Monday, May 16, 2011

"It Can Always Be Worse" --My Recent Experience.

While I was off from writing I went through some physical challenges I would like to share with you. It was difficult, but in the end I believe made me a better person.

I went to the dermatologist and he said I had a skin cancer on my neck and it was way too large for him to treat I would have to have surgery. Nervous as I was, I went through the surgery and later the surgeon told me he could not get it all because the cancer had wound itself around some of the nerves in my neck, and he could not risk it. I would have to have radiation treatment. Also, while I was under during the surgery he took sample of an area that was growing in the corner where the nose meets eye, and he said it skin cancer also. However, because of the location and the size, it would have to be performed by well know specialist in our area who will also have a plastic surgeon ready to do reconstructive surgery. They estimated it could take 8 hours.

I met with the radiologist and he examined the area in the corner of the eye and said he could also treat it with radiation instead of surgery. He said there was a 92% chance he would get it all with radiation. I asked what the side effects were. I signed the forms and he dictated a note for the chart stating the success ratio he gives me, and certainly did not fail to mention during the dictation that he informed me there could be a good chance it could damage the eye, or cause me to be totally blind because the radiation will applied just a couple of Cm's of the eye.

They built a mold over my face with lead blocks to minimize the dose of radiation near the eye and I started treatment. I was scared. I walked back to the desk and signed in, then went through a doorway that reminded me of a fault. An enormous machine was in the center of the room looked like large arm hanging over the table. They positioned me on the table, put the mold on my face in place and as the large air-tight doors closed, it was deathly quiet. Then I heard the machine click a few times behind me, pause, and hum of the radiation as it was applied. My left eye near the point of radiation was almost blinded by the brightest light I ever saw. Later they told me it was the light of the radiation bouncing off the nerves in the back of they eye.

I showed up at 10:00 every day for this. Each day, the sound of the large doors shutting, the clicking of the machine just before the radiation started and the bright light never got any easier.

I was told that one of the side effects of the treatment was there would be an area the size of a baseball that would turn deep red and would feel like a bad sunburn. He was just being nice. It burnt like I was on fire!

During all of this, my Mother-In-Law had a heart attack and passed away. I loved her as I did my own mother. She was the sweetest person I have ever known, and for 32 years she treated me more than a Son-In-Law. I still miss her so very much.

The salty tears from her passing mixed in with the crust of the dying cancer and caused it to peel away leaving raw flesh. Did that ever hurt! The doctor wrote a slip for my employer giving me 2 weeks off so I could finish my treatment. But I still worked even though I looked like a red lobster.

I have been trying to lay the groundwork for the reason for this page. My Dad told me something when I was a boy that finally after all these years took hold and as long as I live, I hope and Pray it will never leave me: "Son, there will be times when things could be better, but they can ALWAYS be worse."

Some mornings as I sat in the car in front of the cancer center, I wished I could just drive off. Between my mental condition and the pain I was going through, at times I "thought" was unbearable. But I got out of the car and went in anyway.

One day, as I was sitting in a chair outside of the "chamber" (as I often called it) an elderly lady that always went before me told me her story. She had two operations; reconstructive plastic surgery of her nose (that did not look good); and she was about to complete her second set of radiation treatment, which she was certain she would have to have surgery again. As she came out of the chamber I did not hesitate to follow her in. I suddenly was ashamed that I even thought I had it bad. After that day, as I sat in the chair waiting, I would notice several patients walking by me. Some wore hats, scarfs and such covering the hair loss from chemotherapy. I had the radiation on the outside, but they had radiation injected and was going through ever organ of their body. I felt for them so much!

My last day, the cancer center gave me a certificate of completion "with the highest degree of courage, determination and good nature." My wonderful wife arranged a surprise party with my daughters and grandchildren. All along she called me a "trouper" and said she was proud of me. As I read the cards, I said over and over "I didn't do anything." Tears came to my eyes as I thought of that poor elderly lady that I talked to and never did get her name. I was wandering where she was that moment. Was she going through yet another surgery?

Today, the doctors said I look terrific. They see no signs of the cancer at all. I went to an eye surgeon and she was proud to say there were absolutely no damage to the eye whatsoever. The only side effect I have is my left eye waters and every so often I have to wipe the tear away with a tissue. And sometimes when I think "this is getting old" I wipe my eye and I am thankful I have my eyesight!

It can always be worse!

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