(Merle Haggard reference)
In December, I go in for those routine checkups that are anything but routine to many of us. I am going to get a CAT scan to confirm that my lungs and head and neck are clear of cancer. I am going to see OncoMan and have his people weigh me and perhaps estimate my sanity, and I am going to see ENTMan, who will ever so gently slide Nostril Eddie up into one of my nose holes, down into my mouth and on in to my esophagus.
I am so looking forward to December.
Really, that was a snide remark, for sure, but I am looking forward to all of this. I do believe that knowing is much better than not knowing. I am confident, on one hand, that I will get the All Clear from these guys. I am equally confident, on the other, that one of them is going to say “Uh oh!”
I have a little something-something on the inside of my mouth that I do not think I used to have. It does not hurt, and I am sure that is a good thing, and it does not take anything away from my inability to eat steak. It is probably not cancer.
Even so, it is worrisome as I approach Nostril Eddie.
All of a sudden.
And ENTMan is going to say that my esophagus is rather abused, a not so subtle hint that while I have not been sucking down hot sauce on a regular basis, I have been drinking something that is irritating my throat. Whatever that something is, I seem to be doing it a lot, or so he will say!
He will not say that, I do not believe, and that will be a sterner rebuke, his silence, than anything he might say that I might refute in total denial, if you know what I mean and some of you do.
This is the guilt of survival, in a sense. I wanted to be the model survivor for my guy, ENTMan. I worked my butt off inside the hospital, did not complain, and got out of there, well, right on time. They said I was the model patient. But I have not been the model survivor.
I suppose I feel like, having been given this reprieve from death, I should start acting like Mother Teresa, and anything I do that is contrary to that sort of life is refuting all of the work they did to save me. Believe me, I have been contrary. (Also, I like sex, but not with Mother Teresa…I’m just saying; I mean, maybe when she was alive, okay? She would have turned me down anyway, story of my life :)).
He is going to slide Nostril Eddie down through many passages, beginning by going up into my nose, and then nosing around and finding a way to finagle it downward from there into my mouth and to my throat, tiny flashlight attached, and I will gag and have tears in my eyes and he will say “hmmm” and take me into another room where he will repeat the process where he can see it live on a sort of Cancer YouTube or something, live, from the Esophageal Theater!
He will say, “We need a scan” and I will say, “I just had one”, and he will say, “Hmmm”, and look at my chart which is now about five inches thick, so it is no wonder he misses stuff now, if he does, and he will ask his lovely nurse to get a copy of that for him and she will run off to do that, and I feel for her because she looks so overworked nearly every time I go to ENTMan, and I think maybe it is this bonding with some of the patients who become toast, when she only wanted a bagel.
Maybe I will be fine with that. I think I will. I act like I am worried about the little thing inside my mouth, but it does not worry me halfway as much as the cough I continue to have.
I eventually found I had cancer in my lung because I mentioned it to my family doc (aka GPMan), as you may know, the cough, I mean, not the cancer, and thus an entirely new series of events unfolded. I had lung cancer.
The cough is still with me. Or has come back to me. And of course, they could not determine when they did the lobectomy whether the cancer was new or metastasized. I am fearful that I am about to find out.
I advise others not to worry, and I do not worry, most of the time. Only in these dark moments, at these dark times of the morning, alone, to be honest, does it come to me and hit me this way: that something may be wrong.
I will get my next CAT scan in December as well. This time, I am to drink some sort of potion. A friend in CSN was describing have to drink her dye, and I thought, “That’s weird; they always inject me.”
I wish she had not mentioned it. I have a prescription to pick up some noxious substance to drink before I go in for the CAT. I do not remember if it is the night before or what. I remember my friend saying that it tasted kind of sweet and gave her a tremendous headache. Now it is my turn.
I am taking her off of my Christmas shopping list, as I am fairly certain this would not have come up if she had not mentioned it.
I was just looking for it and could not find it. I suspect my wife has already tucked it away in her purse, a place I dare not go, since I am sure I would not find my way out, lost forever in everything she keeps in that room on a strap. But I will be drinking something weird before the scan.
And then the scan. I love the scans. I love lying down and sliding through a tube with robotic voices telling me when to breath. Not to disparage the scans. Okay, to disparage the scans.
I hate the things, but find them much better than PETs and, especially, MRIs. Also, I’ll bet they are a lot more acceptable than caskets. So I deal with them.
I will get the CAT and I will go to see OncoMan and he will tell me what he will tell me. It is his prognosis that I fear, frankly. He once told me I had 10 months to live (minimally). I am afraid he is going to do so again. I do not know why. Yes, I do: that pesky cough.
If I am lucky, the cough is due to a rare disease I contracted while being seduced by escaped concubines in the wilds of Mongolia. Otherwise, I have no clue, and he will. I am hoping for the best, of course.
I need to get back to Mongolia, regardless of the results, by the way.
We will deal with the results when we get them, and I really do not worry all that much about it.
It is what it is.
Just in these late hours, these dark hours of dark morning. I find myself worrying on occasion.
All of this happens in December. As the singer sings, if we make it through December, I feel pretty good about the Spring. I feel pretty good about many years to come, if we can make it through December.
This will make it more than three years since the tongue/neck cancer, the diagnosis and surgery, anyway. This will make it way more than a year since the diagnosis for lung cancer, and nearly a year since the surgery. Let’s call it three months since treatment ended for that.
The above, regarding the tongue/neck cancer, is predicated on the assumption that the lung cancer was not metastasis from the tongue/neck. It was the same type of cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. They simply could not discern whether it was new or a traveler, because it was so small still when they removed it. They did well in assuming it was new and taking out the lobe. Had I been awake as they were deciding, I would have insisted that they do exactly as they did.
I like getting rid of cancer, even if it begins to feel like piece-by-piece loss after awhile.
So there we are: December, the happiest time of the year. I hope that this is so for me and my family. My family will be grieving enough that my father-in-law will not be there for the first time ever. They do not, we do not, need any more distracting news.