Posted by: cg00n | June 3, 2009

agitato, ma non troppo

Things calmed down a whole bunch today and I think the current mental crisis is over.

On Monday we went back to see the general surgeon to discuss another small lump on my calf that, in all the excitement of last Wednesday, we had neglected to point out.  Being a little more coherent and receptive this time around we managed to have quite a useful meeting.  The new, small lump is probably more of the same but at this point we might as well wait for the PET scan (now scheduled for this coming Friday) to see exactly what’s what.  If they can’t see anything outside of the immediate vicinity of the son-of-a-lump and its little brother they may be able to do another wide excision; that is, just cut out the cancerous material and send me on my way until something else comes up.  This just might mean we could go forward with our vacation plans, but this hangs in the balance at present.  The surgeon spent quite a bit of time reassuring us that we were handling all this at least as well as can be expected, and we came away feeling somewhat better informed and a little calmer.  I even managed to scythe a bit more of the lawn when I got home.

Several friends wrote in with encouraging and thoughtful emails, IM chats or blog comments and once again I thank you very much for doing so.  It has been a very rough week.  Yesterday was just about tolerable but the anxiety stayed with me until well into the evening and even the clonazepam failed to clear it up entirely.

Today was filled with visits to doctors and a certain amount of relatively comforting news.  First up was the oncologist.  We got into town a little early so I took a bit more clonazepam (1/4 of a pill seems to work reasonably well without sending me to sleep) and had a long conversation with the nurse-assistant.  She was somewhat concerned about the 3Kg or so I have lost over the last few days so we were explaining all the interesting constraints on my diet.  I’m allergic to garlic and a variety of other fruits and veggies including avacado, banana, mango, various nuts and I’m also lactose-intolerant.  All this has blown up in the last 15 years or so and is extremely inconvenient.  Add to this index all the things that P‘s Chinese herbalist doctor says I’m not supposed to eat (eggs, cheese or anything with live bacteria and red meat among other things) and it is hard to find anything left that I want to eat, especially when my appetite has cratered.  For now I think eggs and maybe some goat cheese may be back on the menu since P is convinced that if I don’t die of cancer I’ll probably starve.

The oncologist was running late.  We really wanted to hear the results of the CT scan since it might confirm the earlier one that appeared to show an infected lymph node in my chest.  Waiting in the exam room for the better part of an hour did nothing to improve our collective equanimity.  However, as I’ve mentioned before, she is a really sweet person and quickly reassured us that the most recent CT scan shows nothing at all wrong.  We hustled through the rest of the appointment because I was supposed to see the dermatologist right afterwards.  On the way out of the door we got a very brief introduction to another of her melanoma patients, a man about my age whose cancer started on his left thigh, who has had an isolated limb perfusion (performed locally) and who is now six years into the process.  He seems quite upbeat about his life and was about to return to painting his house after his appointment.   This is truly an inspiration and probably did more to settle our minds than days of reading melanoma stories on the web.

We hurried over to the dermatologist who gave me the once over and said he couldn’t see anything suspicious on the surface.  He was also good enough to offer to zap off anything remotely unwholesome without requiring me to make an appointment.  “Just drop in and tell them I said it was OK” were his words.  Fantastic!  Give the man a medal!  He also mentioned isolated limb perfusion and spoke highly of its effectiveness.

Time for lunch and for the first time in days P and I both felt hungry.  We went to one of our favourite places where they have good beer on tap and a kitchen that can produce a variety of garlic-free food.  I don’t know when a turkey club sandwich with sweet potato fries has ever tasted so good.  The beer helped, of course.  We then had an hour to blow before seeing the psychiatrist so we found a suitably shady spot, parked the car and more or less napped for a while.

The psychiatrist was also very supportive and helpful.  Like everyone else she said we were handling the situation quite well, given the circumstances.  She gave me some suggestions as to how I might apply the mindfulness more effectively to help regulate the primitive-brain responses that have been responsible for so much anxiety.  I have another appointment in two weeks when I think we will be working on trying to bring my primitive gut-level reaction to the idea of death  closer to  my cognitive acceptance of it.  So much effort has gone into this over the last week that I don’t want to lose a single inch of ground gained.  Anyway, in two weeks we might know the results of the PET scan and what the surgeon is proposing to do to me so I will probably need another dose of brain care.

In practical terms very little actually changed today.  The lump they took off my leg was still melanoma, I still have to wait for the PET scan to find out if it is more widespread and the prospect of living to be a sexagenarian (not as much fun as it sounds, I suspect) still seems more distant than ever.  However, enough time has passed, enough demons have been exorcised and enough mind-work has been done that I appear to be on an even keel once more.  Listing a little to port, perhaps.



  1. Hi Bob … When I am stressed I don’t handle it any better than you do … likely a whole lot worse. I got stressed, anxious and depressed over a supervisor who bullied me which is nothing compared to melanoma. Whatever the results of the scan it will likely help to reduce anxiety. Anxiety creeps in most quickly with uncertainty. When you have something concrete, and then take positive action to eliminate it, that will feel better. Nothing quite as bad as waiting for the sky to fall. I keep on praying for you and for a full cure.

  2. I was so relieved to know that the lung CT scan was normal! Things are sounding positive at this point.

    And no wonder you were feeling anxious: who wouldn’t?! I am pleased that you have a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about mindfulness issues.

    You have a big fan club rooting for you out here in cyberspace. Healing vibes coming your way…..

  3. Goat cheese with anything ist vundebar. IGA had bagel chips in various favours (sea salt – my fav), and I do like it warmed up over salad with crunchy bits. June is a gluten free month for me, so I’ll see if that helps. Thinking aboutcha!! Still building on the garage. So much to do, so little time & money & now inspections. I get nervous about these guys. Looks like I may have to get someone to do the stucco. Time’s running out. I really want to start building a dory!! By fall at latest. See you at World Con!!

  4. […] I got a call from Mr. P.T who is the guy I met a couple of weeks back after a visit to the oncologist.  He was kind enough to relate some of his own history with melanoma.  It started as a mole […]

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