“Round three?” you ask. “What was round two?”
That was 13 years ago, in 2010. It was a serendipitous find, as it was found by accident. A short story about that one: I was having teeth pulled on a regular basis – radiation to your head and neck destroys your salivary glands, and without that spit bathing your teeth 24/7, your mouth ends up looking like a particularly aggressive hockey enforcer or a tweaker, although for very different reasons.
In any case, part of my treatment was going for hyperbaric dives, to force blood into the areas where the teeth had been pulled. This is done to speed healing and to try to prevent bone death (osteonecrosis), another thrilling gift from radiation treatments.
As part of the dive process, you’re required to have a chest xray periodically. And one day, there it was: a shadow on my right lung, in the upper lobe. What followed thereafter was a CT, then a PET, then a CT-guided biopsy where they punched a 20 foot needle into my chest (guesstimate) and pulled out a sample. Cancer. In I went for a wedge resection: they remove the nasty, cancer-laden blob, sewed me back up, and I didn’t even have to go through radiation and chemo, yay!
Fast forward 13 years: I head to my pulmonologist for a routine followup. As usual, he breaks out his stethoscope and listens to me, front and back. Out of the blue, he asks, “When was the last time we had a CT of your chest?”
“Beats me, I don’t keep track of that shit. I got people for that,” I typed.
“I’m going to order one and we’ll see you back in a month.”
He order the thing, I go hop on the table for 15 minutes, then I go back to his office. Since the report had already hit my patient portal, I knew it wasn’t good.
“PET time!” they said. Not in a cheery way, of course, because what kind of psycho would do that? But very calmly, very matter-of-fact, which is good, because that’s how I like my potentially bad news.
PET time: several nodules, one glowing like a supernova, except instead of exploding a zillion years ago, it came up within a year or so from my last chest CT. That one was large enough to see clearly, and other spots were, as they like to say, too small to differentiate. I.e., w have no fucking idea if those are (fuck) cancer too, but we’re pretty damn sure that one spot is. To confirm, another chest biopsy, CT-guided.
Now, the biggest difference between the old one and the new one is that the new one is in the center lobe of my right lung, very near the medial pleural – that is, pretty close to my heart. I already knew the biopsy was going to be malignant, and so it was. Once again, it hit my patient portal first, so I knew when I went back to see my lung dude that we’d be ramping up the Fuck Cancer Dog and Pony Show.
After making the rounds of the thoracic surgeon, the medical oncologist, and the radiation oncologist, and after discussing things with my family, I opted for surgery. They’re going to yank that middle lobe entirely in a couple of weeks. The good news is that they may not have to flense me like a damn whale this time – the first surgery left me with a scar that runs from near the top of my right shoulder blade, down along it, across my side, and then up to just below my right boob. Healing from that was a nightmare. Not for the incision itself. It as all the muscle that was cut through to get to the lung.
This time, there may be robots! Or at least one robot, which they may be able to get between my ribs versus having to take a circuitous detour like trying to get back to Russia from Crimea (which is Ukraine, in case anyone is confused about that) since the Kerch bridge was damaged.
If they cannot, alas, it will be another slice and dice, and uncomfy and all that other crap. Fuck you, cancer.
It was caught supremely early, though, and basically by luck. I’m not sure if my lung dude heard something he didn’t like, or if it just occurred to him that we should probably get a CT, but the guy is a life saver and I’m happy I drive to the end of our little earth here to get to him. The hospital network he works for must think so as well, because they made him Chief Medical Officer for his particular specialty at their new campus. Well deserved.
So that’s where we stand right now. As usual, fuck cancer and the horse it rode in on.
I hope to be back posting more content in the near future.