Posts Tagged ‘the Big C’

The Little C

March 27, 2013 5 comments

Serene Lake

Well, thank you for your prayers! Looks more and more like I’ve dodged a huge bullet as medical tests continue to indicate I have a very small and early gastric tumor. I’ve seen the pictures; it kind of looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree- just a scrawny little thing.

Blood tests do show a slightly elevated level in a marker that’s an indicator of tumor growth. But a CT scan came back completely boring with nothing irregular whatsoever. This should all mean it’s at a very, very early stage which means everything in regard to stomach cancer. Basically it’s the difference between it being curable or not- the difference between a 5% and a 75% five-year survivability rate.

Within a week or so, I’ll get a treatment plan and then get a second opinion on that plan. I’m pretty sure they will still want to dive in with knives so they can eyeball things for themselves and cut the thing out, along with a hopefully very small portion of the stomach. And while an operation of that nature has risks of its own and really, really sucks for about 7 days in the hospital and then another six weeks of recovery, it’s way more important and significant that long-term survival looks like a real good bet.

My highly amusing doctor, Thomas Butler, tells his patients that the most important part of any treatment plan is looking both ways before you cross the street. Because what good do the best and most intricate treatment plans do if you’re going to go get hit by a truck?

My son has a funny line about trucks too. Last year, I sent him info on what his life insurance benefits would be just in case I get hit by a truck. His dry, one sentence e-mail response was priceless.


Stay away from trucks.



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.