The short story: After my January "brush with death" (systemic sepsis, pneumonia and respiratory failure) the hospital charged my insurance company over $80,000.00 for my ICU care. Group Health adjusted the bill with the hospital and I was billed the balance, which was over $5,300.00. I had asked for financial consideration towards the remainder of my bill by filling out a long application as well as providing profit & loss statements for my business as well as personal and corporate tax returns for 2011 and 2013.
After reviewing my application for help, I was told "No", I would not receive any help whatsoever. The reason? Because I had earned a good wage in 2012, I should be able to make a good wage now. I told the adjuster, "Ma'am, I am a public speaker who has lost half of his tongue..."
She interrupted me and said, "Yes, but you made a good wage back in 2012 and you should be able to do that now..."
I asked her, "Ma'am, if I were a professional baseball player that lost his throwing arm in an accident, do you think that might affect my ability to earn a living playing baseball?" My logic didn't get through and I realized that I was getting more stressed as I continued to try to get the woman to understand. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to let go.
I tell you all of that to say this... You cannot force benevolence, and sometimes, you have to let go and realize that there is a bigger lesson to be learned in what we are traveling through. I tell others that God will provide for our needs, but I wasn't believing that for myself. There I was, trying to convince the woman that I couldn't earn as much as I had before and I started to believe my own words. If I cannot see a way out of this, then I have truly convinced myself that I will fail. My words direct my thoughts, and my thoughts direct my actions... I was believing my own words.
I am not talking about speaking reality into existence or quantum physics. What I am trying to say is that we are prone to believe our own negative talk. If I believe I am damaged goods and I am unlikely to earn an income capable of supporting myself, I will make choices that will support that belief, or just stop trying. On the other hand, if I believe that losing half of my tongue has given me a new vantage point in life or that the lessons I have learned will make me a better public speaker with a more amazing story to tell, then I will act accordingly. Our words have power. That was last week.
This week, as I write this, I am just days away from leaving for Des Moines, Iowa, to teach my injury treatment seminar with my lead assistant, Charity Lisherness. Have I fully returned to my old self, able to speak with a resounding voice that fills the room? No. Does my message have more intensity and is it delivered by a man that has a changed view on life? Absolutely.
Truth be told, as I write this, I am also in a great deal of pain. The pain is different from a few weeks ago. Until this past Friday, March 28th, pain had been building in the left sublingual part of my tongue. I say "tongue", but it is the part that was rebuilt from my forearm. How could I have pain there? It is the same spot that the cancer had returned so many times before. I had my local ENT take a look at it and he was concerned. So concerned that he referred me to my surgeon at Virgina Mason.
When I felt that pain, in that place, I grew more and more fearful. A near-paralyzing fear. Had the cancer returned? My mind was spinning and traveling through every possible outcome. In the days before March 28th, I changed my life insurance policy so that my girls would all receive equal proceeds as beneficiaries. I went on Amazon.com to order software so that I could write my will. My mind was racing.
On the 28th, I traveled up to Virginia Mason for a biopsy. With the suspect area so difficult to get to, I had to have general anesthesia and have the work done in an operating room. It wasn't a simple tissue excision. It seemed like only a moment had passed from when I climbed onto the operating table until I began waking up in the recovery room. The words from the nurse sitting by my side were the first sounds I heard as I emerged from the haze of anesthesia. She kept repeating, "You need to breathe, Robert... breathe... take a deep breath for me... Robert? I need you to breathe..." Apparently I was so relaxed I wasn't breathing much at all and the oxygen sensor was picking up dangerously low blood levels. Breathing deeper became easier as I became more and more conscious. When I finally felt completely awake, it was then that my surgeon walked around the corner and with a big smile he said,
Apparently the tissue is not healing well due to the effects of radiation and the lack of circulation in my "new tongue" impedes the healing process. I am still waiting for confirmation from my physicians, but it looks like the suggested treatment is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Not once, but 5-days-a-week for 6-weeks for a total of 30-treatments. Virginia Mason is said to have the largest hyperbaric chamber in North America.
So now I sit at home in pain recovering from my biopsy. But this pain is worth putting up with. After all, I am cancer free. I can handle anything.