Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cancer - that scary diagnosis!



Since Rob Ford was diagnosed with stomach cancer last week, I thought about my own battle with cancer about 20 years ago, it was scary shit. I was younger, stronger, no physical problems with me at all.

And then I noticed I had increasing back pain with a strange lump on a testicle. I thought nothing of it. And then slowly, deviously, it grew larger and I would feel the occasional pang of pain. It wasn't until my ex-wife convinced me to go to the doctor and get this shit checked out. And so I did.

The first test is rudimentary enough. The doctor examines your nuts and orders a blood test and ultrasound. These tests were easy and confirmed a lump. He ordered an x-ray and followed up with a ct scan. This confirmed his suspicion of cancer and ordered surgery. But wait, he needed to see how far, if, the cancer spread.

We then move on to the Bipedal pedal lyphangiogram. This horrible test involves cutting open the bottom portion of your feet. They then insert needles into your lymph nodes and slowly, excruciatingly, pump radioactive dye up your legs and up to the neck.

Now, you may be thinking "This isn't so bad". But the truth is, this test takes 4-5 hours and you feel each and every pulse of the fluid as it advances up your legs to your neck. Finally, after it is finished they take a few more x-rays and you go home and wait for the results.

For me, the cancer was limited to a small area. The doctor ordered surgery and I was in the operating theater within the week. I woke up in the surgery room to a garth brooks song. They put headphones on my head as I awoke. I was so full of painkillers I didn't know where I was. 

After the morphine wore off I was given some tylenol-3 pain killers. They never really worked that well. I spent the next month at home watching Jerry Springer and soap operas. It took a while for me to be able to walk without flinching with pain. After the surgery, about a month later I had to go for radiation treatment. The oncologist explained to me that this was necessary because the cancer could still exist in some tiny particles near the operation site. I agreed.

Radiation treat is a very awkward moment when you're being treated by nurses. Stripped naked, they aim a laser pattern at your private parts and place a protective cover over the area they don't want to irradiate. The process takes a minute or two. It sounds very strange, like a high voltage arc and a whining sound. The best part comes about half an hour later. You feel extremely sick and begin puking your guts out. 

My oncologist ordered 10 treatments of radiation over a two week period. The first 4 days I did nothing but literally lie in bed. The nausea was so bad I couldn't even move my head. I stuffed towels in my mouth to stop myself from puking my guts out.

I remember going to pick up my paycheck at work, driving home and stopping at a red light - only to puke my guts out in my truck. By the 8th treatment I was able to handle the nausea with gravol and managed to eat some breakfast.

When it was over I went back every two years or so for CT scans. I still have to get checked every 4-5 years, but I've had so many CT scans it's a wonder I don't glow in the dark. I'm thankful I was treated in a very advanced medical facility and there was enough resources for me. In Canada you don't have to pay for this type of treatment. 

I can understand the fear Rob Ford must be feeling right now. When I was first diagnosed I thought "Am I going to die?!!" I was starting to lose it. But by the time I came out of radiation treatment and was feeling better, it was a huge relief. 

Everything works normally and I'm able to function like any other guy out there. Just now, I check shit out instead of ignoring it.

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