*Note - harsh language - This particular post is not for children.
I've learned that it's best to admit your fears. There is no room for posturing bravery.
Let's face it, we never truly conquer fear in the long run. We do adjust, fight, dig in and stand up to our fears situationally.
A fear of spiders will always be deep rooted in one's psyche. But faced with life or death, you wouldn't hesitate to hold one. It's the situation that dictates what you do and how you will handle it.
I'll admit it. I am scared. I am afraid more often than not. The world has made me this way.
I watch cartoons and escape with fantasy. I write worlds of violent, triumphant hope. All in order to escape the fear.
It builds on itself. Brick by brick. Diagnosis by diagnosis.
I've learned to live with it. There are hours I ignore it. You have to. You have a job. You have a family and friends. You can't cowher or you would be rendered useless as a human being.
I have a 'radiation' zone. Documented or not, I may be redundant, but part of my childhood cure was to be "blasted" in the chest region with radiation.
Part of the routine is to keep an eye on the area. I've done my best to keep my part of the bargain (that much has been documented).
I turned vegetarian.
I'm a border line athlete/workout whore. Excuse the language but it's true. It's my definition not yours.
My "few times" food list is longer then it ever was and my "always" food list is my religion.
Still, they found something.
Never one to have anything routine, I went in for the endoscopy - a test where a flexible tube with a camera is pushed down your throat to the esophagus.
Another confession? The drugs are stupendous. I totally understand why someone would be an addict. But I'm moving on.
Now I'll be frank, I've had chronic GERD (see heartburn) for decades. It has never been stated that the radiation caused such scarring but if I had money, I'd make the bet.
A lesion was found. Most of the time, most of the polyps are very early or just removed.
I got the call from the Gastro doc a few days later. He called himself. A sign.
It displayed something that wasn't correct in our industry of surviving. Now I want to point out in really large letters - IT WAS NOT CANCER.
A step below.
In the information age, I immediately did something inane, insane, and downright stupid - I went to the internet.
Something I tell people not to do...I broke my own rule. Stupid.
What I found? Of course, everything I did not want to see.
Everything from odds on becoming cancer to full esophageal resections (read, removing your esphagus). Bad....
I melted a little. Nothing you can do about that. I have targeted 90 as a good life.
It's a slap in the face. It's a mind-fuck.
There was an immediate appointment. There had to be. The doctor stated he wanted me in no less than 2 weeks.
The appointment came through - 4 weeks. Four weeks? Wait a second. When did this double? Couldn't get an anesthesiologist? What?
For the short time after, my wife was the only voice of reason - we were in preventative mode.
She was right.
Fuck it. I was in preventative mode. I did not have cancer...This was found. Had they not found it? We won't discuss that part. You don't dwell on perceived losses only reality. The focus began.
On the hour I would recite (still do) - I am healthy. I am healed. My results have shown that.
This was my life. I caught myself. I was breathing. Hell, I even felt good.
Here is where I tell other Survivors - You have to be your own advocate.
It so happened I was seeing my surgeon - simply known as The Man. As stated previously, he is the director of surgery for Rhode Island Hospital. A Sloan Kettering transfer...read: he's that good.
It's like having an issue on a 757 and you're sitting on the side of the pilot who designed the aircraft.
He knew of my situation - I told him the urgency.
"You work your end, and I'll work this one."
The appointment was moved up 2 weeks. Urgency.
This time I was going under. They found an anesthesiologist. It was cut time. The drugs weren't sedatives but hard core knock outs.
His name was Dr. Bert.
He was reading my chart...."Whoa, you've been through a lot."
A brief explanation and he simply said, "I'm sorry."
He kept reading but continued, "We didn't know back then."
He confessed to being half deaf so he talked a little louder then most. He stuck me, first try, when all others shied away and promptly stood up to leave for a moment.
He wheeled around. "Need anything to relax you?"
He turned and walked out, humming. The nurse came in and whispered. "Do you know him?"
"He's the Chief of Anesthesiology. He's fantastic..."
She said nothing else, and left me alone.
Another rock star. Coincidence or not I was feeling blessed.
Dr. Bert came back in and wheeled me down the hall while wailing out the song "Amazing Grace".
I had just previously accepted the feel good stuff. "This isn't a funeral," I slurred.
He chuckled. "Thumbs up if you need more sedative."
I don't remember what happened next.
Resection was the easy part for me. I am used to cutting things. You do what you have to do. The pain is always temporary(ish).
Be your own advocate...I called the office days on end. No results to be had.
Finally, the admin simply said, "Call back Monday."
Monday 9 am, I found out the office was closed.
Tuesday 9 am...I left what had to have been my eighth message in 7 days.
The call came back at 10 am. It was the admin again.
"The doctor wants to see you in two to three weeks. Which do you want?"
"What are the results?"
"Two to three."
"Ok, he wants to discuss some medications and routine with you."
"Is there something urgent? What's the urgency?"
"No.....not urgent. If it was, we'd have you in tomorrow."
Two weeks it is then.
For now a hurdle has been jumped. My focus is still clear.
I am healthy. I am healed. My results have shown that.
Yet, I am still afraid.
But I am healthy...That focus is greatest of all.