Cancer, Day One
Maybe it’s not actually day one, I guess day one would be back in the beginning of March when a CT scan for something completely different found a huge mass, right in the middle of my chest. I think I had been mentally preparing myself for this diagnosis since that first CT scan.
It’s taken almost two months. Two months, three different CT scans, I don’t know how many little vials of blood and two different needle biopsies. Yesterday, I finally got my diagnosis.
Thymic squamous cell carcinoma. Say that three times fast.
I was originally diagnosed with a thymoma, a rare but non cancerous tumor on the thymus gland. Several more scans and some biopsies later and the full extent of what I had was revealed. The thymus and several lymph nodes are already “involved.”
Thymomas are rare, I read somewhere that only about 500 people a year get them. For it to be cancerous is even rarer. For it to be squamous cell is almost unheard of.
Most people don’t know they have a thymoma until it causes other problems. The thymus is located in the mediastinum, the space between the lungs, it’s where the heart lives, and the esophagus, the windpipe, etc. There is a real probability that, given time, the tumor will grow into my lungs, or heart, make it impossible to swallow or breathe or any number of other painful, inconvenient things.
The “cure” for a non cancerous thymoma is surgery. And a massive surgery is still in my future, but right now the oncologists, radiologists and thoracic surgeons who have seen it agree that it’s too big and too irregularly shaped for surgery to be a safe, viable option. There’s no guarantee they could get it all. And if they can’t get it all, there’s no point in cracking my chest open.
So chemotherapy for a few months and then we will do all the tests again. I’m also going for a second opinion in the next week or so, so all of this might change, but right now it looks like my summer is pretty much shot. Bummer, because I have Jack Johnson tickets at the Gorge this year.
I don’t know if I’m handling it well or if I’m just good at compartmentalizing, but right now I’m doing okay. I feel fine, maybe a little short of breath sometimes but I don’t feel like I have cancer. I don’t feel sick. I don’t look sickly.
It’s day one and something I am already sick of hearing is “I’m sorry you have cancer.” How am I supposed to respond to that? “Yeah, me too,” sounds a bit glib. I don’t know what I would rather hear, but I’m hard pressed to think of a situation where you’d tell someone “I’m glad you have cancer.” Even worse is people telling you they wish they could have it instead of you. Don’t say that. I appreciate it, but please don’t. No one should have cancer.