The PET scan showed activity in the lymph nodes. The CAT scan verified a couple of very small lesions (about 1-2 mm each) on two nodes.
So, armed with this, we head to the next doctor, who will be performing the surgery that we all agree is necessary. He’s a very nice guy who has been doing this for about 30 years. A younger doctor is also there, and is wearing a Hawkeye pin on the collar of his jacket. I croak out something about the Iowa/LSU Bowl game from last year being terribly exciting, and he tells me he was actually there and enjoyed it very much.
Both doctors decide they can’t miss their chance to poke and prod and feel around in my mouth. They also feel up and down my neck on both sides. Although no one has been able to feel anything by touch, the scans don’t lie.
The result of all of this: surgery, definitely. On the sheet, the procedure is listed thusly.
Semi-glossectomy with CO2 laser; left neck dissection.
In English: I will lose about half of my tongue and all of the lymph nodes in the left side of my neck.
The doctor tells me, when I ask about speaking, that I’ll be speaking a lot better than I am now – I may have mentioned that my speech is getting worse by the day. As I write this, it’s to the point that I really do have to write things down to make myself understood to others, as enunciation is completely out the window. Eating? Well, it will take some practice to get used to not having that portion of the tongue there. I said I’ll wear a bib until I get the hang of it.
From there, it was into the adminstrative maze that is actually getting the surgery scheduled. The scheduling girl tells us that we have to go talk to financial aid before we can schedule things. Why? Because I, like so many other people (especially self-employed people) have no insurance, and thus will be paying out of my own pocket for everything.
So we call the financial aid office, knowing full well that I am in a gray zone: I make too much to possibly qualify for aid, but certainly cannot pony up tens of thousands of dollars at once to pay upfront. We make – well, my mother makes, since I can’t speak – several calls, trying to get someone to understand our position here. Why waste time going through an appointment with the finance office (which we can’t get for another week) when we know we don’t qualify. The smart thing to do would be to skip that step and go speak to someone about making payments, which is what we’ll need to do anyway.
We’re told that we must “follow the procedures”. I’ll mention at this point that the hospital where the surgery will be done is the nonprofit hostpial here in town – that is, they are the ones who take people without insurance and the place that writes off the bills of people who have no intention of ever paying a dime. I’m sure this whole “follow procedures” thing is ingrained into their heads, but when you have someone who is actually trying to make arrangements to pay you, maybe breaking out of that mold for a minute or so would be a good thing to do. Just a thought.
My mom, who doesn’t care for their answers, spends the day on the phone. She finally tracks down someone in the accounting office who lends a hand, and presto! They want a deposit, they’ll put together a payment plan, and we can go ahead and schedule the surgery.
This is exactly what we do.