WARNING: This is my story of working through a horrifying disease. My story. That means I deal with it my way. Sometimes that’s being weepy over that cheesy scene in “Independence Day” where Crazy Quaid martyrs himself by flying into the alien laser gun and screaming “UP YOOOOOOOURS!” and other times it means gallows humor. Maybe you laugh with me or at me, that’s cool, or maybe you hate that I seem to brush off something horrible with a joke. That’s fine by me, too. What I’m hoping for is that maybe someone out there will read this and it’ll help them if they or someone they know is/was/will ever go through this. My story is not as rough as most and I know this – but I’m dealing, because it’s my story.
I have cancer……and I’m OK.
Really, I’m doing surprisingly well, but I should probably back up a bit, first, and get the history out of the way.
In early September of 2014, I was starting to have major back pains. One Monday morning late in the month, I woke up at 3am in such pain that I could barely move. I certainly wasn’t making it to work, so I spent the next 4 hours trying to shower and drive myself to the ER. After giving me the once-over, I basically had the same signs as a muscle spasm, so was given pain meds and a muscle relaxer and went on my way.
It worked for a day or two to mitigate the pain, but after a couple of weeks went by, I needed to press the issue of getting some physical therapy or something. My physical therapist put me through the paces, but in the end, I only hurt worse. One of our exercises had me lie prone, which I hadn’t done in so long that when I was finally and painfully on my back, I said “I don’t know how I’m going to get up.” She replied, after seeing how bad I truly was, “I don’t know, either.” Heaving myself up by the power of GreySkull and a sturdy chair, there was a burst of pain that almost convinced me to go back to the ER. This made me push for more testing and soon I was being fed through a MRI to take a look at my back.
I got the call in early December with my results. I didn’t just have back pain, I had a shattered vertebrae. Shattered! They said it looked like little more than a cloud and the reason was that there was a tumor pressing against the bones. The physical therapy may have pushed it over the edge. As this was explained to me, I admit I started to fade out a bit. “Yadda yadda yadda… enlarged lymph nodes. This, that, and the other…a large growth near the spine. Blah blah blah…probably a cancer.”
Cancer. I have cancer.
It hits like a brick in your gut, and then sinks in slowly like molasses. Even this far in I really don’t say that phrase. It’s not something I’m hiding, but I don’t want to let the weight of it push me down. I told my parents right away and decided to wait to tell anyone else until I had a plan in place to treat it. Now that I think about it, it’s like a weird reverse pregnancy. No one needed to know that something was growing inside me until I had a plan to get rid of it. Of course, now that I think about THAT, I just grossed myself out. Mostly, I knew that this back pain/cancer had already stolen my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and was about to ruin Christmas. I didn’t want to ruin it for others by saying “Happy Holidays, I have cancer and no idea what happens next!”
Rather quickly, I spoke with an oncologist and a team of people who would be handling my care. While they can’t use the word “curable,” they could definitely use the word “treatable.” My cancer is, fortunately, “very treatable.” And now, I have a treatment plan. I’m lucky.
Seriously, I’m lucky! If not for the muscle spasms, I wouldn’t have visited the physical therapist and broken my back. If I hadn’t broken my back, I wouldn’t have had a scan that caught the cancer. If I hadn’t caught the cancer with that scan… Well, best left unsaid. I’m lucky.
LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED…QUICKLY!
The doctors have all been awesome. Thanks to being a big fat guy, I needed special (and multiple) procedures to do all the biopsies required when diagnosing cancer. A biopsy takes pieces of the tumor out so they can be tested, and the tumor was what was causing my back so much pain. In other words, the more testing done, the smaller the tumor and lesser the pain. I was down for as many biopsies as possible! Until the bills started to show, but that’s another story.
In preparation of going through chemotherapy, I was given a packet. Seemingly endless pages of possible side effects that I needed to keep a watch for. It gets ridiculous when you notice “you may lose your appetite,” which I was weirdly kind of hoping for, followed shortly by “you may experience weight gain.” DAMMITSOHARD. Both?! Cancer clearly doesn’t play fair.
So my regimen is three days of chemo, once a month, for 6 months, followed by a month of radiation therapy that’s been dubbed “spot welding” to make sure the tumor is shrunk to nothing. Then? Well, I should be in remission!
When July rolls around, we’ll celebrate! In fact, if I can save any money, maybe I’ll be able to take my first vacation in 4 (5?) years. It’ll be my Fuck Cancer Vacation. Maybe Disneyland, but definitely Vegas. I just gotta start finding some odd jobs I can do from my home computer to bring in some extra scratch.
WHERE AM I NOW?
I’m currently going through Round 2 of chemo treatments as I write this. I’ll go into more depth on my experiences with chemotherapy in another post, so I’ll see you soon.
The Next of Many,