Friday, May 10, 2013

The Fun Begins!

[Written on May 28 from diary notes written May 10]

Doctor W, my primary care physician, called me at 7:45 AM.

Apparently the radiologist communicated the “wet read” (preliminary results) to my doctor almost immediately after the CT scan. It was Doctor W's day off and late in the day, so she waited until first thing this morning to call me. She got right to the point, telling me the news was troubling.

She said a lot of words but after the call all I could remember was “Suspected malignancy near the base of the tongue.”

I was half expecting that but it’s something you never want to hear. I could tell it was not the highlight of Doctor W’s day to have to deliver the news. She said her office would arrange an appointment with an otolaryngologist as soon as possible, hopefully that day.

We were getting the girls ready for school and I was about to get on my bike to work when the call came. Wife knew what it was - we haven’t been talking about it a lot since we were both taking a wait and see attitude. But we were both concerned about the potential diagnosis. I gave her the thumbs down sign. We held each other for a minute while the girls were upstairs but I fought back the tears. I really wanted to hold it together until they were at school.

We had a pleasant walk to school and I managed to act normal and happy. When I got home I could start to process it a little. By that I mean I cried.

Phew. Tough news.

Wife and I talked about possibilities but we both still felt like we needed to wait and see. Imaging is not perfect. It can see that something is not shaped like it should be but can't definitely say what it is. Although radiologists are trained to make judgement calls based on what they see.

I emailed work to say I was taking a sick day. I emailed my boss separately and told him the news.

How the hell do you live without a tongue? That was my first question. But I avoided looking up information about tongue cancer. I'd rather not fill my head with scary info when that diagnosis isn't confirmed.

Wife and I sat close to each other and talked all morning. I cried a bit. She didn't, amazingly. She gets it from her mom. One step at a time. Let's find out what it is first and then she'll deal with the specifics.

As you can imagine, hearing the news knocked me off balance. Last week life was great. Now I have to figure out whether I'm going to live. I felt plenty of fear, of course. I'm of a generation in which cancer equalled doom. Much progress has been made during my lifetime, though. Some cancers, especially pediatric cancers, are now considered curable. Many others are survivable and treatments are improving all the time. So first I have to deal with that automatic perception that this is going to kill me. Then there's the fear of treatment. Snarky blog titles notwithstanding, cancer treatment is most definitely not fun.

But I'm going to call it fun! That's my form of rebellion against cancer's tyrannical lottery. Because there's a pot of gold at the end of the chemotherapy rainbow: watching The Progeny grow up and then growing old with beloved Wife.

Around midday my doctor’s office called to tell me I had an appointment with a nearby otolaryngologist at 3:30. He would take a closer look and investigate what was seen on the CT scan.

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