This has come to it


Presented like the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.

The thoracic surgeon Doctor B—- asked me a few questions:

Are you a smoker?

“Socially.  Not since my twenties.”

What do you do for work?

“I’m a janitor.”

When did you start noticing pain in your chest?

“I don’t know.  Probably six to eight months ago.”

Incredulous look on Doctor B—‘s face. 😐

The dance around the feasting chamber was not quite complete.  Not yet.

He continued:

“You have a mass on your lung and it is spreading around your sternum.

I hope it’s a lymphoma.

If it’s something else that would not be so good.

Either way I want to find out what it is.

I’m going to get you in for a CT guided biopsy.  Hopefully we can get enough of a sample to find out what we’re dealing with”.

He was not prepared to mention anything more, but between the lines it was breathing, moving the veil of the confessional slowly.

And then he was gone to see his next patient.  He is a very busy man.

The CT biopsy was not successful in getting a meaningful sample for diagnosis.  The radiologist wanted to err on the side of safety.  He would get one sample.  Usually he took three.  He was not comfortable poking around any further just above my heart.  “It was starting to bleed he said, its very vascular and that makes it more complicated”.

I felt I was back at the beginning.  I felt defeated.  More waiting.  At my next visit with Doctor Bond he said he wanted to do a cervical mediastinoscopy.  He wanted to go in with a scope just above my collarbone to get the tissue samples.  He would be performing the surgery.

Over the course of the next few days leading up to the surgery:  More blood to give.  A meeting with the anaesthetist.  He was reassuring.  A meeting with the nurse to go over the procedure and my prep responsibilities.  She wished me good luck.  The day of I was nervous.  I had nothing to eat after midnight earlier.  I had come into the surgical waiting area a couple of hours before the scheduled time as required by the hospital.  I saw people who had recently come out of surgery.  An older woman kitty corner to my bed broke down shortly before her scheduled surgery time.  She sobbed in her nurse’s shoulder saying her husband was home sick and she was having second thoughts about having her procedure done.  The nurse was very understanding and reassured her that it would not be a problem to cancel the surgery and that she could come back once she felt better.  The woman was very concerned the doctor who was scheduled to do it would be angry with her.  “Oh no no no, he would not be angry at all, the nurse soothed, He wants you to be comfortable with having it done.  It’s elective.  It’s not urgent.”  The doctor would later visit her with similar reassurance.  He gently said “You have a lot going on right now.  Your husband needs you, and your surgery can wait.  You may feel pain, from time to time but it is not damaging your organs.  Once you feel ready, let us know and we will do the procedure.”

My scheduled time came and went.  I missed my dad and my brother who had left me a couple of hours earlier.  I thought about being under anaesthesia.  I hadn’t gone under since I was a child.  It made me nervous.  I repeated a mantra my sister gave my dad when he got sick:  “I am getting better everyday and in every way”, and “All is well”.  In that time I resolved that it was my job to get myself calm and ready for the anaesthesia, after that it was out of my hands.  That and some deep breathing helped piece out the waiting and calm me down.

I briefly met with the anaesthetist and the operating room nurse prior to the surgery.  Once I was wheeled in to the operating room I was introduced quickly to two more nurses who were there to assist with the procedure.  “Okay said the anaesthetist, let’s place you on this table here.  I am now going to hook you up to the anaesthetic, you should slowly feel the effects once I let you know it is going in.  Doctor Bond was not around.  “Ready?  I nodded.  Okay here comes the anaesthetic”…

I woke up back at the surgical daycare room.  My throat was scratchy and sore from the breathing tube that was inserted while I was out.  I was very groggy, but still lucid enough to be able to handle simple questions and instructions.  There was a leaden feeling to everything going on around and inside my head.  Morphine.  Doctor Bond quickly came to my bedside:

“Hi Doctor B—”

“Hi.  Well it’s cancerous, now we just need to know what type.”

“Okay, thanks doctor.”

And then he was gone once more.

My brother and my dad came by shortly thereafter.  A nurse prepped me on what to do and not do for the next 48 hours after I was discharged.  It was the same nurse who gave me hug and an “I love you from your wife” before I went in to the operating room.  She hugged me close as I sat up in the bed and whispered softly the instructions I was to follow.  Her voice was soothing and it helped me remember the things I needed to know.  With that she wished me luck and to take care.


So that was sometime in April…

To come up to speed I went into May and another biopsy.  Just to make sure.  I was introduced to an oncologgist, another thoracic surgeon, a counsellor, a doctor who took a bone marrow sample, many nurses in the chemotherapy delivery area, blood tests, x-rays, steroids, chemo.  I think that is most of it.  There’s lots of information, lots of contradictory opinion, get well wishes, a raft of things unknown, not a lot of time to sift through information:  just do the treatments.  I no longer have a lot of patience to ponder people’s feelings.  It has come to a throwing off of the unnecessary and getting on with my life.  In my moments of weakness I have become angry, felt unworthy, briefly turned to religion but woke up to my truth.  I listened to a radio program yesterday that discussed the process of coping.  One of the persons being interviewed stated one of the first questions people ask themselves when confronted with a life altering situation or condition is “Why me?”.

In this instance I can honestly say I have never asked that question.  There has been no need.


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