Thursday, June 18, 2009

Some Semblance of Normality

So it's been over a week since I last updated. I'm sorry that I've been so negligent. As I told my friend Amy D. in an email earlier today... my lack of updating has been a direct result of the fact that I've been feeling better.

I started driving on Monday again (Thank the dark Pagan gods! Ia Ia Shub Chthulhu F'tagn!) and have been much more mobile, although I'm quickly learning that I need to be careful I don't push myself to hard. It really pisses me off how this whole surgery has slowed me down. I guess spending a week in bed and another week in a recliner really kicks one's ass.

I seriously get winded walking up the steps from the basement.

I'm also still having some mobility issues with my right arm, but it's getting better. I also still have some nerve damage underneath my arm in the area of my tricep, as well as numbness in a large part of my trapezius on that side. But, on the other hand, I think it's healing as well because today I was in considerable pain where there wasn't any feeling previously. It's like the nerves are healing, waking up, looking around, and saying, "What the fuck happened?!?"

So, it's been like I've been getting stabbed in my armpit all day.

Regarding my last update, I did go and have my chest drained last Friday. My surgical oncologist, Dr. Persons, took about 150 cc's worth of fluid out of my right side and probably 80 out of my left. It was basically a couple beer bottles worth of orange-ish fluid. And it was instant, wondrous, sweet relief. It wasn't until the next day that the pain started, and boy did it come back with a vengeance. I guess jamming a catheter under the skin of your chest and moving it around in the wound cavity underneath tends to irritate things. Who'd have thought, huh?

I had to have my chest drained again on Tuesday of this week. The first time, it didn't hurt at all when the doctor drained it. It was easy as pie. This time though, she used a larger gauge catheter, and it really, really hurt. I'm still sore from Tuesday... but it's the last time I'll have to have things drained. (Or is it the last time I'll LET them drain it? It's one of the two, I can never remember which...).

Like I said, the doctor's confidant I'm clear of cancer, but I'll be meeting my actual follow up oncologist on the 29th and we'll know then if she wants to do chemo or anything like that. Also, I've got to call and make an appointment to get genetic testing. It's odd that someone as young as myself got breast cancer, and my oncologist wants me to see if I carry the BRCA1 breast cancer gene. If not for myself, but as a heads up to my sister, or my daughter. Although, I believe (As well as my regular doctor) that the cause is going to fall on the side of my bad liver. We'll have to see...

Also, when we were at the office on Green Road on Tuesday, I made a point of tracking down my regular doctor, Dr. Robert Cirino. I felt it necessary to sincerely thank him and shake his hand for being so thorough and insistent that I follow through with the tests and exams. If not for his persistance, I might not be a cancer survivor today. Who knows... if I'd waited even a few months I could be dying. That's a sobering thought, and a lot of the credit for my being cured falls into his hands. And, get this -- if I didn't already really like the dude as it was -- when I went into his office, he had a radio on and was listening to The Cure's Standing by the Sea CD . Anybody who digs Robert Smith and the groovy bass goodness that is Lol Tolhurst is good people in my book. The best kind of people, in fact...

Michelle and I have been really introspective about the whole experience this week. For her part, she's been especially stressed and blames it on having to deal with the aftermath of the surgery, as well as having to have been strong for the first few weeks. And I get that, really. We are both also finding we have little tolerance for some people. What I mean by that is that we have a different perspective now. People getting mad and screaming at the Starbucks because they ordered their latte with skim milk and not cream are now suddenly intolerable. Or, take couples who fight about stupid little things that, in the grand scheme of things, DON'T MATTER. We both have to fight the urge to just shake them and tell them that the little shit's just not that important. Life's fleeting, enjoy each other and your life as long as you can. Someone could tell you that you have cancer tomorrow.

Another thing that's weird is that I, despite what some people have said, have no desire to do cancer walks or runs or anything like that. I'll do them because they are exercise, but I won't do them for the altruistic and totally false premise that I'm raising money to "find a cure". You know what my cure was? The liberal use of a scalpel to cut the blackness out. No money raised from a three day walk is going to find a cure more effective than that. Besides, and this is a little known (or perhaps - more accurately - an often ignored fact), but the money raised for most charity runs and/or walks goes to the event organizers to run the event and pay the bills. A fraction, a mere pittance, of the money raised actually goes to the charity in question. I don't disagree with the notion that it raises awareness, but I also am not blind to the realities of advertising, paying for, and organizing an event of their nature.

I DO feel the need to speak out about my experience. That's partly what this blog was about. That and the fact that it is probably the basis for a book sometime down the road. But I feel the need to tell my story, to do interviews, to be a spokesman for Male Breast Cancer. I want to write articles for women's magazines with titles like, "Tell Your Dude Not to be a Dude!" or "Don't Ignore That Odd Liquid Squirting from Your Nipple!". And I want to go back to that list I wrote up in one of my earlier posts and use it as a gauge for my well-being. I want it to be a basis for my post-cancer self. And I now have the added advantage of being able to climb a large mountain and get my name listed as the first Male Breast Cancer survivor to summit it. And use that to spread the word about my illness.

My goal in the long term is to maybe save some other guy's life who's got something happening with his chest, but who's not sure whether he should mention it to his doctor. Male Breast Cancer has a higher mortality rate than female breast cancer solely because guys don't know they can get it. I want to change that.

But that's a conversation for another day. Today's post is about where I'm at now...

I'm excited to be going back to work next week... but not so excited to start my security job. Right now, I don't think I'm strong enough to run up four flights of steps and, after reaching the top, jump on, wrestle, and fight with a detoxing meth head. This weekend, I'm going to begin working out again. I'll be working on building my cardio level on the elliptical and my mountain bike, and I hope to be running again soon.

It'll be a couple months before I can lift weights again.

So, things are coming around to a semblence of normality, although the doctor said I'm not technically "cured" of cancer until I reach the five year clean point. All in all, things are going well...


shel said...

Glad to hear you are able to be out and about. Like you said, take it easy, surgery and the recoup take a lot out of you.

Another male breast cancer survivor, Ernie Green (formerly of the Cleveland Browns) underwent his chemo with my friend, Linda. If you want me to hook you up with him, let me know.

Take care,

Dr. Zombie said...

Spike - I'd be very interested! I'll send you an email offline in the next day or so....

Thanks so much!


Gayle said...

Dale, you are totally amazing and have an exceptional talent for expressing your feelings in text; something I have never been able to accomplish. I really enjoy reading about your feelings etc. concerning the surgery. I am so glad to have you as my nephew!