Chapter 59: “Cancer Scare”
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I despised all of these medical sidesteps; I just wanted to live a normal life. I knew that I didn’t want to become a hypochondriac, but how can someone who personally experienced all that I did be okay with the knowledge that – at any moment – this could all come crashing down?
I had it fairly easy as a kid all things considered, but I consumed food like an opulent King every single day and luckily, my body was able to bounce back. Only until it was literally able to bounce.
Even then, I hardly exercised and my life goals were minimal. At what point would the other shoe drop? Well, it turned out that point was at age eighteen when my life had been reset. I was now left picking up the pieces of my old way of living and aimlessly looking for a new puzzle frame.
It was May and spring had finally sprung in Northern Maine. The birds were chirping, the grass green, and I was “hard at work” selling credit cards.
One lazy morning, I awoke in a daze and stumbled into the shower. Every so often, the doctor’s voice popped into my head reminding me to conduct self-examinations on my testicles because Leukemia had a history of re-metastasizing in the gonads.
I had always scoffed at Dr. McGann’s assumption that cancer could return in the testicles because “they didn’t get enough blood running through them during chemo.” I had made damn sure that there was plenty of blood pumping into my little pair. Just because I was in the hospital did not mean my urges suddenly ceased.
Nevertheless, I was worried to actually perform these tests. Anxiety’s a bitch. I tried not to let it get the best of me, however, but it was difficult when I had medical experts filling my head with potential (and understandable) threats to my life force. I “manned up” and performed the examination.
But when I felt rolling lumps around my testes and how tender they were, the thought couldn’t help itself– a thought so insidious that it resonated in my skull just as fast as entered: This could actually be cancer.
And in one fell swoop; a wave of emotions rushed out of me. Panic was the first to set in. My writer’s mind conjured up the scenario likely to happen. I would be admitted to EMMC and the entire process would begin again. This time, however, I would ensure I would never have children (and possibly an erection ever again) because radiation would sear my gonads to small, hardened raisins.
The heart-stopping fear that overcame me was worse than any panic attack I had experienced yet. It felt more real than anything else I had felt; even my initial discovery of cancer. The only closest parallel was the anaphylactic reaction to amphotericin.
Would I need a bone marrow transplant? Will it even work?! Will this be the one to kill me?
My hands shook as I pulled out my cell phone. I punched in the phone number of the Outpatient Clinic (I had it memorized) and asked for Doctor Allen first. Maybe she wouldn’t believe what the other Judy told me and I could forget all of this stress. Huh, yeah right, like I’d forget this fodder for fear.
“She’s not in today, I’ll get Doctor McGann.”
I tried to stay calm. I’ve learned in my few spats with anxiety that if you sound panicked, they’ll assume as such.
“Hello, Judy. I found a few lumps on my testicles. I’m worried that my cancer may have come back in my testicles like you said.”
I listened as she asked me further questions regarding the lumps. After my string of answers, she asked me to travel down to Bangor so that they may have an examination and “go from there.”
I packed my bags for a long-term stay. I found my old silk dress shirts, grabbed my Gameboy Advance SP & GameCube, and whatever else I would need and broke the news to my parents.
“Can you give me a ride?” Dad couldn’t because he had to work. He had finally begun his own business fixing diesel machinery and so his hands were tied. My Mom and Gary couldn’t afford the trip, and so I called the very next person I thought of… Lori.
She graciously took time off from her job as a teacher and drove me down. We tried to ignore the elephant in the room that was my pending prognosis. We told stories of when I lived there as a foster kid and tried remaining jovial. But during those talks, my mind swirled with potential scenarios and ways in which to remain positive during my second round of treatments. I couldn’t escape my thoughts and I assumed Lori had similar notions knocking around her mind.
I checked people off the “Notify” list. My parents and my closest friends & siblings knew, but other than that, it was something I wanted to keep close to my chest in the crazy off chance this whole scrape was nothing. Yet, this time I, unfortunately, knew it was something palpable.
We arrived at the hospital campus at around two-thirty in the afternoon. I walked up to the clinic like a man on Death Row. We checked in, they took my blood, and we sat waiting for Dr. McGann to appear. Thankfully, she squeezed me in. Probably a poor choice of words for this event.
In the examination room, I “dropped trou” and she went to work. Hmm, again, in poor taste.
I explained the lumps as she examined. They were extremely tender lumps around the testicles. She finished up and ripped off her gloves. “Oh, those? These appear to be swollen sacs around your testicles. Cancer would be hard bumps inside the actual testes.” She thought for a moment and turned to her computer. “Didn’t your scrotum swell once after a surgery?”
“Yeah, after my appendicitis. There was a fluid build-up due to my hernias. Why do you ask?”
“That’s what happened, this is fluid build-up from that moment. This is completely healthy; there’s nothing wrong.”
“For real? I’m fine?”
“Yeah, tip-top shape. Your counts were good. Boy, you had me scared for a moment.”
“YOU were scared? How do you think I felt?! I packed my bags for an extended ‘vacation!’ I thought this was a relapse!”
The heavy dumbbells upon my shoulders were lifted, as they were -once again – my own doing. It was a common thing for me: to place the burden of life or death onto myself. It’s a marvelous thing to behold in hindsight, but a treacherous feeling to endure in the moment.
Lori and I left the hospital like two prisoners out on early parole. We were so happy we nearly skipped to the car. Our celebration began by procuring a nice fatty meal at some fast food joint and continued on our trip home, which became one of our favorite moments. It’s marvelous what one can enjoy after they grant themselves the freedom of life.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.