Yesterday my Dad and I went to the USC Norris Cancer Center. This was an incredibly humbling experience. It was humbling because, for starters, I don't HAVE cancer. Well, I like to put it like this: I don't have Cancer, I have A cancer. My tumor is not the Cancer you hear about in movies and Make-A-Wish advertisements. I will probably never lose my hair. My tumor is A cancer in the sense that it's a mass of tissue that isn't supposed to be where it is in my body. But it was the first time that I have ever been introduced to someplace where Cancer patients go on a daily basis- as someone who is supposed to be there with them. It was a bit scary and a lot humbling. We went in to get a second opinion from an Oncologist there, Dr. Hu. We discussed my options as far as the remaining parts of my tumor and should I do Chemotherapy or Surgery, etc. He agreed with my previous Oncologist, Dr. Rau, in that he does not believe I will need Chemotherapy to remove the tumor from my chest. There is always a chance though, as I have discovered, that plans will change. But for now I don't need Chemo or Radiation therapy. Not much new on the battlefront on that one- more tests to determine how rapidly my tumor is growing after Dr. D took those portions out for biopsy. If it appears to be growing rapidly, it may be malignant, which we didn't think it was at first but we just don't really know. If it isn't growing too rapidly then we continue on with the surgery course. That means that I will go to the surgeon in Los Angeles sometime after February, but not limited to a span of 6 months or so. Obviously we are trying to get this whole thing taken care of sooner than later, but now that I'm not feeling any pain from the pressure of this thing on my chest I have the luxury of taking a more relaxed approach. The surgery, though, this time around will be much more intense. I'm not sure I mentioned it before but there seems to be a general consensus that the Cardiac Surgeon who will be there will need to "stop my heart" to complete the procedure. I'm sure they do this all the time but every time I hear someone mention this I choke on my breath a little bit. Stopping my heart... Wow. They will obviously still have my major arteries pumping and everything, but it will be through a machine. I don't know all of the mechanics of this but it sounds terrifying. I guess what I should really do is start looking up heart surgery and get a better feel for what I am in for. That way at least I'll KNOW, you know?
But as I walked out of the doctor's office, past all of these people who were waiting to see him, I realized how minor this all really must be. I mean, here are people with REAL problems. I walked by a lot of people waiting with their loved ones, usually pushing them around in a wheelchair because the Chemo/Radiation had made them too weak to walk. I walked by the Beauty Shop, where I saw a middle-aged woman trying on a beautiful Auburn wig to cover where her own hair once was. Walking out to the parking lot I saw a young girl, maybe in her 30's, alone waiting for her car. I had been sitting next to her for a few minutes when I noticed she was holding information on a Uterus Scan that she must have just had... I couldn't help but wonder if she was sitting there by herself worrying about a possible Uterine Cancer. She was so young, like I said maybe 30-35... who knows if she had children yet but maybe she never will, now. These poor, but amazing people. They have some serious stuff going on, some life-altering problems. And sitting there in the freezing cold wind someplace in LA, I suddenly felt very, very small. I wont pretend to have some Martyr sense of grace about this- I am still scared shitless for myself in the near future. But on another note I'm pretty sure I will be okay, probably even better, through this. And I feel lucky that I only have this small bump on the road rather than something that will completely alter my course in life.
If I don't write anything else before Friday- Merry Christmas. It's going to be a great one.