So One Time I Discovered I Had Cancer: Part 2

The Surgeon

If you read Part 1, you know these posts are long and not very funny. These are my version of a story I feel compelled to tell. I’m telling it in little pieces, because that’s how it happened, and it’s too much to say on a post or two.

If you need a smile today, I recommend checking out this, or this instead.

When my doctor came back to the exam room to talk to me, after everyone else had gone home, I was more tired and detached than nervous. Clearly this was all going to turn out to be something wildly blown out of proportion – some sort of easily treatable cyst or infection – and if I got all upset, I’d feel pretty silly later. Hell, knowing me, I’d probably found a way to move during the X-ray and bumble the CT scan.*
*Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’m not exactly the picture of grace.

My doctor sat down with me in the exam room, something a doctor had never done before. She still had that same strange expression on her face – a frozen expression, the corners of her mouth slightly upturned in an almost-smile, with her eyes very, very focused on me – which I’m sure was meant to be comforting, but was really just jarring. She touched my hand while she spoke to me, something else a doctor had never done.

Just a little bit more than others

Some statements just stand out more than others.

She’d taken a look at my scans, and since she wasn’t sure what she was looking at, she needed me to go see a thoracic surgeon. She didn’t want to say it could be cancer…but she had to be honest with me. It could be cancer. She’d scheduled the appointment for the coming Tuesday, and told me I’d need to pick up my imaging work Monday evening from the lab so I could take it with me.

I was thrown off by these rapid appointments. Same day CT scans and surgeon consultations within a week? Everyone knows you have to wait forever to see specialists. I knew that from a recent catastrophic series of appointment attempts I’d had with a cardiologist.

I confess. I was in a little bit of a daze when I left the doctor’s office and went to my parents’ house for dinner.

Yep. Dazed

A remarkable amount of my daze-related thoughts have to do with words. Grammar is cool, guys.

My dad asked me what was wrong.

Our stove really is in the center of the kitchen

Because usually I am not so preoccupied with my feet. I know that’s hard to believe.
I’m pretty sure he was making spaghetti.

I told him the doctor said I might have cancer.

There is no not-awkward way to have this conversation

Look! Feet!

He looked at me for a minute, shook his head and laughed.** We have a history of all kinds of medical problems in our family – everything from high blood pressure to strokes – but the one thing we’ve always been off the hook for was cancer. He reassured me that I definitely did not have cancer, and it must be something else, and I was going to be fine.
**Some of you are going to have a snap judgment reaction to this. My dad didn’t laugh because he wasn’t taking me seriously. He laughed because he was trying to make me feel better. To better understand our family, you should probably know that I laughed when the doctor said “cancer” too. For this exact same reason. I just didn’t buy it.

But even with that said, my dad insisted on going with me to see the surgeon.

When I went to the imaging lab Monday night, the technicians there told me my General Practitioner had already picked up the images. She’d picked them up and gone to meet with the surgeon personally. So the surgeon already had the images, and wasn’t that great? I didn’t have to worry about it.

It's not great when your doctor picks things up for you.


Only, that scared me a lot more than if I’d picked up the images myself. Doctors are busy people. Why would she take time out of her schedule to pick up lab work for me, and talk personally to the surgeon I was going to see?

I found out when we got to the surgeon’s office on Tuesday morning. The surgeon I saw – let’s call him Dr. SeriousFace – had the same frozen expression on his face that my General Practitioner wore the week before. He dove right into examining me, asking questions about symptoms I’d never linked together before. He poked, prodded and examined, and seemed terribly interested in the upper part of my breastbone. When he poked there, it felt weird.

He was very serious

Meet Dr. SeriousFace. I did not think he liked me at all.

People don’t poke other people in the breastbone all that much.

Don't DO that

Because it is unpleasant.

He took Dad and I into another room, a little closet of a room with a few computer monitors and my imaging lab work pulled up on them.

He showed us what my insides looked like at the moment.

My lungs were kind of against this whole thing.

They looked like this.

My dad sat down. I’d never seen my dad sit down when someone told him something.

Stop looking at my boobs, Internet

Also this.
This view is what my chest looked like if you could view it from my shoulders down.

I felt like I was watching things happen on a TV. I wanted to comfort my dad, but he was talking with the surgeon about biopsy options. A needle biopsy, or a surgical biopsy? What was the best choice? What would the doctor choose for his own daughter?

I didn’t care. I would just do whatever the doctor said was best, because Dr. SeriousFace clearly knew his business. His face was so serious. It conveyed a lot of confidence. It could be a few different things. Dr. SeriousFace told us. It could be a thymoma, or some form of lymphoma. We wouldn’t know until the biopsy was complete and the results could be analyzed.

It was not a hard decision. I was really just like "Tell me what it is and make it go away."

It’s a funny thing, when someone tells you tough news. If someone you really trust is there, listening with you, your brain sometimes just doesn’t really process technical decisions.

We picked a needle biopsy.*** It was the least invasive. It would leave me less scarred, and it wasn’t exactly like they could miss the giant thing growing in my chest.
***I did have input. But since either way, I was going to have a biopsy, which kind didn’t seem so important at the time.

As Dad and I drove home, I smiled at him and said “it’s a pretty crappy day when your best option ends in “oma.”

This is how my dad and I communicate

I have no idea how to draw cars.

We laughed. That part was nice.

I would have my biopsy the next week.