Posts Tagged ‘ skating past death ’

Impatient Patient

2002.07.03
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Well, two weeks after the diagnosis, and I’m waiting another week for the surgery. I actually could have had it done sooner (like last week) had I elected to have it done in Petaluma (where my new urologist is based), except that I wanted it done here in Sonoma for two reasons: a) the hospital is three blocks from my house, instead of a 20-minute drive over hill and dale and b) two of the four people who would be operating in Sonoma are good friends of Ann’s and mine. (The third is my new urologist, and the fourth — an OR nurse — is the wife of a close colleague at the newspaper.) Since it’s not jeopardizing my health to wait that long, I figured I’d opt for the unique experience of being wheeled into an operating room full of friends.

Speaking of friends, and cancer, and how I’m doing, here’s what I wrote this morning to an online friend and mentor, a Breslover Chasid living in Jerusalem:

"I go in for surgery (a starboard orchiectomy) on July 9, at 3:30 p.m. California time. My CAT scans and bloodwork look good, with the doctors saying there's no evidence of lymphoma, Baruch Hashem. But we won't know until the orchiectomy and pathology thereof whether or not that's true, so perhaps I ought to say 'B'shaa tovah [in a good hour].' ;-) For now, anyway. The doctors assure me that, as far as they know, I should be ultimately fine, though it's unclear at this point what that will entail -- either surgery followed by a little chemo and radiation, or surgery followed by a lot of chemo and radiation. Either way, it's a useful experience which I hope to use in my rabbinate.

"One downside is that I'm in a bit of pain since last Sunday, so am taking mild opiates (Vicodin, or hydrocodone). I'm also drawing disability because I went into the newspaper office three days after my diagnosis, looked at my desk, and thought, 'There's no

&^%$#@!

way I can do this right now' (pardon my language). After assuring my boss that I'm not a wimp (his response -- "You've pretty much proved that on numerous occasions -- but you have a priority, now, so go home"), I discovered that the pain and attendant medication would keep me from working anyway. I can't believe how supportive and loving everyone has been.

"To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from the TV program The Simpsons, 'Baruch Hashem for sending the doctors to save me from the cancer Hashem sent.' However, the vicodin is making it difficult for me to study -- intolerable! ;-) Here I am, literally surrounded by seforim [holy books] and the time in which to study them, and unable to concentrate! But that's one of the reasons I love Hashem -- because Hashem's sense of humor is weirder than my own."

The waiting is sort of getting to me, in that it’s trying my patience, in that it’s a TOTAL DRAG not to be able to read (my first love!) since my attention wanders after about a half-page or so. Fortunately, however, I was hard-bitten by the original Dungeons and Dragons bug while a wee high-school junior lad of 16 in 1978, and have been writing a largely Arduin-basedcampaign off-and-on ever since. I’m doing a lot of work on the basic document right now, since it’s pure creativity on a deadlineless basis (“Should the elves live behind this mountain? Where shall I put the goblins? Why hasn’t anyone slain this dragon yet?”) It’s nice to have some mental knitting; maybe I’ll post it when I’m done.

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Follow the Bouncing Ball

2002.06.20
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If one more person tells me that I can go on to win the Tour de France, I’m gonna scream.

On Tuesday, 6/18/02, I was told that my right testicle has to be removed due to a cancerous tumor therein. There is a possibility that it’s linked to lymphoma, but the doctors (and I) won’t know until the pathology is done (meaning — until they slice up and analyze the offending organ). Surgery is tentatively scheduled for next week or the week after.

It’s definitely cancer, but we don’t know much more than that. However, as a doctor friend told us Tuesday, “If you’re going to have cancer, this is the kind to get” — meaning that it’s treatable and beatable. If it’s testicular, it may be gone with the testicle. If not… things will suck for a while, and then, G-d willing and from what I hear, get much better.

This all “started” in late May, when I had exited the shower and was clowning in front of my wife a la Charles Atlas. “Hmm,” she said. “What’s that lump? You’re calling the doctor on Monday.”

I did so, also because I’ve been having some weird gut pain for about two months now — no loss of appetite or digestive problems, just low level, colicky pain with occasional spasms. (Interestingly, this caused me to lose not only a week’s work last month but also triggered an intense spiritual crisis of the “separation-from-G?d” variety, from which I seem to be fully recovered, thank G-d.) But “that lump” turned out to be an indefinite mass which, while itself benign, triggered an ultrasound which disclosed that my right testis is cratered like the moon. And so we come to the present, awaiting surgery and wondering what’s next.

Meanwhile, I seem to be surrounded by an amazing network of friends who are, literally, coming out of the woodwork to express support. I don’t know what I did to deserve that (although my rabbi tells me that I should try to figure it out), but I’m glad — it’s nice to be hugged so soundly and unexpectedly. But this Tour de France stuff… I thought it had something to do with the narrow bicycle seat, etc. But there’s this Lance Armstrong fellow who apparently beat testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France twice… Personally, I’d rather play the violin. (Does anyone still make that joke?)

Right now I’m still sort of in the “what the…?” stage. I passed through anger for about five minutes during dinner Tuesday, but as I don’t do anger well, it didn’t stick around for long. What I mainly feel right now is weird — my gut pain is actually subsiding somewhat, most likely due to the laxative I took last night (an abdominal X-ray yesterday disclosed to my gastroenterologist that what everyone suspected about me is true. So to speak. Nonethelss, it’s a colonoscopy for ol’ Nealo on July 9). But I feel weird because, while I have a serious illness, I don’t feel seriously ill. It’s a bit of a cognitive dissonance. I mean, I’m not minimizing this or anything — but I don’t feel sick. I feel optimistic, and trusting, and mostly worried about Ann, since I know from experience that stuff like this can be harder on the loved one than on the patient.

It’s interesting that one of the first things I thought was, “Well, maybe I can use this as a tool when someone comes to tell Rabbi Neal that he or she is going through something similar.” I think that, just as in anything else, there is an art to being sick — to being cognizant of one’s own needs, but also the needs of well-wishers. To hearing, for example, “Well, my Uncle Hymie went through the same thing — you’ll be fine” not as a minimization or a dismissal (as some protective people in my life have implied), but from not knowing what else to say in support and comfort.

To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins: “Don’t lessons ever have an end?” Gosh, I sure hope not! Anyway, I’ll write more as something develops — or doesn’t, as the case may be.

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