I have cancer. That seems impossible, absurd, ludicrous. Just saying those three words seems so surreal. This is the kind of thing that happens to “other people,” not me!
I woke up early this morning, before sun-up wondering to myself, “Did I just dream all of that, or could it really be true?” But, as full presence of mind returned, I knew it was no dream; I have cancer.
Cancer! The very word seems to carry with it an automatic death sentence; even though I know that’s not true. While I know a few people, even close loved ones, who have died of the disease, I also know there are plenty of people — who we refer to as “survivors” — that appear to have conquered the disease; or who, at least, are in remission. Dare I hope to be one of those? At this point, who knows? And, when you first find out that you have cancer, any type of cancer — in my case, some kind of thyroid cancer — but nothing more, well, it’s more than a little nerve racking. At this point, all I really know is that there are several different varieties of every kind of cancer; and different “stages” and “sub-stages” of cancer, as well. But for me, as of now, none of that has been determined. It’s all still unknown. And, at the moment, nothing seems scarier than the big “UNKNOWN” — although, I’m sure there are plenty of “knowns” that are even scarier; but let’s not go there yet!
I discovered the lump in the front of my throat while shaving about a month ago and saw the doctor, my primary care physician, that same day. She immediately ordered up some blood work to check for possible infection. No infection! Within a week, she had me back in for an ultrasound and more blood work. The ultrasound indicated a rather large — five-centimeter — nodule attached to the left side of my thyroid. Two weeks after that, I found myself in Honolulu undergoing an ultrasound guided needle biopsy. They took five samples – ouch! A couple of days later my doctor called to let me know, “yep, the tumor does, indeed, appear to be cancerous and your thyroid will probably need to be removed.”
So, now, I wait! My doctor said that, due to the cancerous nature of the nodule, I would be given “priority” in scheduling surgery; whatever that means. But it’s been a week, now. Wait, only a week? And I’ve heard nothing about how we are to proceed. So now I’m doing what a lot of cancer patients spend a lot time doing — just “waiting.”
Of course, in lieu of the “known,” good ole imagination sets in and runs wild. I stand aghast in dread of the possibilities continually running through my head: IV lines, catheters, feeding tubes, radio-active iodine — what??? All of which could become realities for me within a few days or weeks. In the meantime, although I feel good, I seem to be becoming more symptomatic. Real or imagined, and probably more imaginary than real, my neck hasn’t stopped hurting since the day of the biopsy; and it’s becoming increasingly hard to swallow. I tell myself, “Oh stop it! It’s just your imagination, just a phantom pain.” But it’s still hard to swallow.
But, lest you relegate me to the realm of being a total mamby-pamby sissy boy, know this: I’ve made up my mind to be brave! Earlier today, after having received that phone call from my doctor with news of the biopsy results, I went body-boarding with my granddaughters and caught some awesome waves off Kailua beach.