On life and surprises

Voice Card  -  Volume 33  -  Paul Card Number 4  -  Thu, Oct 27, 1994 11:07 PM

I see it's about three weeks since writing, in my Hello card, of surviving throat surgery. How things have changed in that short period of time!

I went to the doctor in late September afraid of being diagnosed as having mono, and wound up with a diagnosis of "throat tumor" instead. Three days ago this was refined into "rhabdomyosarcoma," a fairly nasty "soft tissue cancer" ordinarily seen in six year olds. What makes this cancer particularly unpleasant is that it likes to spread to other sites like the lungs, brain, bones, and bone marrow. And what makes my case unique is that rhabdomyosarcoma is never seen in adults; I'm a medical curiosity.

This has its advantages: it means I'm popular in the medical community. The doctor at Stanford who finally made the diagnosis, said to be an acknowledged expert in this field, wrote "Thank you for bringing this interesting case to my attention." It got me in to a high-powered tumor board at UCSF with just a day's notice. From the doctors there I saw obvious fascination, and heard words like "interesting" and "unusual" often repeated.

At present, it appears that the cancer has not spread - that's the very good news. The bad news is that the prescribed treatment, chemotherapy, may take a year or more, and that I may be pretty much incapacitated throughout. And that, while I have medical insurance, it seems to not cover chemotherapy... I think one doctor summed it up best when he said, "I think you should just plan on 1995 being a really, really bad year."

Actually, though, I don't feel all that bad about the whole affair - at least not yet. I'm interested in the chain of events - starting with "Drat! I'm too tired to work," continuing through "Do I really have to go to see a doctor?", cresting, in a sense with the report from a doctor: "The good news is you're not HIV-positive. The bad news is that you have cancer."

Some of you, I'm told, still look back on Quotationist with pleasure. I abandoned it years ago, because the advent of television and travel in my life effectively reduced my reading time to almost nothing. Since leaving Digital, and especially since moving to California without my TV, I've relearned the joys of reading, and of saving the occasional quotation. Last month, after surgery, I found the following:

"Man is a creature that gets used to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him." - Dostoevsky