On with the Day

Late yesterday afternoon, I got a message from the Little Rock surgeon to whom my oncologist referred me. I have an appointment late this afternoon. Maybe I’ll know more then. I have plenty of questions for the surgeon.

How am I feeling about this process, this battle against a tumor in my chest that I didn’t know what there until the doctors told me? It’s hard to say. I’m still surprised by it.

My oncologist said my cough was unlikely to be directly caused by the tumor. She suggested that it’s possible the tumor caused tissue around it to become inflamed, which in turn might be responsible for the cough. But the tumor itself? Not directly involved in the cough. Yet the cough is the reason I went to the doctor and the reason he ordered a couple of x-rays and, then, a CT scan and a PET scan. The cough was a lucky accident. Without it, the tumor might have continued to grow and spread unnoticed. I’m grateful for the cough. I’m grateful the tumor was spotted.

I’m grateful but extremely apprehensive. After reading a number of posts written by people who have undergone surgery to remove sections of their lungs due to cancer, I’m looking at this process as an ugly, painful, lengthy battle. People who have been through it have written about excruciating pain that was not managed by opioid drugs. Some have written about the pain involved in having chest tubes that drain fluids from the chest. Others have written about the loneliness of days in the hospital with no visitors. I’m familiar with some of what they described. I had chest tubes after my heart bypass surgery fourteen years ago. I can imagine the loneliness of being in the hospital for days. My brother’s recent very long stay in the hospital in Houston must have seemed like an eternity to him, especially when he didn’t get visits. With good fortune, I won’t run into complications that will keep me in the hospital for weeks or months. That could drive me bananas. I hate feeling confined to the house during bad weather. At least I can roam from room to room. But that’s not the case in the hospital. Why am I dwelling on the prospects for pain and boredom?

I can’t let my cancer and my fears associated with it consume every waking thought. That’s simply not healthy. But it’s difficult not to connect even mundane household chores to the disease. I won’t be able to blow leaves, so Janine will have to arrange to have someone do it; she can’t do it herself. Housecleaning will suddenly become a much more onerous task, with the things I do suddenly falling on her to do. And she’ll feel compelled to visit me in the hospital, more than an hour away from home. Maybe I can convince her to get a room at an extended-stay hotel near the hospital for at least part of the time I’m there so she can avoid a daily round trip drive of 125 miles. And exploring Little Rock a bit while she’s not in the hospital might take her mind off my plight.

If I focus my attention on what my experience might teach me, perhaps I’ll snag some information and ideas to incorporate into my writing. I’ve been utterly neglecting my fiction-writing of late, inattention for which I will pay in a decline in the quality of my writing. Practice makes palatable, I’ve always said. I have to practice my writing to make it possible for someone to stomach it. I might learn about hospital gadgetry that could find its way into stories I write about murderous nurses or amorous anaesthetists.  See, there you go: The Amorous Anaesthetist could be the title of a book. Or a short story. Or a poem? Maybe a haiku. I suspect it would take considerable effort and a great deal of focused attention to write a haiku worthy of that title. I’ll have to find out if the UAMS hospital room in which I’ll be confined has WiFi. I’ll have to insist on it. No WiFi, no surgery. That simple. How can I write and post to this blog, this testament to my ego, without WiFi? It’s ludicrous to even think it!

Speaking of this blog, if I had been smart (and I wasn’t), I would have used johnswinburn.com as a home for several subsidiary URL blogs (e.g., johnswinburn.com/fictionblog, johnswinburn.com/poetryblog, johnswinburn.com/journalblog) so I could separate my writing in a way that would give it some semblance of order. I could have added a piece at johnswinburn.com/cancerblog. But as it is, the blog is an expansive piece of chaotic internet real estate with no discernible theme, rhyme, or reason; just a reservoir of unfiltered junk that pours from my fingers. I could, of course, invest time and energy to imposing some form of order to the beast, but my mood at the moment isn’t suitable that kind of endeavor. Instead, I’ll just complain about my lack of foresight.

I took a break to make a breakfast of sausage, eggs, radishes, and tomato juice. That finished off the sausage (a rarity in this house that, quite probably, won’t be replaced for many months) and the radishes (which I consider an emergency, so I will insist on replacing them immediately). It’s odd, I think, that I have grown so attached to radishes at breakfast. It’s an attachment few others in my sphere (or, perhaps no others in my sphere) share with me. In fact, I recall a visitor who recoiled at the idea, looking at me as if I had lost my mind and had become a dangerous deviant capable of unspeakable horrors.

I prefer strong and stoic to weak and weepy, but my psyche doesn’t always cooperate with my preferences. My psyche has a mind of its own. Groan. It’s after 8:00 and I need to be productive this morning before I drive to Little Rock to see the surgeon. So, I’ll leave this mass of spillage and get on with the day.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to On with the Day

  1. bev wigney says:

    Never any rush to reply, John. Yes, I was thinking the surgeon would want to move soon. Probably a lot of decisions and arrangements to make. Take care. bev

  2. Bev, I will communicate with you soon about your comments but tonight I just don’t have the mental energy. The meeting with the surgeon left me with a clear decision: either go forward soon with surgery or risk allowing the cancer to spread. I need to get in gear and work up a maintenance plan.

  3. bev wigney says:

    There is a group of radish varieties that are referred to as French Breakfast radishes — maybe you knew that already. They are often a bit milder than the really hot ones. I’m glad that you’re thinking through some of the logistics of a hospital stay. When I spent a few days in hospital for surgery in 2006, I took my laptop computer and was able to hook into the wifi there. When my mom was sick, I used my iPad more — it’s old but has its own 3G connection which I used instead of the system at the hospital. If you don’t have something that will be very suitable for hospitals, I would consider shopping for one very soon. You’ll probably find it will be much appreciated in the coming weeks and even longer as there will likely be a lot of follow up and if you have to do chemo, those are pretty long days as I expect you already know. And yes, line up getting someone to do stuff around your place – rake leaves, do housework, or whatever. It’s that kind of thing that really starts to stress people out when there is an illness in the family — believe me, I’ve been there 3 times with others and once with myself — not counting caring for my next door neighbours the last summer they were in their house. Better to make arrangements while you are in a good position to do so, rather than trying to do it when you are laid up and Janine is spending time at the hospital with you. I guarantee that you’ll feel better knowing that there is a “maintenance plan” in place. You may find it not so boring being in the hospital for awhile — especially if you have a laptop or iPad there. One thing I would probably recommend at some point, is to join a LC support group. They can be very helpful and .. well.. supportive. When Don was ill, I joined the cancergrace.org site started by Dr. West in Seattle. At that time, it was just Dr. West answering questions after he got home from work (I truly don’t know how he managed it, but he was amazing). He was later joined by a couple of colleagues who helped with the site. Since then, it has grown to be a super resource for LC patients – and now other cancers as well. I actually did volunteer stuff on the site — that was a long time ago — organizing the articles on various chemo drugs and other treatments to help make it easy to find them — but, no doubt, that’s all been replaced with a better database as that was a decade ago. Anyhow, there are some very knowledgeable people associated with that website – oncologists, radiation oncologists, etc.. so it is a good resource, and the patient discussion boards are very good as well. I have not visited it in a long while though — but expect it is still very good. I hope your appointment goes off okay this afternoon. Some surgeons can be a little odd — not always the best bedside manner — that’s not usually their schtick, but maybe you’ll get one who has that too. Good luck.

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