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Sunday, January 14, 2007

A brief PSA from John Meissner

Last summer through this season has been an adventure for John Meissner, the voice of the Tri-City Storm. Not only did he find himself with a new team, but also going through the experience of defeating cancer. Here's his story:

So how did this all start?

In October of 2005, I started feeling, well, "odd." Bad enough, in fact, to warrant several doctor's visits and a half-dozen trips to the emergency room. All the symptoms I felt seemed to indicate some kind of heart-related problem. One such trip to the E.R. was made in an ambulance and on another trip, while my wife was checking me in, I thought I was having a massive heart attack. All the hospital tests, including stress tests, brain scans and the like, all yielded no conclusive diagnosis. My primary care physician did diagnose me with a case of acid reflux, which, as it turns out, can sometimes be confused with cardiac troubles. In the course of treatment, my PCP ordered a colonoscopy. Being 50 years old at the time, I was due for one anyway.

And what did the scope reveal?

The exam yielded one polyp in my sigmoid colon, which was sent away for testing. On July 13th, 2006, the same day I was to bring my wife home from the hospital, (she had a uterine artery embolization done to rid herself of some fibroid tumors) I received a call from the G.I. doctor who did my colonoscopy, informing me that the polyp removed showed cancer at the tip. While a cancer diagnosis is never good news, this was about as good a one as I could hope for. The cancer was caught early, which made the prognosis that much better.

So what came next?

After diagnosis and before consultation/examination with the doctor who was going to perform my colon resection, I traveled from Orlando to Kearney, Nebraska, to interview for the position with the Tri-City Storm. Shortly after returning to Florida, I began consultations with Dr. Paul Williamson, a nationally recognized colorectal surgeon with an outstanding reputation. We discussed treatment options, time frames and how it could all fit in with my upcoming move to Kearney. He shot straight with me, which I really appreciated. While he thought I could probably wait until after the season, he didn't think it was a very wise choice. He put my percentage for cure at 93% with surgery right away, or near 0% with surgery 3 to 5 years down the road. Being diagnosed at stage one and not wanting to risk having the cancer grow, (My mother died of esophageal cancer in 1969 and it was not a very pleasant experience) I opted to have surgery as soon as possible.

The odds seem like a no-brainer...

Yup. I entered M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando on August 20th, 2006, with surgery scheduled for 9a.m. the next day. I was told that the surgery should be pretty easy, lasting about 90 minutes or so and that I should return to my room about 4 hours after being taken to surgery. As often happens though, those plans didn't translate into actuality. First, surgery was moved ahead one hour. After being prepped, I was taken into surgery. (Of course, I don't remember much of anything from that day.) Once the procedure began, Dr. Williamson and his assistant, Dr. Julia Lorber, found some "surprises." What they found were adhesions from an appendectomy I had in 1968, as well as discovery that my colon wasn't even where it was supposed to be, with it being partly wedged behind my spleen, where it had likely been since birth. Those two little "problems," along with everything else associated with the procedure, stretched my time in the O.R. from an anticipated 90 minutes, to five and one-half hours. Other than a real brief flash of realizing my wife was in the recovery room with me, the next thing I remembered after prep, was being wheeled back into my room and seeing that the clock read 8:30p.m.! That put my time out of my room at a whopping 11 and one-half hours.

So you’re out of surgery, then what?

My hospital stay was pretty interesting, with tubes seemingly here, there and everywhere. For the first seven days, I was allowed nothing more than I.V. solutions, an occasional ice chip and a little sponge to wet my lips. I'll tell ya, the day I finally got actual food was pretty exciting. Jello and prunes never tasted so good! I did become a regular sight around the floor that week, walking the hall, pushing my I.V./monitor pole around. After colon resection surgery, a patient has two big milestones. One, is to pass gas and the other, is to prove your colon actually works. On the first milestone, the doctor asked the nurse if she had heard it and she said "No, but his wife did." On the second milestone, I was so excited, I actually went to the nurse's station and said "Come look at what I did!" It may seem pretty strange to most people, but to a colon cancer patient, it's pretty exciting, because it means you've punched your ticket home. After one more night's stay and a last "peek under the hood," I was on my way home, after a ten day stay.

How has it been having this work done on the eve of a new season?

My recovery has been slow, but steady. And, as I write this, still continues. I am at the point where I can lug my radio gear around, (It weighs around 30 or 40 pounds) but I don't feel comfortable lifting anything heavier. I can still get tired out pretty easily and the long bus trips can be pretty exhausting, (The 13-hour trip each way between Kearney and Indianapolis was particularly tiring) but I feel like I am doing pretty well and am confident of not only making it through this hockey season, (with the full support of the coaching staff and management) but of being able to get into my 33rd season of baseball umpiring this coming spring.

So... as if most of us couldn’t guess... what’s the message you want to convey?

Many people my age, even younger or older, hesitate to have a colonoscopy done, for fear of what might be found. I don't recall ever having felt that way, but I also had no idea of what was going on inside me, so I was anxious to have my colonoscopy done, to hopefully find out what might be wrong with me. While the cancerous polyp probably had nothing to do with what else I was feeling, my PCP ordering the procedure for me quite likely has saved my life. In early December, I visited with Dr. Alan Thorsen in Omaha, Nebraska, for my three-month, post-op checkup. The surgical notes he read, plus his own examination, indicated there were no signs of any cancer in my body, which was the best early Christmas present I have ever received!

I have told everyone who would listen since, not to ever be afraid of having a colonoscopy done. I tell them not to be afraid for what the procedure might find, but to be more concerned with what might not be found, by not having a colonoscopy done. This coming March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I hope that my team, the Tri-City Storm and even the USHL will get involved in spreading the word about what is not only one of the most common cancers known, but also perhaps the most easily curable.


Comments on "A brief PSA from John Meissner"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:51 PM, January 14, 2007) : 

Best of luck to you! -Billings,MT


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:00 PM, January 20, 2007) : 

I'm glad he's doing well, I just hope he starts focusing on calling the game on the air and not calling out league supervisors on the air by name like he did earlier this year. Not a good representation of the team he works for.


Blogger John Meissner said ... (10:20 AM, January 21, 2007) : 

I did NOT call out a league supervisor on the air. I said "There's a supervisor here and he's writing." That is NOT calling ANYONE out. I have no idea who the supervisor was or even what his name is. Where did you EVER come up with THAT? This story is not about that, but rather about the benefit of listening to your body and being checked for, treated for and cured of a life-threatening disease.

You not only are a coward for posting anonymously, but you are a liar too. Have some guts and put your actual name to posts. Or better yet, contact me directly and we'll discuss it.


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