From December 2003 to January 2004 I spent 17 days lying in a hospital bed. I had staph endocarditis. Bacteria was growing on my aortic valve and then traveling through my bloodstream to all parts of my body. I was dying.
At the time, I didn’t really know how close I was to death, and I'm thankful my doctor and wife didn’t tell me. I didn’t need to know.
After a week of being at home thinking I had the flu, but only getting progressively worse, I made it to the doctor. I was weak. My thoughts clouded in fog. While following the nurse back to the examination room I heard her ask my wife if she thought I needed a wheelchair. I was ten steps or so behind them, but I heard. I responded by saying “No, I can make it.” And I kept on with the painfully slow steps toward the room.
My doctor didn't stay with me for long. I don't remember seeing him or even really hearing him, but I know he told Rachel to take me directly to the hospital. Do not go home. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
When we arrived at the hospital they were waiting for me. They wheeled me up to the second floor and into the room which would be my home for the next 17 days. I was pretty incoherent, but I remember there were three or four nurses, along with Rachel, in the room with me. Two or three of the nurses began to undress me, I was way too weak to do it myself, and another one began asking me questions. I remember they asked me when my last visit to the dentist occurred? I thought, the dentist? What the fuck does that have to do with anything? Rachel told them it had been a couple of months. Now I know why they asked me that question, and now I must take antibiotics an hour before every visit to the dentist.
Then, as they were getting my flannel pants off, and after the dentist question, one of the nurses asked if I wanted a preacher sent to my room. Now at this moment I have no strength and my conscience is balancing on the edge of the living and the I don’t give a shit anymore, but without missing a beat I said
“Don’t count me out, yet.”
Obviously I survived. The road to recovery was extremely long and tiresome, but I got there. I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to my doctor and the team he assembled, along with all the nurses at the hospital. Without them, I would not be here today.
And today, I learned I have cancer.
For the past two years I’ve been touched by cancer pretty much constantly. My dad, my wife, and several friends or relatives of friends. Some survived, some didn’t, and some are still fighting.
I’m tired of cancer.
But now it’s my turn.
Like we eagerly wait in line with our tickets in hand so we can finally ride the cancer roller coaster. Here are my five tickets! Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! I get to ride in front!
It’s in my tonsil (What the Hell do I still have those for, anyway?) and after I saw the CT scan, it was pretty obvious. So, when I got the official diagnosis a few days later, it didn’t come as a surprise. I wasn’t really freaked out, though, until the day of the pet scan. That has been the most terrifying day of my life.
All I could think about was what happened to my dad. I was terrified that after they ran the radioactive shit through me, and then slid me under the scanner for half an hour, that my insides would light up with hundreds of lightbulbs, all of them cancer tumors, where neither surgery nor chemotherapy/radiation would be beneficial. I couldn’t help thinking that I was a dead man walking, and I dreaded every moment until the doctor told me otherwise.
The only things that really lit up were the same ones that lit up after the original CT scan: my tonsil and a couple of lymph nodes in my neck.
This means I still have a fighting chance.
So fight, I will. <In my best Yoda imitation>
My options now became having surgery to get the tumor and nodes out (which would then give us a lot more information regarding what I am dealing with, and allow us to plan the strategy accordingly) or to not have surgery but instead have full on chemotherapy and radiation.
I opted for surgery so we could get more information.
Now the surgery day is quickly becoming the most terrifying day of my life. More on that at a later date.
So that’s the story up to this point.
I have joined the club no one wants a membership to.
I have cancer.
But as I have said before,
Don’t count me out, yet.