Wednesday, May 18, 2016


It was quiet. Only the buzzing of the overhead lights disturbed the silence in the room. I looked out the eighth floor window to stare at the skyscraper across the street. It was a bright and sunny day in Seattle.
What the fuck am I doing here on this beautiful day, I thought. What do I do now?
My wife gently squeezed my hand.
“I’m scared to death,” I confessed.
“You should be, sir,” the doctor replied, his stern, serious tone underlining the gravity of the situation. “This is cancer.”

I chose to have surgery to get that thing out of me. It will give us more information and help direct the next strategy. That strategy could be anything from full on chemotherapy and radiation, to doing nothing else after surgery. It all depends on what comes back from pathology.

The surgery, though, is going to be a rough road. As I have said before, it is quickly becoming the most terrifying day of my life.
I’ll be cut open in two places. (Yay, me!) Inside my mouth to get the right tonsil and the adjoining tumor, then again from behind my right earlobe down to just above where my neck ends (somewhere in that area, anyway) to get the lymph nodes. Rachel and I are already comparing scars and I don’t even have mine, yet.
Robotics will be involved with taking out the tonsil and tumor, but the lymph nodes in the neck will be taken out the old-fashioned way: surgeon’s hand and scalpel. The doctor said my scar will be a doozy. Great. I’m already picturing myself looking something like Frankenstein’s monster. Hey, Halloween could be fun this year!
“Oh, I love your costume, Randy!”
“Um, thanks, but I'm not wearing a costume.”
“But your neck, the scar looks so real.”
“It is real. That’s how they sewed my head on. Now give me a hug.”

In reality, I hope it doesn’t freak out my kids.

When Rachel shaved her head at the beginning of her chemo treatments, our youngest couldn’t bear it. He could not watch mom lose her hair so he ran off and hid. It took us awhile to find him. After that he was always more comfortable when she had a hat on. I think it made him sad to see his mom without hair.
So I'm kind of concerned how they will react to this giant scar that will be running down my neck and can’t really be hidden.
Maybe they’ll think it's cool.
Maybe they won’t.
The good news, though, is the doctor said after about a year or so it should be very difficult to see that I even have a scar. Hopefully he’s right. We’ll see.
I'm not sure how long I will not be able to talk after surgery, that’s relative to each person, but I’m sure it’ll be several days.
The pain is also relative.
Yeah, not looking forward to that.
The doctor also said he will not release me from the hospital until I can swallow water.
Now stop and think about that for a minute.
That’s the bar.
I don’t think the bar can be any lower. I mean, it’s swallowing water. Not food. Not ice cream. Not pudding. No. It’s swallowing water.
He told me to expect to lose 25-30 pounds. That’ll put me just a little bit more than what I weighed when I was in high school, and that was thirty years ago. When I told a couple of my colleagues I should expect to lose this much weight, one of them asked “From where?”
You gotta laugh or you’ll go insane.

The surgery itself doesn’t frighten me. Instead, I’m grateful to live in a time where we have the technology to do such things. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when we couldn’t do them.
No, the thing that frightens me is the aftermath; the not being able to swallow; not being able to talk; and definitely all the pain I will have to endure.
But it is what it is.
I will get through.

I am most disappointed that I must leave my classes for awhile. In fact, I may not be back to see them before the end of the quarter. I told them I’d try to be back for final’s week, but there’s no guarantee. I’m hoping I will be able to.
I love what I do, and I enjoy helping my students learn math. So, yes, I will miss my classes. Oftentimes, they are the highlight of my day.

So that's the plan. Kind of a shitty plan, but obviously a necessary one.

I will endure.

Thank you for listening, my friends.


  1. We will miss you as well! Your scar can be the origin to the device implanted for making crazy difficult word problems!

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. That sounds like a great idea!

  2. Randy, I am so very sorry you are going through this. I wish you a smooth and speedy recovery on the other side.

  3. Can I bring the boys their favorite meal while ur having surgery ???

    1. Thanks, Jen. We're covered, though. I appreciate the offer.

  4. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts! Maybe you can think back on all the awesome classes we have had. Like when Jeff talks during an assignment and makes us all laugh... and for some i'm sure make annoyed lol. Although I don't want to make you smile too much I guess for pain. Your gonna have to learn to be happy and not smile!! K, start working on that now... Well I wish you the BEST. We will be waiting for our professor to return. You will be missed!

    1. This is Kirsty...

      ..not Mary Jane

    2. Thanks, Kirsty. I appreciate it. Study well.