The C Word

June 8, 2011

I received a call from my nice doctor the morning after the biopsy.  He had some news for me.  Watch the video here.  He had to let me know this is actually, good news.  Yaaaa, I have lymphoma! I never thought I’d be excited for news like this.  He sounded relieved that this was my diagnosis.  Since we now know my mass is a bitch cancer, you can call it the “C” word.  He was happy to tell me this news because lymphoma is very treatable.  The chemo treatments they have for lymphoma are proven effective.  There were some additional tests the lab needed to complete in order to determine specifically what type of lymphoma we’re dealing with.  There are dozens of different classifications.  I wasn’t about to learn them all.  One could easily overwhelm themselves doing research online.  I don’t recommend it.  That’s what my brother in law, Eliot (lawyer), is for.  Erica runs my communications network, a significant task keeping everyone in the know.  Texting, emailing, Facebook…I think she was up for the “challenge.”  She released the carrier pigeons, letting everyone know the “good” news.

We met with my oncologist.  She was optimistic about the diagnosis as well.  Time to pop that Cristal! She had me lay down on the table so she could feel around my neck, under my armpits, and lower stomach.  They also check the testicles (insert cold room joke here), but I let her know my doctor already did that (insert gay joke here) when they thought lymphoma was a possibility.  These are areas of your lymphatic system and any tenderness or inflammation could possibly indicate the spread of the cancer.  Thankfully, nothing caused discomfort.  She asked if I was getting night sweats, a common symptom for lymphoma, which I was.  I would wake up in the middle of the night soaking wet (insert bed-wetter joke here).  I guess it wasn’t the sheets!  I seriously thought these new sheets we bought weren’t letting me breathe properly.  This also explains why I was sweating profusely the day I told my coworkers in the conference room (insert cry-baby joke here).

She gave me a list of chores I had to do before I could get chemo:  blood tests for HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis, PET scan, echocardiogram, and bone marrow biopsy.  Blood work; piece of cake, I’ve had blood drawn just about every other day it seemed like.  PET scan; similar to a CT scan, and I did that all by myself, like a big boy.  Echocardiogram; sounds easy enough, no drilling involved.  Bone marrow biopsy – I don’t like the sound of this one bit.  The receptionist told me it’s no big deal, she had one done herself…and she’s a girl!  This would be done in-house by the oncologist.

I still had concern about the size of my tumor.  This thing inside me is pretty big.  Will I need surgery to remove it?   Is there anything I can do in the meantime, while we wait for the final lab results?   Preferably, something that involves beer and watching sports.

Power Up

June 7, 2011

Having your chest on the receiving end of a drill press ain’t the greatest feeling.  Granted, I wasn’t cut open, but it left a slight aftertaste of violation.  So I took a bath in Listerine.  Nevertheless, I’m glad to have finished the paternity test of my baby.  This was a major hurdle before I headed to the delivery room…or chemo chair.

My ribs were just now feeling better from the first thoracentesis and I was getting confidence back in my burps.  But all good things must come to an end, and just like that, I’m sleeping upright on the couch again, hoping not to burp or even worse, sneeze.  Sneeze pains are like the burp pains on nitrous.  They’re absolutely terrifying.  You can’t stop a sneeze even if you tried.  You don’t know how big it’s going to be until you do it.  Holding them in, only makes them worse.  They’re an unpredictable, explosive, lung piercing, good time.

Since that fateful call from my doctor, I had been dieting, trying to be as healthy as I could.  My dad recommended I get myself physically ready for the tough road ahead.  Whether surgery or chemo was on my horizon, my body was going to be put to the test.  My Aunt Suzy told me about a low alkaline diet.  Why not give it a try?  My last meal SHOULD be a kale and quinoa salad.  On a low alkaline diet you remove the sweet, sour, savory, chewy, crunchy, tasty and delicious from your diet.  Then you wash it all down with a glass of baking soda and water.  It’s a low carb, low sugar, low dignity diet.  I recommend it!  The theory is to eat like a caveman: all natural, fruits and veggies…like we did before Happy Meals.  Processed foods, meats, sugars, dairy and carbs are acidic, therefore, harder for your body to break down, causing your immune system to work overtime. In turn, your body becomes vulnerable to cancer and other opportunistic diseases.  Your body is naturally alkaline.  This diet returns your body closer to its natural alkaline levels so your body can be in harmony, etc., etc.  Breathe in…hold…breathe.  The system made sense, so I stuck to it.  Plus, I wanted to look like Gollum before I embarked on my epic journey.

My aunts, uncles and sister, Dani, came over to the house to visit.  They brought over food and we gathered around the dining table and talked.  I ate the paper bag the food came in.  Unlike the normal gatherings where sarcasm is thrown around freely, this meeting is about me and my health.  You can’t help but try to keep the conversation light when we all see the dark cloud hovering over me, raining down uncertainty.  I told them how serious it was…”I haven’t had a beer in three weeks!”

It’s such a weird feeling talking about my situation.  I don’t like talking about myself to begin with, let alone having my family look at me with trepidation in their eyes.  Not the norm.  Taking in my every word, looking for any way they can help out.  The hugs are tighter and they hold a few beats longer.  The handshakes firmer with eyes locked on mine.  Everyone is pouring their heart out to me and I don’t know how to handle it.  Sure the attention is nice, but all you want is for them to make fun of you again.  The norm.

Four of the greatest. Mike, Ian, Me (not counted), Regan, Eliot

I was texting my best friend, Regan.  We’ve been friends since day one (of first grade).  He was the best man in my wedding and I was his.  I’m the godfather of his first son.  If I craved White Castle burgers, he’d offer to drive.  I gave him the update on the biopsy and everything.  My condition had been hard on my friends as well.  He tells me, “stay strong…I need you around.”  You have no idea the impact a simple text like this has.  I know I use the term surreal a lot, but there’s no other way to describe a moment like this.  The guy you normally have BS conversations about the Lakers or what stupid shit you did over the weekend, is now telling you how important you are to him.  C’mon!  Drama like this belongs on Lifetime, not in my texts from Regan.  These moments will buckle your knee and turn you into a sobby mess, but they can also empower you.  “Stay strong?”  I will, brother.

Another scheduled appointment with the oncologist and we wait for the results from the biopsy.  We put on our sunglasses, Erica slipped into her patent leather jumpsuit and we headed back into the Matrix.

Biopsy

June 7, 2011

Tuesday morning, 9:00 a.m. appointment for my biopsy. We just found out, less than 24 hours ago, I was going to have the biopsy.   There was no time to reflect or get scared about what I was about to go through.  Up to this point, we really didn’t how this procedure was going to go down.  The location of the mass would determine how they would get the sample.

We filled out the patient on-boarding paperwork.  This hospital was busy.  They took me back to the patient waiting room, where I suited into my surgery regalia.

The room was a beehive of activity, patients everywhere and nurses buzzing all over.  There was a team of nurses that attended to me. One to get me settled in, one to go over my paperwork, one to give me an IV and another to administer some IV cocktail.

I noticed the doctor’s name on my wristband had my doctor’s last name, but a different first.  I double checked with a nurse.  Apparently, they had my doctor’s wife.  The thoracic surgeon works with his wife, another doctor, in the same office.  The hospital got confused because they weren’t used to things being done through the interwebs.  Fancy huh?  How is it 2011 and they’re just now getting things done this way?  Amazing.  Nevertheless, this was just a minor hiccup that they straightened out.  Note to the reader:  Don’t go to an office that has two doctors with the same name. Just kidding.  They always make you double check your info and there’s a reason why.  This could’ve caused a billing nightmare. 

After an hour in the waiting room, an orderly came to take me to get a CT scan.  The whole procedure would take place on the CT scan table.  The surgeon would use the scan to determine how to get the sample.  They put me on the table and had me chill…literally.  Why are all these rooms so freakin’ cold?  Luckily they had heated blankets.   They started the CT scan by injecting me with the radiation and having me hold my breath and release while the table moved me back and forth through the scanner.  There were two nurses there to assist the surgeon. They were very nice ladies that made me feel comfortable.   They explained how they would get the sample.  They would go in through my chest, directly to the mass.  A syringe-like tool would pull samples of the mass, kind’ve like drilling for oil.  She informed me I would hear clicking noises whenever a sample was pulled.  After the biopsy they would do a thoracentesis, with which I was all too familiar.  We just had to sit back and wait for the surgeon to get there.

I fell asleep waiting.  It was about an hour before he showed up.  He came in and he didn’t have any weird features that stood out.  White guy, I’m guessing, in his mid to late 40’s, wearing scrubs and a bandana with some crazy print on it.  He seemed pretty normal to me, until he opened his mouth.  He must think he’s funny, but I don’t think anyone about to get drilled in the chest would be in the chuckling mood.  Ahhh, sarcasm and surgery – together at last!  The first thing he said to me: “Lemme guess, the doctor said you have 2 days to live?  And I’m a day late.  He probably told you your heart is in danger because of tamponade, yadda yadda yadda.”  Hi-larious!  Then it dawned on me.  What my concerned doctor was politely trying to say about this guy is he’s a good surgeon, but a colossal dickhead.

They started with the biopsy.  I had to lie on my back with my arms above my head.  Another localized anesthesia procedure.  Apparently, they wanted me to be awake so I’d have something to blog about.  They injected the lidocaine in my chest, all the way down to my ribs.  Then Jed Clampett, took out a big ass needle and started drilling next to my right nipple.  One of the nurses consoled me during the whole procedure.  Wiping my forehead of sweat and telling me I was doing well and other encouraging words.  Then she scratched me behind my ear and gave me a milkbone.  The other nurse was there to assist the surgeon.  I’m just lying on my back, listening to the weird clicking sounds as he drilled away.  I thought it’d be neat to take a peek at the procedure going on right before my eyes.  Bad idea!  I felt fine until I saw the bloody needle and his hand covered in blood.  I started getting cold sweats and feeling nauseous.  Again, it must’ve been the lidocaine!  The nurse gave me a sedative to help with the nausea.  The nurses asked if I had troubles with needles.  I explained not really, but the last procedure I had gave me a similar reaction.  The surgeon laughed and said sarcastically, “You don’t have problems with needles, you just get nauseous every time?” WTF dude?!  Unfortunately, I was in the uncompromising position of being a pin cushion to tell the dude to stop being a prick.  The nurse said I might be allergic to lidocaine, so let them know next time you get it.  They finished up on the biopsy and it was time for some more lung tapping.

I explained I had a thoracentesis done about three weeks before by a pulmonologist.  In a patronizing way, he asked, “Why’d you go to a pulmonologist?” Because of my vast medical knowledge of mediastinal masses, I insisted on a pulmonologist!  I explained, my doctor made the appointment and he drained about 1700 cc of fluid from my right lung.  They didn’t have any record of this, but they weren’t going to let that get in the way of a little fun.  This time they were going to go in through the front.  The doctor was poking his finger on my ribs to see where he would go in.  Just the pressure of his finger hurt.  I couldn’t wait for the needles to get in there.  Same procedure as before, except this time they used an ultrasound to guide the straw into my lung.  Which made me wonder, how did the pulmonologist know where to stick the elephant needle when he did the procedure?  The surgeon explained that the pulmonologist was just guessing and proceeded to laugh at his funny.  Good to know.  This lung draining hurt a lot more than the last one.  It was much more painful getting the lidocaine injections on the front of my ribs than it was through the back.  Stick your finger in your lower side ribs.  Is it tender?  Now stab that spot with a needle.  Do it!  They drained me for about 15 minutes.  When they were finished, he showed me the fluid.  Shockingly, it was about the same amount as the first time.  I’m guessing another 1400 – 1500 cc.  Apparently, I’m amphibious.

After he finished, I asked if he recommended anything for the pain from my punctured lung.  I told him that my last thoracentesis gave me the worst shooting pains whenever I burped.  He gave me the sage advice, “don’t burp.”  Thank you, Patch Adams!  If I saw this guy again, I would give him a swift kick to the nuts.  He was such a fucking asshole.  I guess you feel like you have the liberty to be one when someone is at your mercy.  Nevertheless, the procedures were done and I was done with him.

They carted me off to get some x-rays of my chest.  The tech was a nice lady.  She said she was in the room for my biopsy and that I did a really good job.  Then she scratched my belly and gave me a pig’s ear.  She took a look at my x-rays and the first thing she said was my heart looked really big.  Stark contrast to what Erica’s been telling me for years.

After the x-rays, they rolled me to the waiting room, where I would hang out for 3 hours for monitoring.  They kept me there in case my lung collapsed.  Good to know.  The last time my lung was tapped he sent me on my merry way.  Could my lung have collapsed that time?

Mr. Miyagi came to visit me in the waiting room to see how I was doing.  I take back all the bad things I said about his age.  I would have much rather had him do the biopsy.  He said he should get the biopsy results within a day or two and will give me a call.  Erica, her friend Stephanie, my mother in law, Evelyn and my dad all came by to pay me a visit.  Nothing relieves the stress of surgery like a visit from your mother in law.  All joking aside, they were all a warm welcome after what I just went through.  The hospital gave me their rendition of a turkey lunch and Erica fed it to me…well, at least for this bite.

My lung survived the 3 hours, so I was cleared to go.  I kissed my purple footies good bye and they wheeled me out the door.  An eventful day that I was glad to see come to an end.

As far as lidocaine and torturous procedures went, I thought this was the end of the road.  Little did I know, the worst was yet to come.

 

Dog Days of Bummer

June 6, 2011

The appointment with the thoracic surgeon was rough.  Emotionally, this was the toughest day I’ve had since this journey started.  You could say, it finally sunk in.  Everything the doctor said was pretty much what we already knew, but coming from him, it really hit hard.

After the appointment, my dad wanted to get some coffee and talk.  We reflected on how we got here and discussed the next steps.  How I went from a seemingly healthy 34 year old to having an emergency biopsy, all within the matter of two weeks.  I don’t remember much of what we talked about.  I would say a few words to keep the conversation going, but really, all I could think about was how crazy this was.  My mind would drift as I wished I could be somewhere else – someone else.  CT scans, needles, lung drainings and biopsies.  This is my reality.

I was exhausted.  I got home from the doctor’s and went straight to my room and passed out.  I was so drained from the whole day.  I woke up from my nap and sent an email to my coworkers.  Up until this point, I had been going to work every day throughout all this drama.  The deadlines, timelines and late nights would have to wait.   I wasn’t going to be returning to work this week.

Erica consoled me that night and told me we were going to be ok.  She hugged me, but I couldn’t hug her back.  I just slumped in her arms and cried.  She wanted to know how I felt.  I told her the only thing on my mind, “This is such a fucking bummer”.

Bittersweet Sympathy

June 6, 2011

We missed a call from the thoracic surgeon.  He called barely 30 minutes after we left his office and left a voicemail letting us know we have to come back to his office on Monday.  I didn’t quite know what to make of this.  Nevertheless, my dad, Erica and I were going back on Monday.

I left work early to go to the appointment.  Just another appointment, like we’ve done so many times the past couple of weeks.  The doctor came into the room to explain why he needed us back right away.  After we left his office, late Friday afternoon, he rushed over to his radiologist to review my CT scan.  He was deeply concerned with what he saw.  I will always remember this moment.  It was intense, it was surreal.  You could feel the intensity in his eyes as he explained with resounding conviction: he thinks the mass is malignant, too big to be benign…it’s huge.

He talked about the fluid around my lung, but his main concern was my heart.  There’s a lot of fluid around my heart (pericardial effusion).  On average, a person has about 30-40 ccs of fluid around the heart, but I’m carrying what looks to be about 300 ccs.  This could possibly lead to a more serious condition known as, Tamponade.  Apparently, not the olive spread.  This causes strain on the heart and possibly surgery would be needed to remove the fluid.  Right at that moment, it felt like my heart was carrying a lot more than 300 ccs of fluid.  He assured us that he doesn’t mess around.  When he knows something is serious, he doesn’t waste any time and it showed.

We knew the mass was big and we knew the about the fluid around my lungs.  We knew it was serious, but we never got a sense of urgency from any of the doctors.  Until now.  He comforted us by freaking us out.  Actually, it was refreshing.  Finally a doctor that felt my condition was critical.  He seemed genuinely concerned and wanted to get things moving right away.  It was hard news to take, but it was what we were looking for from all these doctors.

He scheduled the biopsy and another thoracentesis first thing the next morning.  He wouldn’t be doing the procedure himself, but highly recommended this surgeon.  He also mentioned something about this surgeon.  I couldn’t remember exactly what he said about him.  Something about the way he looks or something.  Nevertheless, it was go time!

Hurry Up and Wait

June 1, 2011

I met with my bride to be the oncologist.  She was a nice lady.  She reminds me of the Oracle for some reason.  Not trying to be all philosophical and she’s a deity.  It’s just the way she looks at you.  She’ll ask a question in calm, concerning way, and then tilt her head down to look at you over her glasses.  Then she took a drag off her cigarette and told me she’s sorry, but I’m not, “The One.”  She gave her best guess as to what I’m dealing with, but everything is just a guess at this point.  I’m sure they don’t want to misinform a patient or scare them, so she cheered me up and told me she thought it was either Lymphoma or Thymoma.  Oooh, Thymoma, I haven’t test driven this one yet.  From what I understand, Thymoma, is some sort of thing that’s inside you from birth.  It normally shrinks as you get older, but in some freak cases, it’ll keep growing.  And it looks like a monk fish.  This is what I was told.  She said I needed to get a biopsy before we could draw any conclusions.  She didn’t seem too concerned or show any sense of urgency.  Maybe it’s not that big of a deal.  I’m sure she’s seen many patients with a Mr. Potato Head growing in their chest.

The next appointment was with the thoracic surgeon, who will perform the biopsy.  The original doctor was out of my insurance network, so I had to reschedule.  Luckily, I was able to get an appointment with this one right away.  I want to get things going and not waste any more days than I need to.  He walked in the room, looked at me sitting on the patients table, then looked at my 65 yr old dad.  He pointed at both of us in confusion, “who’s the patient here?”  My dad probably fits his demographic better than I do.  The doctor was an older man.  Actually, he was a lot older than I thought he was going to be, with droopy eyes and cheeks and a slight hunch from years of bad posture.  His age is a little concerning, since he would be cutting me up and digging around my chest cavity.  I liked him though.  He was right to the point.  He asked me questions and immediately cut me off.  In a move only an old guy could pull off, he would shake his head and hands if he didn’t care for my answer.  Like, Mr. Miyagi correcting Daniel-san.  Erica likened him to the Soup Nazi.  This doc was no BS.  I told him what my symptoms have been.  He looked at my paperwork and the lab results from the lung fluid.  He reviewed them and said it looked promising, but inconclusive.  I would still need to get a biopsy.  He hadn’t reviewed the images from the CT scan yet.  He would review them with his radiologist on Monday, since he probably left for the weekend already.  He would call me on Tuesday and we’ll go from there.  No news, another copayment and I need a biopsy.

Monster Inside Me

May 31, 2011

The pulmonologist sent my lung juice to a lab for tests.  Sometimes they can get a diagnosis of the mass just from the fluid.  Maybe I won’t have to have a scope sent down my chest after all.

We received the CT scan results from the radiologist.  I was given a CD with the images and a report.  The report explained I have an anterior mediastinal mass into the anterior right hemithorax, located right between my lungs.  Approximate dimensions are 17.4cm x 14.0cm x 10-11.0cm.  The CD only had this image.

We still don’t know what the mass is. All we know is the size, location and I’m supposed to save Mars.

100% Chance of Rain

May 27, 2011

It was the day after my keg was tapped.  I couldn’t sleep on either of my sides.  It was  tender, putting any kind of pressure was a discomfort.  I had to sleep upright against the pillows on the couch.  Burping is still a gamble.  Sometimes I win and other times I’m gouged.  It never hurts on the burps I prepare my mind, body and soul for.  Of course not!  It’s the little, innocent, oh don’t mind me burps that drop me to the canvas.  My breathing hasn’t improved at all.  I just assume my lungs aren’t used to air yet.

I wasn’t planning on going into work, but I had to get some info from HR since I would likely be taking some time off.  At this point, I didn’t know how much time off.  I also needed to catch up on a few things.  I caught part of my team, Shane, Anisa and Joanna in a meeting.  They were finishing up, when I received a phone call from my doctor.  I stepped outside to take the call.

He called to inform me; he made me an appointment with an oncologist. I shot back, “it’s not a toomah!”   I didn’t understand why I would need to see an oncologist.  Why jump to this conclusion when we don’t know the race of this masstard.  He explained, whatever the diagnosis is, most likely I would need chemotherapy.  Chemotheraphy?!  I just assumed this thing would simply tear through my chest at dinner one night, hiss at all the guests and scurry across the table never to be seen again.  But chemo…that’s just shitty.  He said it would be good for me to meet the oncologist, since I would be having a long relationship with her.  An arranged marriage?  This was hard news to take.  It put a new sense of seriousness to what I’m dealing with.  I guess I was just naive, but I didn’t think an oncologist and chemotherapy would be necessary.  I think I’ll just ignore his calls from now on.

Fired up from the news I just received from Dr. Tony Robbins, I went back in the conference room to let the crew know what’s been going on.  It was good to see Anisa and Joanna.  Not Shane…he’s Canadian.  They had been away on travel for the past week so I wanted to give them the low down.  I’ve had to explain this story so many times the past couple of weeks, it’s become routine.  As I described the details of what’s been going on; Anisa started crying, which made Joanna cry, so I started crying…cause I’m a team player.  She tearfully told me she was upset.  Not that I was dying, but she was upset that I have to go through all of this.  I didn’t understand all the emotion for my ordeal.  Again, I was probably just naive.  Up to this point, I still thought I would undergo some surgery to remove the mass.  No big deal, right?  The chemo news probably didn’t help and for some reason, I was pale(r than usual) and had terrible cold sweats.  I looked like shit.  It added a nice effect to telling my depressing, sickly story.  Licking your palms?  Suck it, Ferris Bueller.

They all reassured me that I would get through this; being that I’m relatively young and  healthy.  They were all there for me.  They shared stories of people they knew that got through similar situations.  It was comforting to hear.  Between the crying and the talk about chemo, this afternoon was a slap in the face.  Just adding to the realness of what I’m up against.

57 oz. to Freedom

May 26, 2011

I got my CT scan on Wednesday and was waiting on the results from the radiologist.  The CT scan was uneventful: an injection of radiation, sitting on a table that moved me back ‘n forth through a scanner and some breathing in and out.  In total, it was just a 30 minute procedure.  The real fun would come on Thursday, when I met with the pulmonologist.

I drove myself to the pulmonologist in the morning.  My stepmom offered to take me to the appointment, but I told her it wasn’t necessary.  This was just going to be another appointment where a specialist gave me his opinion…or so I thought.  He looked at my x-rays and gave his best educated guesses on what the mass might be, all of which sounded unpleasant.  Nothing had the outcome I was looking for. You know, take a couple of pills and you’ll be back on that barstool in no time.  He also explained that I needed a biopsy.  Another bummer.  He casually explained this simple procedure.  They’ll cut a slit on that little dimple that’s just above the collar bone, under the Adams Apple.  Then they’ll snake a scope down my chest to grab a sample of the mass.  Shoot! I’ll just do that on my lunch break, doc!

He also informed me that he needed to do a Thoracentesis. This is the procedure to remove fluid from the outside of the lungs (pleural effusion).  No problem. Will the receptionist make that appointment for me?  He had the nurse take me into another room. Wait a minute!  Are they going to tap my lung right here?  Right now?  I was not emotionally prepared for this!  And by “emotionally prepared,” I mean, I haven’t even updated my status to get my friends’ comments.

The nurse took me to the other room.  It was a comfortable 55 degrees.  She sat me down on the table with the butcher paper.  She begins pulling out medieval tools of torture: a huge needle, the kind that take down elephants on Animal Planet, some human sized needles, some vials of meds and some bags and bottles.  She tapes some cloth to my back, so the blood won’t drip on my clothes.  Can I call my mommy before we start this? The doctor came in to explain the procedure.  First, he’ll inject me with lidocaine, a local anesthesia.  Then he’ll take the giant needle and stick it in my back, penetrating through the tender muscle in between my ribs, directly into my right lung where my sweet nectar was.  Like a Capri Sun.  Then he would proceed to siphon the fluid out.  Awesome! I was apprehensive before, but now I’m really looking forward to this. Let’s do it!

The anesthesia was probably the worst part.  I’m sure being numb is much better than having to feel the elephant needle go at it alone…but still!  Having any needle shoved into your back, so it reaches your rib cage…bad times.  He let the lidocaine do its thing for a couple minutes, followed by a test jab with the grandma’s knitting needle and I felt it!  We both agreed to wait another minute before continuing.  When he continued, I didn’t feel the pain, just the pressure.  It’s a weird feeling.  Mentally it hurts, someone stabbing you usually hurts.  I just sat on the table, while he was tappin my lung like a maple tree.  I couldn’t see anything that was going on, since, thankfully, it was all behind me.  Then I started getting sweaty and lightheaded.  Apparently, this wasn’t normal protocol.  He told me to lie down on my side.  Maybe I was having a reaction to the lidocaine or I needed my binky.  I’m sure it was the lidocaine.  He continued draining my lung for about 15 minutes. He finished up and told me, “I drink your milkshake,” which I found to be totally inappropriate.  He wiped the blood off my back and told me I’d be surprised by how much fluid he drained.

He wasn't kidding. I had to get a picture.

How can all of that fluid come from my right lung?  How was I breathing?  Is that Bud Light?  1700ccs of fluid, if my Google calculations are correct, that’s about 57oz. Apparently, all the beer I’ve been drinking went straight to my lung.  I was done for the day.  I was literally and figuratively…drained.  The doctor made me an appointment with a thoracic surgeon, who would do the biopsy.  He mentioned this surgeon was really good but arrogant.  Good to know.  Note to the reader: make sure your doctors check your insurance before they make appointments for you.  The surgeon he recommended was out of my network.  A huge difference in cost as opposed to a doctor that is in-network.  He sent me on my way.  No real instructions.  Just don’t do any strenuous physical activity or exercising.  Looks like P90X will have to wait another week.

He also needed me to get some blood work done, but no biggie.  I scoff at normal sized needles now.

When I left the doctor’s office, I felt all right.  Aside from just being violated…I was ok.  It was about 3:30 and I had been at the doctor’s office all day.  I needed to eat.  I went to a Baja Fish Tacos for some comfort in the form a blackened fish Baja bowl.  I needed to sit down, collect my thoughts and respond to the thousand text messages I received from the mass text I sent of my lung beer.  As I was sitting by myself at the table waiting for the food, I guess I had a little burp.  Just one of those harmless, under the breath kinda burps.  I let it go and without warning, it felt like someone got a hold of my voodoo doll and shoved that fucking needle into my lung.  It was the worst!  I’m by myself in a crowded restaurant, grimacing and groaning in pain, holding my back in agony as if an inmate just came up behind me and shanked me.  People around me were probably wondering what the hell is wrong with that guy? I didn’t care, it fuckin hurt like a bitch.

I must average 2000 burps a day. This is going to be a challenge.

There’s no “I” in tumor

May 23, 2011

I’m still reeling from the news I got from the doc.  I reached out to my family to help make sense of it all. You could say, “it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” that old post-game interview cliché.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t just win the Super Bowl.

I was at work when I got the call from my doctor.  I had to step outside to get some air.  My mind was still searching for answers.  I walked through the parking lot.  Overwhelmed, it all caught up to me.  I slumped down on the curb and called my wife, Erica.  She knew something was wrong right away.  Her voice was calming as she asked me what was wrong.  Still in a daze, I explained what the doctor told me.  I fought back the tears, but I didn’t even know if this was tear worthy.  I just knew it wasn’t good.  She consoled me and let me know everything was going to be ok.

My sister, Julie, valiantly kept her composure.  She was already making plans to pack up her family in Walnut Creek and come down to be with me through this ordeal.  No matter the outcome she assured me she and her family; husband, Eliot, and her two boys, Josh and Nate, would all be there for me.

I just happened to have plans to have lunch with my dad that day.  He knew about my chest pains.  I told him what the doctor said.  I think it really caught him off guard.  Oh and pass the ketchup.  He normally likes to discredit anything doctors say, but he knew that a mass could be very serious.  He worked in the medical field and dealt with doctors and cancer patients for many years.  He comforted me and let me know he would be there for me.  The timing worked out well, since he had just recently been laid off.  He would join me at my doctor appointments.  Well, that and to look for a job.

Naturally, my mom freaked the fuck out.  This didn’t come as any surprise.  Within seconds of me telling her, I think I could hear her running south on the 5 to SoCal to be with her baby.  I told her to hold on a sec, no need to panic…yet.  We need to get more info on what we’re dealing with.  This call was harder than the one I received from the doctor.  I think I was pretty calm up until this point.  My mom was a crying, emotional mess.  It took everything I had to keep my composure and of course keep my eyes on the road as I drove down the freeway.  Everyone up to this point had kept their cool when I told them. Hearing my hysterical mom made me realize how grave this could be.  I had to calm her down and reassure her that I was going to be ok.  Somehow this took the burden off my shoulders for a minute.  She asked if she could tell the family.  I don’t know how to start a conversation with this news anyways.  I told her, yes, it would help me out.  I lit the match that is Diane.  The news would spread throughout the family like a wildfire.

I grew up the baby of the family, with three older siblings.  I’m sure hearing the news of their little brother was probably hard to take in or understand.  At the same time, I’m sure there was a little bit of satisfaction in it as well.  After all, I was the one that got spoiled all those years. He got all of mom’s love and anything he wanted, but hey, no mass in my chest.  Balance in the universe…restored.

My sister, Dani, called to check on her little brother and lend her support.  She got singed from mom’s news about me.  She had to put out the flames and let her know I was going to be ok.

My brother, Gerry, called to give his support and he mentioned how he talked mom off the ledge.  I’m noticing a trend here.

My aunt, Suzy, called to give her love and support…and to tell me she had to calm Diane down.

Seemingly blindsided by this news, it was confusing and frightening, but hearing all my family’s support was reassuring.  They had my back.  I didn’t know what I was dealing with, but WE were going to get through it.