"You sound and look great!" she said. "I was expecting to see you looking like a disaster after reading your surgeon's notes and reviewing all that they did to you at Virginia Mason, but you look amazing! That's awesome.... so, your chemo and radiation will start in a couple of weeks. Usually we would wait longer, but you're really healthy and we can get started sooner."
She began to tell me about the road ahead and what to expect.
On Monday I will be returning to have her team create a special "hot mesh mask." They will heat a special type of plastic sheet and they apply it to my face. As it cools, they will use their hands to mold and press it tightly to my face and head, allowing it to harden in place and form the mold for my radiation treatments. It will be used to literally bolt my head in place with each treatment, guaranteeing that the radiation is delivered in the exact same location with each treatment. That was the good news.
Her body language and the look in her eyes started to shift to an "I'm really sorry to tell you this" look. She began to tell me about the therapy that I was going to have. As the words came out of her mouth, my heart began to sink.
"The bad news", my oncologist said, "is this... you will be having the very worst treatment of what I have to offer. It is the most painful therapy we can give. It's the most painful kind of cancer to treat. Your mouth will be on fire... open sores... the mucosa will be on fire... it will be hard to even swallow. Because of the lymph node involvement, we have to include your neck too. Without proper care, it will become like wood and unable to move. You must keep it moving to avoid fibrosis. Robert, this will be bad. I'm sorry. I wouldn't do this to my worst enemy, but it is what we need to do to make sure this cancer stays gone."
I am trying to be strong as I write this... my eyes are tearing up at the thought of what will come. 7-Weeks of 5-days-a-week unrelenting torment. "You'll be thankful for the weekends", she said. "You will be living on pain meds."
Wow. It would be easier not knowing what is to come, to be surprised by it, taken off guard. Instead, I have less than two weeks until it starts. I know what is coming.
I know that the blessing in this is that I will have the best chance of surviving this aggressive cancer and have the opportunity to be a grandfather one day. The chance to travel and see the countries that I've been wanting to see and experience, like my family's homeland in Ireland, France, Germany... places like Africa and Asia. So much living yet to do, but I have to be destroyed before I can become new.
We often want that in our prayers, for God to provide us with what we have never had before. Learning that the old has to be torn down to rebuild the new might be a bigger process than we could have ever fathomed though. Careful what you pray for.
The good news is this... that regardless of the depths that life may take you to, those depths are never deeper than how low God's arms can reach to pick you up and carry you through it.
I'm not only blessed, but I'm blessed knowing I have amazing physician's placed in my life that will help see me through this process... I have a future and I'm excited that when I emerge from this ordeal, I will live my life even more fully than I have until now.
Amazing things lie ahead... I am so very blessed.
A Blessed Man