After everything that happened this previous week, I decided that there was too much info to keep quiet about. Actually, going back to a few weeks ago, if you remember from the last entry, I had 2 moles removed that my dermatologist was concerned about. Compared to everything that I’ve been through so far, the procedure was cake. They removed a mole from my left shoulder and my right scapula and then stitched me up. Three days later we found out that although the moles were pre-cancerous, they came back negative and there was nothing else that they needed to do. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t fear that phone call with the results. The last time a dermatologist called me with results, they told me I had melanoma and totally rocked my world. I can’t believe that was almost 6 months ago!
This past Tuesday was the big dahoozy though (without a doubt, dahoozy is a heck of a word). I like to refer to that day as my “Lite Brite” day. We were back at UNC our home away from home. To be honest, it had the feeling of coming home from college for the holidays after a long departure. The cancer hospital at UNC isn’t as warm and welcoming though. I was scheduled for a PET scan early on Tuesday morning. They took me to a room, injected die into my veins, and took me back to be scanned where they captured over a thousand images of my interior. If any light appears on the images, it very well could be cancer re-developing. Now as a kid, I loved playing around with the Lite Brite trying to make my image as colorful as possible. The objective of this PET scan is obviously the complete opposite. Feelings of vulnerability and helplessness swarmed my heart and my mind as they slid me in and out of this million dollar machine. Laying there and realizing that there is nothing you can do to make all of those images look clean is frustrating. As a man, as a human, anything that is out of my control is very frustrating, but those are the times where the Lord strengthens me the most. So instead of laying there for a half an hour panicking and worrying about the results, I found it to be a perfect opportunity to dialogue with my heavenly father. Crying out, communicating, and praying to the one and only true God who’s plan is and always has been perfect, provides no stronger comfort and peace.
Shortly after my PET scan, we were scheduled to meet with my medical oncologist, Dr. Dillon. Upon entering the room where Mary and I were sitting, he was quick to tell us that the preliminary results so far looked clean. Later on however, he returned to inform us that there were 3 tiny areas that lit up on the PET scan. 2 of the areas were lymph nodes in my groin, and the other was a tiny spot on my right side under my arm around my rib cage. He wanted to test one of my groin lymph nodes right away to biopsy. Keeping my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself, my immediate reaction was, “By biopsy, do they mean sticking a needle in my groin?” Sure enough, I learned that they were doing a fine needle aspiration. They pulled out what looked like a caulking gun with a needle at the end and prepared to shoot it in my node. Anxiety? I’m a man, and someone is taking a gun to my groin…anxiety is an understatement. They jabbed it in 3 separate times, holding it in for 15 seconds each time to assure that the needle suctioned and sucked enough tissue out to be properly tested. Like the true gladiator that I am, I attempted to restrain my emotions from reaching my face and look like I was tough. Now I can officially say with a deep voice and chest stuck out that I have been shot in the groin 3 times and have survived. Another true “man full of hollow pride” moment in my life.
The results came back quickly, and on Wednesday I got a call from Dr. Dillon telling me that the results were negative and that he didn’t believe that there was reason to be concerned with those lymph nodes. The same day, I traveled to UNC again for my weekly physical therapy session. There, I’ve learned a lot of preventative techniques to help control the swelling in my hand and have actually seen the swelling subside substantially.
On Thursday, I once again paid a visit to my dermatologist for a “full body exam.” The key word is “FULL”. We’re not talking just 99.9% of my body, we are talking a full 100%, every part, every inch of my body examination. I guess when you have stage 3 melanoma, there’s grounds to be very thorough, but good gully. It was a bit uncomfortable, but very professional, very thorough, and ultimately very necessary to monitor all of my moles. The dermatologist was encouraged that she found no other moles that concerned her at all, and so we continued to skip along the yellow brick road of good news with fingers crossed and hearts trusting God.
Completely aside from anything to do with my cancer, I had to top my Thursday off with my regular check up and cleaning at the dentist. I think I’ve mentioned this to a few people before, but I honestly would rather have all of my lymph nodes removed then sit in the dentist chair while they scrape my teeth and prod my gums. It’s one of the few times in my life as a grown up where I feel as if I’m still a kid.
“Have you been flossing?”
“No mam. Not as much as I should.”
“Okay. You need to be flossing.” Then the hygienist goes into a 10 minute lecture on why flossing is important and why I should do it 12 times a day. I joke, but the hygienist and the dentist both are very nice and intelligent people. However, they did choose to mess with people’s teeth for a living and they can’t help it that nobody enjoys seeing them…ever!
To finish off my exhausting week, I had the pleasure of meeting with my surgical oncologist Dr. Amos again. The man is a phenomenal doctor and an absolute pleasure to be around. He consistently exudes confidence and compassion and is a very warm person to be around. During that appointment, we found out that they wanted to do an ultrasound and another fine needle aspiration done on my right side where that final tiny spot lit up. The spot is subcutaneous and the doctors could not feel anything when they felt around the area. There could be cancer in the tissue, but there’s nothing that is certain at this point. The only way of knowing anything is if they stick another needle in me.
At this point, we haven’t learned when I will have the ultrasound done, only it’ll probably be sometime this week. There’s a phrase from a song I love that says “Today is all I’ve got now. Today is all I’ve ever had.” It’s a phrase that has resonated in my heart and mind now for a couple of weeks. It’s a phrase that I have pasted to our bathroom mirror, amidst Scripture verses that my wife has plastered herself. A phrase that reminds me that there is no tomorrow yet. I might not be here tomorrow. It’s now, it’s today, and today is all I have right now. Life is but a mist, so what am I going to do with today? How will I be used by God to do something great for his name? If today is my last day, am I really going to be spending it moping around, complaining, and displaying an image of mediocrity and superficiality? That’s not the image and that’s not the life God desires to see.
Lord, today is all I have. It’s yours, all yours. Let every breath, every step, every word, every thought, every action be pleasing in your sight and your sight alone.