July 3, 2019

…so my cool dude Hawaiian primary care MD tells me I’m anemic and that all my red blood cell counts are way lower than they should be. He refers me to a hematologist, and it just so happens the closest hematologist to me is at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center just twenty minutes away on the 60, two exits short of Superstition Springs G.C.

Right from the start there’s a big interest in getting all of my medical charts from my primary care, and my appointment is booked. I start getting e-mails with all kinds of forms to fill out with careful instructions as to where I should go and what I should expect when I get there. I keep reassuring myself that I don’t have cancer, and that hematology and oncology departments are always linked together for some strange reason, but the night before my appointment I can’t sleep and find my brain turning over and over what would happen if things end up for the worst.

Tracey and I arrive at MD Anderson and are met by some friendly elderly folks dressed alike, charged with making folks feel comfortable upon their arrival. Ironically, it’s their innocent desire to make me feel comfortable that makes me feel decidedly uncomfortable, the discomfort only growing by walking by a cancer tree with colorful tags for all the patients being treated there, and a registration desk featuring a jar with little tags one can wear in support of brain cancer patients. A guy ten feet away from us is on the phone to a friend, telling him that there’s a blockage in his pancreas that the doctors are suspicious about, so they’re going to expedite a procedure to try and figure out what the heck the blockage is. All I’m thinking is if that dude has pancreatic cancer I’m looking at a dead man walking. He seems to be upbeat; all I can do is silently wish him the best.

I’m taken back to the first moment I heard that I had prostate cancer. You hear the word “cancer” and all of a sudden you’re transported to a different place, a different world where there are only two kinds of people: the folks who have cancer, and the folks who don’t. Whether or not you’re going to get it at some point in time is meaningless – as long as you don’t have it, you don’t have it. And if you have it, you have it, and there’s no hiding from it. I suppose I can call myself a cancer survivor, but I think that’s overstating it a bit. I never felt any pain with my prostate cancer, never had to be treated for it other than the relatively simple procedure to have it removed one day, then go home the next day minus one prostate gland. Sure, there are certain things I miss about not having one (no need to go into the obvious), but all in all it wasn’t that big a deal.

…certainly not like the folks you see at MD Anderson who you know are undergoing cancer treatment: the unsteady gaits, the wheelchairs, the knit hats, the gray, sallow complexions. They can try and make your initial visit as cheery and stress-free as possible, but in the end you know that one way or the other it will inevitably end up being you and a doctor in a room and the doctor describing for you what the blood tests found, good or bad. And there’s no way to hide from that. It’s spooky, it’s unnerving, and it’s uncomfortable to have to deal with the what ifs of your own mortality.

In my case, the suspicion is that it’s either something genetic, or the result of acid reflux, or perhaps a polyp in my colon causing the anemia. The fact is they don’t know, but the nice Indian doctor seemed pretty certain when she told me she didn’t think it was cancer. But until the lab results come back one way or the other you just don’t know.

And now I’m also dealing with what they are calling “several bi-lateral polyps in my lungs measuring no more than 4 mm in size”. And so I’m going to have to see a pulmonary expert to see how to treat that. I’ve long suspected that the unrelieved cough I’ve had since February and the anemia is why I can’t work out at the gym – I get winded way too easily. I can play golf, for sure, and it wouldn’t be fair to my ineptness as a golfer to blame my inconsistent scores on either my red blood cell count or my lung polyps, so I’ll just have to see where that goes. The problem is, much like my mom was, I’m a worrier by nature. And as I get older, I can’t help but think what the big breakdown in my health will end up being. There’s no point in living in denial and thinking nothing bad is ever going to happen to you; likewise, you can’t live your life in fear of what tomorrow will bring, either.

I guess all you can do is live your life to the fullest as best you can for as long as you can and keep in your thoughts and prayers all those who find themselves on the other side of the cancer equation. You’d like to ask them what it’s like – are they fighting it bravely, or are they resigned to some ultimate fate. Are they battling it with the help and support of loved ones, or virtually alone and left to their own fears and thoughts. It’s hard for me to think this way, but I guess that’s what visiting a hematologist at a cancer facility will do to you.

In the end, it’s all about your own mortality. Unlike some folks, I guess, I don’t worry about how I will be remembered when my time comes. I don’t think I will have left the world in any better or worse shape than it was when I got here nearly sixty-four years ago, and perhaps that’s the best anyone can ask. And maybe that makes it easier in the long run – no regrets, no unfulfilled dreams. Run the race to its inevitable conclusion, and listen to as much surf music and Bob Marley as you can while doing so.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:24 | Comments (2)
  1. Hope all results are something minor. Heading to Sundance ceremony for the next 12 days and will send up prayers for you. This is a Lakota ceremony and I have been going 12 yrears. Do some research on this. It’s the most sacred of the Lakota ceremonies.

    Comment by Jana — July 3, 2019 @ 2:13 am

  2. Hey Partner,
    Hope your well. I had a Melanoma removed from my back last month along with a Lymph node. All is good, probably should have kept my shirt on when I was a kid. Now I got to get rid of my sciatic back pain, and
    I will be 100% for Goodboys weekend.

    Comment by Ronald Myerow — July 4, 2019 @ 6:33 am

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