Tag Archive: Cancer


The Return

Sorry, it’s been a while since my last post. Life has been somewhat challenging. In 2019, I was informed of a benign tumor partly in the spine and outside the spine. (Somewhere in-between Intradural and Extradural). So on February 6, 2020, I opted for limited excision of the tumor outside the spine and received a shitload of steroids and limited radiation intended to beat down the remainder. Or, if it weren’t going to get beaten down, maybe, just maybe, the rest would stay in check. 

Twenty months later, I could feel a modestly small lump on my neck. After poking, prodding, massaging, and gliding my fingers over the node, I just knew: The tumor started to regrow. When tumors return, uncertainties return as well. Tumors can grow in any part of the body or regrow in the original place. So, like a traveling’ snowbird,’ mine decided to open residency in the location previously vacated. All of this means that for now, the tumor could be a ‘local recurrence.’

Continue reading

“It’s unusual for a person at your age,” the radiologist said. Hint. When a clinician claims you’re ‘unusual,’ that version of ‘unusual’ can infer many things, from good, bad, funny, ugly, or any combination thereof. “During your last scan, we detected something that requires a second look. Scans detected a 3-millimeter section under the left ulnar styloid bone. It could be nothing, could be something. Regardless, we’ll need to perform a Cat Scan or MRI, depending on your doctor’s request.”

Continue reading

Many cancer patients claimed to have experienced weight loss. Weight loss may even be the first notable symptom of the disease. Forty (40%) percent of cancer patients claim to have experienced unexplained weight loss. Clinicians will tell you weight loss from cancer is different from other types of weight loss. Doctors refer to it as “cachexia” (wasting of the body). Cachexia causes increased metabolism, muscle loss, fatigue, and decreased quality of life. 

For months I experienced fatigue. Then all of a sudden, nothing. Little or no back pain. No neck pain. Little or no knee pain. Little or no muscle cramps. However, somewhere between last week and this morning, I lost 12 pounds. This loss was not a matter of choice, as in I decided some fancy-schmancy diet. Neither did I embark on a 200-mile hike, bike 50 miles each day, or train for an Olympic marathon. Instead, I did what I always did, I came home, made dinner, and watched the Cubs. (Last night’s destruction came courtesy of the Cleveland Indians.) I suppose I could have looked for my 12 pounds. Then again, maybe I lost 1.7 pounds per day, and I failed to notice. Either way, they were gone. 

Continue reading

Eating a Slim Jim, I reflected. Nearly ten days post-operation, I can confirm recovery has been pretty damn dull. Learning to change bandages on the back of your neck was a steep learning curve. Reaching backward, removing, and reapplying is a feat, even for one who had extensive medical training.

When you have a tumor, life is measured by units of centimeters or millimeters. Tumor sizes are then transferred to patients via a common language: pencil point (1 mm), a crayon point (2 mm), a pencil eraser (5 mm), a pea (10 mm), a peanut (20 mm), and a lime (50 mm), etc. I will never look at limes as merely pieces of fruit – ever.

The biopsy returned Thursday with a measurement of 50x30x13 millimeters. That’s equivalent to a medium-large lime. The cells weren’t cancerous but weren’t normal. As such, my ‘lime’ received a similar rating like Stage 0: no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer.

The portion of the tumor in my spine remains there – waiting.

Overall, I felt emotionally good. Physically? Meh. I experienced a massive headache the night of surgery and felt good the following day. This past week was not particularly good. I downed some pain medication a week ago Sunday and dealt with weird off and on fatigue of the neck and head from Monday onward. At some points, it seemed like my head could not be held upright.

Tactically speaking, I have a little trouble moving my neck sideways and cannot lift anything over 10 – 15 pounds for a month. Internal neck muscles will require seven months to heal. Therefore, the surgeon kindly requested refraining from rock climbing, parachuting, hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, or swimming the English Channel.

It appears news of the surgery spread, as I received a ‘care package’ from my employer. There was a variety of accouterments: crackers, cheese, popcorn, etc. It’s the first time I ever ate a Slim Jim. Darn good. ‘5 Star’ rating from me. The Cajun Slim was wicked.

In the past few days, many have praised my outlook and how I’ve handled the process. That’s just the show I present. The truth is, there have been some awkward highs and lows. Some of it has been damn depressing. I recognize all of this as just a volley in a more massive war. The doctors won ten days ago, yet I must remain vigilant.

Who knows how much time is left? I could have years or months. No one says decades. I might have a long time, or death may show quickly. People live for years with these debilitating symptoms. I don’t want that.

Right now, life’s about this Slim Jim. And it’s damn good.

Many years ago, a young associate stood on a New York subway, awaiting a train that would take him near the river. It was nearing 5:38 PM and warmth from the Springtime sun lured him from the hotel for several hours of sightseeing. Unbeknownst to him, at that very moment, another man stood squished in an already overcrowded railway car. The repetitive back and forth motion of the train, side-to-side swagger, added to either bad meal, seasonal allergies or an oncoming cold as the trained hurled forward.

Just as ordained, the associate and the ill man met, albeit ever briefly. The transit line stopped in front of my coworker. The doors opened. The man inside threw-up outward toward the platform, hitting my associate chest high. Two seconds later, train doors closed and pulled away.

Turning around, “Why me?” he asked.

Welcome to New York,” an elderly man quipped.

So many things in my life were insignificant as they occurred. Most were overly dramatized, either by the people involved or indulgently over told throughout the years. The memories I’m absorbing from treatment may not be precious to others, but each encounter and quip offers more wisdom than the sum of all valuables in my home. I have learned memories are valuable.

And my current memories? They don’t consist of the tumor. It’s the smaller things like nausea.

After downing another round of medications, I remember my associate in New York. Side effects started 24 hours later. It was the first time I experienced such heavy nausea. If one could bargain with the ol’ ‘Lord of Nausea,’ I would schedule all this for Election Day 2020 to avoid having to decide the pending presidential election. But alas, the bugger arrived at 9:04 AM, just after starting speaking at an internal company meeting.

Now I’ll admit, this is one heck of a way to out myself and my treatments to the entirety of the company. But I was exceedingly quick for ‘Mr. Nausea.’ I attributed my difficulties to allergies, to which, I’ve neither had nor taken medicine for. For a brief moment, I thought of hurling all over Alan. Alan was a prick from day one. So much so that I nearly called him Mr. Prick during a meeting. However, I lost my opportunity as everyone ditched the room, leaving me like a dead goldfish in a glass bowl.

After Mr. Nausea stopped, I defiantly walked to my desk. I expected a HAZMAT team but was greeted by Ms. Ginger C., former drill sergeant and reformed nurse, with lemon tea and orange wedges.

Picked them six months ago,” she pointed.

Sure there are still good?

Probably,” she noted. “But you look like shit anyway. What difference will it make?

Hard to argue logic, regardless of delivery. I downed the orange wedges.

If there’s one thing, I learned about life, that when S*** happens, it’s essential to develop one key skill: humor. It’s not that reasoning skills aren’t necessary. However, humor and humility will allow most to be successful in whatever situation encompasses us. And when dealing with Mr. Nausea, humor is critical.

In the movie Jack Reacher, Helen told Reacher he was wrong.

You were wrong about my father,” Helen stated.

Yeah, let’s not make a big thing of it.”

In Closing

I read a story of a fast-food employee near Houston who allegedly punched a co-worker after the coworker gave away the ending of Avengers: Endgame. MSNBC reported Justin Gregory Surface received an assault citation. Surface’s life got flushed for a spoiler easily read online.

Everyone gets shit in life. Most of it isn’t significant. There are so many other huge things coming down the pike. When S*** comes your way, take a breath. Try not to spend endless hours fumigating ‘why.’ Tumors are a big deal. Nausea? Not so much. So, when nausea visits again, I will channel Reacher.

Let’s not make a big thing of it.”

%d bloggers like this: