Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"C" is for Cancer and Cut It Out

"C" is for Cancer. Which in Japanese is "gan" which is the word that I was focusing all my powers of attention and concentration on trying to pick up in conversation at the hospital this morning. My husband Masa went in this morning to get the results of his blood test from a week ago. A week ago I was at home with the girls (who were right on schedule in their morning bickering and shrieking at each other) when the phone rang and Masa was on the other end telling me that "It's all over. I'm over. Take good care of the girls." and he wouldn't tell me much of anything else. He had gone in to get the results from a battery of tests that he had undergone two days previously as screening to qualify for the new biological therapy meds they are using for RA. So I knew that one of those tests had found something.

I could go on to tell you all about my frantic ride in a taxi (with bickering children), our ungainly entrance into the large prefectural university hospital and our harried search through all the different departments until we found Masa but it wouldn't begin to adequately depict the tsunami of panic that was crashing over us. What the tests had shown was a spot on one of Masa's lungs. The first doctor proclaimed it "cancer." The second wasn't so sure so he ordered blood tests to look for cancer markers. Then he sent us home to wait a week for the results, our free pass to hell.

Finally, after sitting in the flames, spinning over different scenarios of death, separation and despair we graduated to hell proper--the doctor's waiting room this a.m. And then the clouds parted and a drop of grace fell and quenched our twisted souls. The cancer marker test came back negative.

Which leads me to my second word for the letter "c". Cut it out. Okay. Phrasal verb and not a word, but the first word in it starts with a "c". I say this phrase a lot, "Cut it out." is one of my on automatic mommy phrases, along with, "stop it. I said stop it. I mean it. Stop it. Stop it now." and other classic selections like the count down: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . ."

However, I'm smuggling in the whole set of words (all three) not as a phrasal verb here but for their actual literal meaning, cut-it-out. Which is what I immediately wanted to ask the doctor at the hospital to do. Cut it out. Out spot! Out damn spot!

Sitting in the corridor outside the oncologists office I turned and asked Masa if he didn't mind just waiting and seeing what happened with the spot. How did he feel about cutting it out?


"Well, couldn't they just go in and take it out?"

Turns out that they could but they would have to go in on the side of his rib cage, cutting through a rib or two and remove a chunk of him, not just the spot. If we understood the doctor correctly. Pretty serious surgery and thus the doctor is recommending that we just sit back and see what spot will do. Will spot grow bigger? Shrink? Turn into cancer?

We sat silently for a few minutes and then Masa stood up and went back into the office. When he came out he sat down. I continued watching the line of elderly patients line up to use the free blood pressure cuff in the reception area. You could tell who had good results and who's blood pressure was too high from studying their faces as they retrieved and read the bit of paper that the machine would spit out after taking their blood pressure. The winners would kind of wave their result strip in the air or share it with a friend. The losers crumpled theirs into tiny little balls that they heaved angrily into the waste bin at the side of the machine. It seemed like a kind of lotto for the elderly.

After a bit my mind wandered back to the issues I had been trying to keep it from pondering. A mental image of my husband laying on a surgery table like a parody of Adam while the surgeon-God carefully extracts a bit of rib began to form when Masa broke the silence and announced:

"I made an appointment to find out more about the surgery."

"Isn't it too risky?"

"I want it out. If they can I want them to cut it out."

And I said nothing. Because I want it out too. I want it out.


Anonymous said...

Laura, I've really been enjoying reading your blog. I was so sorry before to hear about Renu's bicycle accident, and so glad that she didn't have major injuries. Just to let you know that my husband went through the same type of surgery when he was about 40. They found a spot, didn't know what it was, and it was too far away to come out through a fiberscope, so they did the surgery and removed a lower lobe of his lung. They probably have better techniques now, since this was in '85 I think. It turned out to be calcified TB granule, which had some kind of inflammation or something around it. Anyway, he healed well and all went well. (I think that he was off work for 6 weeks.) Hope that all goes well with you and that you found the spot (whatever it is) early! take care Nancy Tsurumaki

Sarah said...

That totally sucks. I can't imagine how much worrying you did in the one week between the test and the results.

What I'm actually wondering is if this "possible brush with death" has made your husband reconsider how hard he's working and what it's doing to his body? Probably not. I find that men need to be on the point of actual pain before any changes are made.

When I read about the fighting between your girls it reminded me of something my mom used to do when we were the same age. If we started picking on each other, my mom would stop us and we would each have to say one nice thing about each of our siblings (there were four of us) and it took forever and we hated doing it so eventually just the threat of it was enough to stop us and "try" to be nice to each other. I'm probably going to start using this trick a few years from now.

Donna said...

I'm so sorry to read this, I can't imagine what you must be going through right now. You've written before about your concerns over Masa's health, this must be extremely difficult.

I remember one time having a biopsy done on lump on my cervix and having to wait a ridiculous time for the results--a few weeks maybe? It was a while ago. Anyway, when I expressed my anxiety the doctor said "oh don't worry, if it is cancer it won't get any worse in that time". Such reassurance!

I hope that whatever is decided in regards to deal with the spot Masa is fine and you have nothing more to worry about.

AnneMarie, Kumamoto said...

as if ye didn't have enough to deal with already. Has Masa had TB tests? I presume that was one of the ones he had for the biologic test?
Sometimes, even latent TB (non active TB) can leave spots on the lungs. I think they are called shadows - could that have been what it is?
I hope it proves to be just a scare, and that surgery isn't necessary. Has this put off the biologics' start?
Thinking of you
AnneMarie (Kumamoto)

coarse gold girl said...


Thank you so much for sharing your husband's story with me. I told my husband about it this morning and he seemed to really appreciate hearing about someone else at the same age going through something so similar.

Donna and AnneMarie, thanks for your comments and thoughts as well! Annemarie, you're right, the spot means that he can't start on the biologics. sigh. AND the oncologist told him that being on biologics would be more likely to kill him than the spot would. He thinks the spot proves that Masa is suseptible to infections and that biologics will further weaken his immune system to the point where he will die from the next infection he gets. Of course. . .the reason I want him on the biologics is that they would get him off the massive daily doses of steriods (which are making him prone to getting infections!)

And the Doctor told him that whether or not he quit smoking wouldn't really affect anything. Grrrrr. . . can you believe it?

Gina said...

I just read this now, I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you and your family are having to go through this.

For what it's worth. My mom, had breast cancer 10 years ago. Different kind of cancer, I know. But cancer is a word no family *ever* wants to hear! It causes fear, stress and tears, etc, on a family and I just wanted to let you know. I do understand. being aquinted with the oncology department is something my family had to learn all too well. She under went a lumpectomy, chemo (fucking nightmare for my mom), radiation. She underwent it all and she survived! She lost her hair, it grew back, but she didn't lose her life.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, I do understand what your family is going through. And I am here if you need me!

I hope it doesn't sound, trite. But as I am a Catholic. I just wanted to say, your family are in my prayers. : )