20 August 2011

Another Year Cancer Free

by Diane Carlisle

In keeping with the theme of this blog, which is about making progress, whether it has to do with my writing, my career or my personal growth, I have another entry to add. Today I am focusing on someone else’s progress, that of my husband of 24 years.

Last year my husband discovered a lump below his right calf which turned out to be a stage two soft tissue sarcoma. When we sat down during lunch at our favorite restaurant, I thought he was going to tell me he was let go at work. I had a comforting speech all worked out in my head after tossing things back and forth, trying to figure out what he wanted to talk about. The worst case scenario that sprung to mind in all the economic chaos going on in our country then, and still today, was that he had lost his job.

We had both watched my mother die of cancer back in 2006. From the time the lump was discovered in her neck until she died, three short weeks had passed. Her small, indiscernible lump grew into a softball sized monstrosity within one week.

All the poking and prodding with needles and ink by general practitioners helped her cancer fester and grow exponentially over a span of several days. After having undergone a tracheostomy to allow air passage into her lungs because the tumor was forcing a blockage, she finally passed away at a hospice center in Wilmington, NC.

Even when you’ve been through it once, or no matter how many times, it’s not something you get used to because it’s happened to you before. It’s something that makes your adrenaline pump really fast because you know what can happen if you don’t seek the absolute best care as soon as possible.

Things moved quickly from our lunch date to the first visit at Shand’s Cancer Center in Gainesville, Florida. Dr. C. Parker Gibbs performed a biopsy, confirmed the diagnosis and made recommendations for radiation, surgery and subsequent CT scans. We were informed that Tim could possibly lose his leg and the decision to amputate would happen while he was under. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and the tumor was removed successfully.

We were extremely happy with the results of Tim’s surgery and you can hardly see the scar, even with all the hair loss from the radiation. With each follow-up visit, the kind surgeon brings in his entourage of assistants to show off his magnificent product before announcing the current CT scan is clean.

It’s been one year now and my husband is still cancer free. He has another year of quarterly scans and after that we will only need to drive to Gainesville twice per year for another three years. From the beginning, I told my husband that he’s not dying of cancer, he’s living with it. We continue with our optimism, even though any of our follow-up visits have the potential to deliver bad news. I guess we’ll deal with it if it happens.

My husband is living proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Here’s Tim in the hospital after surgery. I brought him Miller Lite, our favorite beer, our only beer. I think if Miller Brewing Company knew how much we love their beer, I might gain employment with them. I can’t believe I actually snuck a six-pack past the nurse’s station.


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