Archive for March 20, 2013

The Big C

March 20, 2013 8 comments


Well, this sucks. Yet, it could be so much worse! I’ve been diagnosed with what appears to be early stage stomach cancer. It sounds awful, I know, but it doesn’t feel that awful on this end.

The immediate big freak-out when a doctor suggests you have the Big C is primal: Oh jeez, how much time? So getting a pretty substantial hint that what I have is actually curable is just fine, thank you very much. I’ll get through surgery, maybe a little chemo, have a real crappy 6 to 8 weeks and then get on with it.

That’s the plan anyway, though no one ever knows what unintended crap lies out there. For example, my very excellent doctor suggests there is a possibility that treatment for a cancer I beat 14 years ago, may be the culprit today. I got a lot of radiation for a bout with testicular cancer back in 1999. The tiny little, 2cm tumor currently residing in my tummy may be the price paid for a cure nearly two decades ago.

But fight, I must! I really do love life a lot.

Unlike Japan, by the way, stomach cancer sufferers in the United States don’t get diagnosed until its too late most of the time. In Japan, stomach cancer is more prevalent so they screen the general population and nip the cancers in the bud as soon as the first signs show up. Some Japanese surgeons are so talented, experienced and meticulous that they can narrow in on and remove specific numbers of tiny, individual lymph nodes without damaging surrounding areas. They are the rock stars of the kind of gastric surgery I’m facing here.

Fortunately and ironically, I had an operation just last Fall for a perforated ulcer that introduced me to the wonderful world of intubation, liquid diets (terrific for weight loss) and Dilaudid (best pain killer ever). When they did an endoscopy to check things out a few months later, they found that little 2cm bump. Just like the Japanese would do in a regular screening.

So if we’re keeping score here, I get radiation treatment for a cancer I beat 14 years ago and it turns out to have potentially given me a cancer that was found last week because I was lucky enough to have developed an ulcer that nearly killed me last year. I knew God had a sense of humor- but that’s kind of dark even by Tim Burton standards.

Anyway, the only thing keeping me from taking a trip to Tokyo is Georgetown University’s Vince Lombardi Cancer Center and Dr. Thomas Butler, my kind, funny, smart, wise physician with the Virginia Cancer Specialists group. I trust these guys to fix me up in a way that preserves both my dignity and my health. They’re smart and they get it.

Let’s do this.