Living

Learning I have cancer

The day before Election Day, I was at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland. A doctor was going to remove two lymphnodes under my left armpit to see what was going on inside by body.

The week prior, I learned I had a hairline fracture in one of my ribs on the left side of my body, likely caused by a growth that had weakened the bones. Before that, I had no clue anything was going wrong inside of me. Without that, I probably still would not know I have cancer. It would just be growing inside of me, slowly doing me in.

So there I sat at Kadlec. Yes, I was nervous about the procedure, even though the doctor called it "simple." I was nearly as nervous about whether the nurse could find a robe big enough to cover my backside (she did).

In my mind, I already knew I had cancer. No empirical evidence was needed, even though it was required. Somehow, I was resigned to the fact that I was about to become a cancer patient.

The day did not start out well. After I had the robe on, my wife and I sat down while the first nurse tried to find a vein for my IV. She spent a good 30 minutes poking around, then called in another nurse.

"She never misses," I was told by the first nurse, "even on veins like yours."

Turns out she does miss on veins like mine. I watched nearly an entire episode of West Wing on the TV while she poked away, muttering about my deep, wiggly veins. Finally, she gave up and sent me up to pre-op, where a guy who really never misses got to work. He found my vein in about 10 minutes and away we went to the operating room.

I was hooked up to the happy gas, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up and chatting with a nurse who had emigrated from the West Indies. We talked awhile about life in Grenada until she was convinced I was in good enough shape to head back to a room where my wife waited. The doctor came in to check on me and said he pulled out two lymphnodes. Each went to different labs. The first would give us a quick look at what we were dealing with, which he said likely was lymphoma. The second was sent off to see which of the 30 or so strains I was dealing with.

Frankly, as I had resigned myself to the notion that I had cancer, I was suddenly more concerned about whether I'd be able to get to work the next day. See, it was Election Day. In the news business, the presidential election is our Super Bowl. I did not want to miss it, but the doctor ordered me to stay home. He didn't order me to stay off my laptop, though.

It was a good thing I missed work the next day, as I was really, really sore. But I did not miss the election, as I spent the day and evening helping the newsroom and interactive media departments update results as they came in - all from the comfort of my easy chair and wi-fi connection at home.

Yeah, I'm a little hard core about the newspaper business. It's been in my blood all my life. Now, that ink in my blood is sharing space with cancer cells.

Next up: The diagnosis.

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