|No Spring Chicken #3|
To paraphrase the bard, "I'll not quietly into that good night go!"
If you have read the last two letters you will understand what that means - that I have cancer. That being said, it is almost the most innocuous form that can occur. Specifically, Follicular Lymphoma, the most non-aggressive of the non-Hodgkins lymphomas. If anyone really wants to know more they can read here.
We've all heard backhanded compliments ("You look pretty good for a guy your age carrying that much weight."). Well, I got the news in a backhanded way. I've been waiting to hear the results of the biopsy taken last Thursday from my doctor when I went in for an appointment this morning (Thursday). So, yesterday morning (Wednesday) I got a call from the Oncology department at Virginia Mason to schedule an appointment with the oncologist to work with me. Gee, I guess that tells me the bottom line, if not the details. Then, last night, while I was at chorus and Janet was at church Jillian (my doctor) called here from her home and left her cell phone number for me to call her back. She wanted to apologize for the screw up. She had the day off, and logged on to her work notes from home in the evening and found that someone looked at the results when they came in and sent the note to the oncology department that I needed an appointment. So she called her manager and asked WTF? OK, she didn't use that term when she told me about it, but I bet it was pretty close to that when she talked to them. She is far too nice to have let this happen on purpose, so I knew it was a screwup somewhere along the way. Anyway, I was pretty certain ahead of time that this would be the result.
Sign one: When we discussed the lump and scheduled the cat scan to look at it she made a point of telling me at least three times that she wasn't worried, just wanted to be certain.
Sign two: When she got the results of the cat scan and found the multiple enlarged lymph nodes she called me to go see the ENT and get a biopsy and she made sure to tell me again it was just to be certain and she wasn't worried. So I asked her what were the chances, and she said it wasn't real small, and it wasn't real large, but somewhere in between.
Sign three: The ENT, when I asked him about it said it was probably less than 50% chance of cancer, but wouldn't say how much less.
Throw in my family history (a 28 year run from '68-'96 when everyone in the family - either side - who died died of cancer with one exception - the guy who was murdered) and it was pretty much written on the wall in 3' block letters.
So we had a nice visit with Jillian this morning and she explained what type it was, gave me the pathology report and a handout (the URL above) about follicular lymphoma, explained the possible treatments and procedures, and how we'd approach it as a team. She also apologized for the mixup and explained what happened. Then I got a hug. :-}) Did I mention she is pretty hot?
Now, as I've said for years, I know how I'm going to go (see the family history above). But since half of my family who died of cancer lived past 90 first I don't know when. Well, if you read up on follicular lymphoma you will find that many people go 20 years without treatment with no effects. In fact, unless you are getting some of the side effects (night sweats, intestinal blockage, fever, weight loss, pain) they usually don't recommend treatment because that is more likely to do more damage than just letting it be does. I don't have any of the side effects. This is not one of those cancers where they say, "Oh, my gosh, we need to start treatment immediately!" In fact, I've got about 2 1/2 weeks before I see the oncologist the first time. That will give you an idea of the urgency.
Now, my family is funny about treatment. I had one uncle who was diagnosed with lung cancer and he checked himself out of the hospital and went home and died in about 3 months. But in his own home with dignity. I had another uncle who had prostate cancer, and let them do the prostate removal, but had such a macho hang-up he wouldn't let them do the orchiectomy (surgical castration) to reduce the testosterone level, so the cancer spread, and they cut out one organ after another until he finally gave in to the orchiectomy too late for it to do any good. He took about four years to be whittled down to a mere shadow of his former self before he died, but he spent a lot of that time in the hospital and none of it in health. My dad followed all of the doctor's instructions and died 13 years into his 6 months to live with prostate cancer.
I will find out what the doctor thinks and wants to do and decide from there, but it won't be to just give in. My dad read Love, Miracles and Medicine early on in his treatment, and with that and a good attitude he had many more years of quality life. But heck, I've still got 30 years to go to reach 90, so I'm not done yet.
But you won't get rid of me that easily - I'm here for the long term. Heck, I just bought a sage fly rod and I need to work it good and hard before I go. Not only that, I was asked just today if I would like to get involved in some of the 9:30am coaching of the crew team (I already do the 4:45am and 6:30pm coaching). They are going to need more of my time next year. I'm the young guy in my quartet and can't let the old fogies down. I've got another 18 years in barbershopping before I get my 50 year pin, so I can't quit that. And I'm on for another two years with the Barbershop Summit, so I'd better live up to that, as well. We haven't gotten nearly enough use out of the refitting of our sailboat, so I've got to spend a lot of time out sailing and cruising. Oh, and I just took on two more websites to take care of (Dragonflight and Enfilade). Shoot, I may have to put this lymphoma stuff on hold until I have time for it!