Where to begin? Where does one begin with something like this?
Well, there’s a beginning, and we’ll get to that at a later time – it’s pretty uninteresting, really, so you’re not missing much – but let’s just jump right in and talk about where we are now, today.
So – here’s the deal. I have a pretty large mass of something in my stomach. It starts near my waist, comes up my side, and curves over into the middle of my upper stomach just below my chest cavity. Right now both my waist and my upper stomach are a little distended; I’ve never been a thin guy (well, back in high school I was in good shape, but that went out the window once I discovered beer and dorm food), but the size of my stomach and gut are currently not in line with my weight. Not that if they cut all this crap out of my body I’d be left with a tight-ass six-pack or anything, but I certainly wouldn’t look as if I was carrying Kuato from Total Recall around in my belly.
On Tuesday I had an ultrasound and CT scan, got the news about what was going on, and they scheduled a biopsy for Thursday. Like I said, I’ll touch on that stuff later. It’s a day that I don’t want to think about at the moment – the most terrifying thing I’ve ever faced, to say the least – but it’s part of the story and as your faithful narrator, we’ll touch all the bases before this is over.
Anyway – the biopsy. Got to the hospital at 8 AM, checked in, took off all my clothes and put on a hospital gown, signed some forms, and got a nice IV needle stuck into my wrist. The prep time was lengthy as we waited for a room to be ready, but my mom, dad and stepbrother Chris were with me and the time passed quickly.
Then I went into the room and was set on a CT scanning table. The team was extremely professional and the guy in charge of my medication – I think his name is Tim, but I don’t quite remember now because one of the drugs they gave me causes you to forget this sort of thing – was really cool. Unfortunately he didn’t comply with my request for him to slip some liquid Ecstasy in the IV drip, but he did close to the next-best thing, dropping me into near unconsciousness and keeping me mentally afloat just enough to comply with the doctor’s request for me to hold my breath for a couple CT scans and then do the same for each of the needle insertions.
I don’t really remember them giving me the local anesthesia for the biopsy needle, but whatever they did, it worked to perfection. They stuck me with the needle over 12 times – I didn’t feel the need to count specifically – and finally got an appropriate amount of tissue. I was asked to breathe in and hold my breath for each insertion but I never once felt a thing. Overall, I don’t remember much about the procedure, but the doc did tell me what they were doing:
“We’re getting as much of this material as possible so we can get the best possible diagnosis. I’d tear the whole thing out of you if I could, but there’s blood and organs and such, so it’s a bit more complicated than that,” he said.
“But we will get the whole thing, doc?” I asked hopefully.
“Oh yeah, we’ll get the whole thing,” he said confidently.
Now, I’m well aware that this means nothing in and of itself; it’s not like the doctor is going to hem and haw and tell me that I’m in bad shape while I’m half-asleep on the biopsy table. But even if it’s just idle talk, it’s little victories like this, positive moments and attitudes, that add up and contribute to my positive spirit.
Soon the procedure was over. They rolled me back into the prep room and kept me for three hours just to make sure everything was okay, which it was. Lots of idle chat with the nurses and my folks and Chris. I even dozed for a while. Also made sure to make the requisite amount of sarcastic remarks just for my own self-amusement. This is what I consider to be my “jackass” mode, although my mom prefers to term it as being “charming” to the hospital staff -- but whatever it was, all that mattered to me was keeping myself and those around me in high spirits.
At 3, they let me go. The new nurse on shift took out my wrist IV and gave me the list of instructions – relax for a day or two, no physical exertion, no driving for 24 hours, no heavy lifting, etc.
“So can I play the full 90 minutes in my soccer game tonight or do I have to come out at halftime?” I asked, deadpan. He got it. Like I said, so long as I’m amusing myself, then I’m happy.
So – that was the first step in what is shaping up to be a long journey. Now it’s waiting until Tuesday for the results. I have steeled myself for the worst: the initial assessment by the radiologist and my GP is that my stomach mass is consistent with a type of sarcoma, very likely malignant, and that it can be attacked with chemo and radiation. I have already accepted this as reality and I am not on edge waiting for a better diagnosis. Things could be better, sure (or worse, but let’s not go there at this time), but I am already mentally geared towards fighting this thing, beating the crap out of it, and getting on my with my normal life on the other side of what will be an amazingly difficult and yet tremendously edifying journey.
I’ll try to continue to document this experience as we move forward. If you’re reading, you know I’m a writer, you know I’m verbose, and you know I like being the center of attention. So, this is a perfect way to combine all three and give you a glimpse into what is going to be my world for the next many months (and really, as a cancer survivor, for the rest of my life, not that I’ll need to blog about all that once this part is over!)
Is there a chance that the results come back and show a benign mass, and this is much ado about nothing? Sure, there’s a chance, a pretty slim one, but if that’s the case, I’ll make sure to let everyone know ASAP, and we’ll hopefully get it taken care of pretty easily.
If not, then we probably have a bit of a ride ahead of us – and when I say “we,” I mean all of us. The outpouring of love and support I have received in the last three days has been humbling, amazing, and phenomenal, and I will never, ever have the words to explain the strength and power that each and every one of you have given me with your prayers, thoughts and positive spirit. I have the best family and friend support group anyone could ever ask for, and you need to know that every phone call, email, Facebook message, letter, or message helps in an immeasurable way. I am so blessed to have you thinking about me, praying for me, and sending your positive energy my way, and for that, I thank each and every one of you and I love you all.
If you call or write and I don’t respond quickly, please don’t be offended. I have a lot on my plate and a lot of people to speak to, and please believe that I am hearing every phone message and reading every email, and will eventually get in touch with you.
Okay, long post here so I’ll wrap it up (somewhere, my boss Nick in the UK is thinking "c’mon mate, you need to use sentences instead of paragraphs here!" and he’s right). Here’s what you need to know about me at the moment:
* I have a pain in my stomach from the mass that’s in there. Aside from that, I could play an hour of basketball, or run a couple miles, or go on a hike, or whatever. I feel healthy and that’s a good thing.
* As of Wednesday, my blood work was good – no issues with the liver, kidney, pancreas, or anything. My body is functioning properly. That’s a good thing.
* Finally and most importantly, I am a fighter and a stubborn SOB, and I am going to meet this head-on, and I am going to beat it. That’s it. That’s all. I'll need all my strength and yours, but together we will kick this thing.
Thanks for reading. I’ll continue to update on random occasion, and feel free to keep posting to the Facebook page if there are things you want to know about. I’m also playing with my band Mirror Image tomorrow in Santa Clara – I want to keep my life going as normally as possible, both now, and during treatment too.
My love to all of you and talk to you soon.
Friday, May 16, 2008
The First Step
Where to begin? Where does one begin with something like this?