleared, which meant the blood thinner was working, which meant my pulmonary embolism has probably cleared, which meant I could tell my port-for-chemo-installation-surgeon I could go off blood thinners for 48 hours prior to surgery.

Phew. There’s a lot to keep track of.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the NEXT day (which was today), we saw the port surgeon. He was polite and informative and professional, so that was great. He went over the risks of the surgery (including mentioning things that had never happened when he performed it and “I don’t expect you to be the first.”, but I like being told all the risks, even the unlikely ones like a collapsed lung). And, when could he perform the surgery?

Friday morning. As in, three days from now. And my first 48-hour chemo infusion may be as soon as Monday.

And that brings you all up to speed, for now.

Now, time to Save v Poison!


Right now, the main ways to offer your support are to join (or increase your pledge level to) my Patreon or, if you prefer, donate directly through my Ko-Fi account –


About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on May 16, 2023, in Health, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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