The captain versus the cancer: round two

Ever have a day when things are going pretty well? You’re busy, but in a good way, you’ve got a hobby that you’re trying to turn into something more, and by golly, that’s going pretty well too, although with the requisite speed bumps, your family is healthy, you’re eating well enough given whatever particular restrictions you have, works is not completely kicking your tail, and you’ve gone out for a drive, perhaps up tp the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for your next big plan dinner, or maybe even to to the home improvement store for that next little thing for your project. The sun’s out, it’s not blazing hot just yet, you’re feeling productive and indeed you are getting things done, the music is blaring, and overall, you think – well, you’re not thinking much of anything beyond all this, really, because this is a lot to keep in your head all at once.

Then the car runs out of gas and you drift to the side of the road. The dinner guests cancel, a family member calls to tell you a sudden mass of locusts have appeared and have eaten half your plants to the stems, the sun goes behind a bank of clouds so huge it blocks out the entire rest of the sky, lightning strikes right next to the front wheel of the car, the music slides into one of those annoying car ads with the screaming announcer until they get to the fine print. And you run over an egret while getting the car safely off the road.

OK, so it wasn’t that bad. Still, five years to the month from the original cancer diagnosis, here we are again. Those of you who have read the travails of recovery here know pretty much how this came about, but here’s the shorter, mini version for those who don’t: five years again, I was diagnosed with oral cancer despite having no risk factors at all. Surgery, radiation, and chemo later, plus scans over several years, and in July 2009, the date of my last PET scan before all this, I finally got the all clear. Then I started having teeth pulled due to the damage to the jaw and teeth from the radiation, which for me involves hyperbaric dives to promote healing and help prevent necrosis of the jaw bones, to which I am now susceptible due to the aforementioned treatments. As part of those dives, back in October they took a chest xray in addition to an EKG, and saw a slight shadow on the upper right lung, but nothing defined and nothing significant (i.e., it could have just been something on the film, and given my previous scans and all clear, nothing anyone thought was anything).  In May, after another tooth extraction, it was time for another xray because it had been six months. This time, whatever unknown radiologist reviewed it noticed a difference between the old and new (a “new nodularity” as they call it) and thank you to whoever that radiologist was! From there we went to a CAT scan, a PET scan, and a biopsy, which turned out to be inconclusive, probably due to the sample size. Upshot: surgery to remove a wedge of the upper right lung, along with a lymph node against the trachea that looked suspicious.

Why, one might ask, go through the pain of lung surgery for an inconclusive biopsy? As my oncologist pointed out, the way things light up on a PET scan like this dime-sized lesion did are often not anything else. Beyond that, we have my terribly strange history as far as weirdo cancers that I should not have. So, surgery it was, on the 6th, and on Friday the pathology report came back: the lesion was cancerous after all. The lymph node, thankfully on the report, was “unremarkable”, so it appears to have been confined to just that one area. The oncologist said the report indicted the margins were clear, but small – and to my mind, that looks like another round of radiation treatment coming to follow up on the surgery, something we will discuss with him on Monday when we see him. I am guessing that for precautionary reasons, that’s what will be happening. I’m not particularly looking forward to it, because I now have such firsthand, closeup knowledge of how it goes, and because it will delay my fuller recovery process (garden!), but we will follow their recommendation, since that’s what needs to be done.

I’ve been home since Monday, and this week has seen some remarkable work outside by an all-female crew, doing the things I normally would be doing: mowing, weeding, harvesting, cleaning the chicken coop, and so forth. Thanks Gabs, Angie, and StacyP for your sweat equity around the homestead! I owe you.

And now, back to plotting for the fall season, as the universe has once again not been cooperative in giving me a full season with which to work, and the rest of the summer is now a wash. August is garlic time, although I’ll probably store it for a bit before planting as it’s simply too hot down here even in late August for fall garlic planting. Other items can be started in flats, like brussels and whatnot, so they’ll be ready to  put out into the frames in fall. By then, we’ll also be ready to put in the next round of carrots and peas, amongst other things.