the biopsy

So I’m told by the surgical oncologist (Dr. Adam Jacobson) that I probably have a cancerous tumor in my throat. But, to be sure, of course we need to do a biopsy. Because the tumor is in an awkward position, this has got to be done in a hospital under general anesthesia. Great. That’s, I’m sure, much better than having scissors or a needle stuck down my throat. This is the third week of August (20th), on a Friday. The doctor is out next week and I have a trip planned tomorrow to South American anyway.

While in South America, through my wife’s contacts, I meet two different bio-energy medical specialists. Both guys are medical doctors, studied and practiced extensively, and had extended their fields into how the body operates in conjunction with its own energy fields. Coincidently, both doctors were in the two countries I was visiting. After showing them both my charts (of recent tests excluding CAT scan) and reviewing my history, they both, after exam, concluded that I indeed and should get the biopsy. Both, gave me strong recommendations of potions to take to strengthen the immune system (and contribute to future ideal energy alignment). And both highly recommended that I eliminate all meat from the diet, all diary products, and eliminate all processed foods, especially flours, sugars, pastas, etc. etc. OK, I’m not too far from that. (hoping they won’t tell me to stop coffee and I’m not asking).

During my time in South America this last week of August, my throat is hurting big time. Eating is a chore, a real pain in the neck. It’s the swallowing that’s difficult. And, after first starting to eat something, anything, there is a throbbing sensation, almost burning, that sticks around for a while until it ebbs somewhat.

The funny part of the sore throat this entire time has been that it’s moved around the mouth somewhat. Predominately staying on the left side, it’s moved from the back of the tongue to the top of the throat, to the middle, and at times to the right side. (which explained why the first ENT told me it was reflux and depended on which side and how I slept).

So I’m back in New York after one week in SA and arrive home the morning of August 27th (Friday) and the biopsy is scheduled for September 10.   The surgeon’s office calls me that afternoon to ask if I wanted to move up the biopsy to the 1st of Sept.   Sure, I say, let’s get this going.

My wife had friends in town from Paris, and the weekend forecast was beautiful, so I looked forward to a couple of days on the bike. On Saturday I headed up the the state line for a 45 mile warm up and afterwards felt unusually tired. As much as I tried, I could not figure out why.  The next morning early, I met a friend of mine up along 9W and we rode through Harriman Park toward Bear Mtn. I road a casual century that day and again, felt more tired afterward than I should have. So I jumped on the scale and sure enough, I’m lighter than I normal.  I’m now weighing in at under 155 lbs. I should be between 160–165.  At about 6′ even in height, I’m now feeling a little underweight, which gives me now another goal of increasing calories.

The biopsy is scheduled for 11am at the Beth Israel hospital on 1st Avenue and 16th Street in Manhattan.  My wife had a trip planned six months ago to Peru and she left on the 31st for 24 days.   She offered to stay, but I could hardly have her change her plans for a biopsy.  So she takes off on the 31st, and I head to the doctor’s office to have all the pre-surgery clearance tests done.

The next day, of course you can’t eat or drink anything prior to anesthesia.   As I’m getting ready that morning I popped on New York One on the TV (a rare event).   Putting on my shoes, I’m hearing a segment about Michael Douglas on Letterman’s show the evening prior announcing that he has throat cancer.  Freaky.  I’ve not heard of anyone with this and all of a sudden I’m going in for a biopsy that day and all over the news are clips about Michael Douglas’ announcement of throat cancer and the fact that he is going through radiation and chemo therapy.  For some reason, the whole thing is more unsettling.

Like a good patient, I arrived to the hospital slightly early.  Mistake.  Throughout this ordeal so far I’m learning that just about every appointment is a wait.  But how can I even think to complain, these people are trying to do good things.

I’m processed into the hospital, gown and slippers on, my clothes in a bag, and I’m escorted upstairs to the pre-OR room, where I’m given an IV and told to hang out.  It’s just before 11am, and the hang-out period is until 1pm, which is when I’m lead into OR, I lay on a table and they put me to sleep.

The next thing I know, I’m waking up in the recovery room and all I could think was “what the (expletive, expletive) happened to my tongue?”  My mouth was throbbing.  It felt like someone took a pair of pliers to my tongue and jammed (something) against the back of my throat.  I could barely talk.  The nurse was saying something to me, I’m listening, but just trying to process the pain in my mouth.

Because I was not accompanied, I had to wait for a while and luckily, a nurse took me outside and I hailed a cab.   They didn’t like the fact that I didn’t have someone escorting me, but that’s just the way it was.  By now it’s about 3 pm and I’m very hungry, not having eaten anything since yesterday (instructions).  I went to a jamba juice place around the corner from my apartment on 5th Avenue and ordered a mixed fruit smoothie. Wow, was that hard to get down.  I really felt like someone beat up the inside of my mouth.

That afternoon, the surgeon’s secretary called me to come in the next day for the results. Sounds good.  I’m anxious.  So the next afternoon I arrive at the appointment time, and after waiting the obligatory hour, Dr Jacobson tells me that it’s confirmed, the tumor is malignant.   I could un-cross my fingers now and let the realization settle in that I indeed have cancer.  And, that the cancer is a tumor in my throat.  And, I can’t dwell on it one second longer.  Now, it’s all about resolution.

The doc tells me that the typical program is 6-7 weeks of radiation/chemo and that the beginning isn’t so bad, but the last few weeks are tough.  The next couple of weeks is all about preparation, seeing the rest of the team.  During our appointment, I ask him why he works where he does, at Beth Israel.  He says that it’s one of the best places along the Eastern seaboard, if not the country, for head and neck oncology and because of that, BI in New York is where he wanted to be.   I guess if I could have felt any better, that fact gave me some confidence.

So I walked out of there, through the green market in Union Square, and couldn’t think of cancer, or buying anything at the market, because my mouth hurt so much from the biopsy.  But, I’m thinking, at least that’s over with.  I can head into Labor Day weekend finding liquid food or blending up something nutritious.

Luckily by Saturday, the tongue was starting to feel slightly better.  The black and blue and deep reds were gradually fading.   I was gargling a few times per day with salt water which helped.  I was good enough to at least get a 62 mile ride in on Sunday up to Nyack State Park.  Still, I noticed that I was not emptying the water bottles like I should.  But it just felt good to be out there peddling.

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