Live with it. I have cancer, but it's something I'm going to have to live with. And I plan to do just that.
I can see the expiration date on my driver's license, my library card, my milk … but no one can tell me what my expiration date is. Then again, life is uncertain from the moment we're born and no one ever knows how much time they have.
Carcinoid cancer is a relatively rare and slow-growing form of the disease, although I am technically at Stage 4, since the cancer has spread beyond the initial site and into the abdominal cavity. Good news, right? Well, I take the good news where I can, but cancer is still a tough opponent.
A lot has happened during my 39 years, but this was unexpected. I'm still fairly young and I hadn't shown any real symptoms of cancer. In fact, during a physical just two days before I was diagnosed, my general practitioner said my blood tests were normal and there was almost no chance that I had cancer. I'm now looking for a new general practitioner.
I was first diagnosed in December. I wasn't feeling well and abdominal pains wouldn't let me sleep, so at the urging of my fiancee Tracy, I went to the emergency room at Marin General Hospital for what I thought was a bad case of food poisoning. The doctors had a sense this was something more serious, perhaps a severe appendicitis.
Dr. Jonathan Levin said he wanted to open me up and "take a look" inside. Fine by me.
When I woke up from surgery, Dr. Levin told me he had removed a large tumor, along with my appendix and part of my small intestine.
That's when the questions started:
Is the tumor benign? No.
Did the surgery take care of the problem? Probably not.
What are my chances? We don't know.
What now? Stay positive and get more tests.
Staying positive is the hardest part of the process. I'm not as worried about what the cancer is doing to me as I am worried about what it's doing to my family and friends. Seeing the fear in Tracy's eyes and hearing the concern in my parents' voices, I know I have to be strong for them. How strong am I? How strong do I have to be?
Sometimes I just want to bury my head and pretend this isn't happening, but I know it's something I have to deal with. I just don't yet know how.
Cancer is an evil, hungry beast that feeds on fear and destroys lives. I know this time it won't win.
I will check back every week as possible with updates on my own journey and information to help anyone else dealing with cancer. I invite everyone to share your own stories and to join the fight to find a cure.