Terrifying Diagnosis

Last winter, about this time, I had a bit of pneumonia. Docs did some scans and X-Rays, gave me antibiotics and all went well. But they kept seeing something here and there that troubled them, and kept calling me back for more tests over the last year. More X-Rays. CT scan. Then another CT scan. Then on a recent Thursday I had a PET Scan, which was supposed to confirm all was good. Okay, maybe I am finally all right and we can forget all this. Right?

The docs were mostly concerned, I am sure, for two reasons. One, because I have a serious asthma issue of some forty years or so now (though pretty much gone since I gave up eating wheat). And, two, I had a sudden surgery and lost a lung a while back. So the docs are correct in being careful and cautious. Sure.

Then we got the call Friday, the day after the PET Scan. Something is definitely there in the one remaining lung. A spot in the lung. Could be anything. Could be malignant. We don’t know, we don’t know…

What?? No…

Going to have to go to Cincinnati for a consultation with docs there, larger facility, better equipment, specialists… Very likely going to need a bronchoscopy and a biopsy, put an instrument down the throat into the lung and cut out a chunk for analysis. Tricky. Got to be careful. Could be fatal.

No… Aw, man, no…

So for a long, long week that was on my mind like nothing else since the big surgery crisis when they could not remove the lump in my left lung and had to take the whole thing. After that surgery it was days and days of unbelievable pain and waiting in the hospital. Then weeks at home, feeble and pathetic. Just waiting for it to all be over. Three months of recuperation, but really it took a good year to feel like myself again.

I do not wish that on anybody, anywhere.

Friday, when the call came about the spot on my lung, my wife Diane listened to the phone call with me. I hung up and could see myself in the mirror next to her — we both looked ashen and shaken. But it was more than shock for me. I was furious.

I have never been so mad in my life. Not once. And I have been divorced. AND drafted.

It wasn’t enough that she’s fighting multiple sclerosis. The worst type of MS, in a power wheelchair every waking moment. No. It wasn’t enough that she had to go through breast cancer and the surgery and the chemo. No. Not enough. It wasn’t enough that for almost forty years I had to have asthma so severe at times I could not walk to the door of an Emergency Room. Not enough that I had to lose a lung. No. Now we had to face this…

What? Cancer? Lung cancer?  A horrifying diagnosis…

Yeah. I was pretty worked up for a day or two. Tried to be cool around Diane, she has enough to worry about. Keep the hysterics to myself on my own time. Be cool. Be cool.

So — what? Let’s pray about it. Right. Ask that it be nothing. No problem. The doc will look at the tests and say, “Hey, just go home , Mr. Porter, You Are Fine!” Right. Ask for that. Sure.

So I did. I asked for exactly that. Over and over. Walking the exercise track, doing my daily mile in the mornings, doing my pushups, I pictured that scenario. Feel it, baby, picture that doc in a white lab coat, saying exactly that. Yeah.

Because the possibilities are terrifying. Cancer? They would have to take a big piece out, obviously. I can NOT lose any more breathing function. And Diane needs me, needs me to stay strong and healthy enough to lift her about twenty times a day. And she can not work, either, and we still have to make a living. Somehow. Walking the track. Be cool, be cool. “Just go home, Mr. Porter, You Are Fine!” Right. Right.

When I would think that, the rational mind would shout back, “NO! You’re asking too much! That will NEVER happen. There IS a problem or we would not be seeing the doc at all.” Gradually I managed to shut that guy up and push him away. Be cool, be cool. Picture the doc, “You’re fine, Mr. Porter!”

My appointment with the Cincinnati doc was set for Friday, seven days after the phone call. 

On that Wednesday Diane had a class at University of Dayton, so a friend drove her (in our van) to class and I drove the PT Cruiser to Indiana to draw caricatures for a couple of hours with my old pal John Bailey at Indiana University East. Diane and I have been together so much the last few months it felt both odd and refreshing to take that little outing on my own. Lots of thinking, planning, considering options. What if they say this? What if they say that? What then? What could we do?

I did not get a lot of work done in that week. Just that gig at the college and a few minor projects in our little home office. Mostly I worried.

Finally the big day arrived. We got up early, took in no coffee, no food, no liquids. That was to help manage her bathroom stops (she has to do that a lot; I support her when I can). Then we drove to Cincinnati. Lots of snow, ice, traffic and traffic jams. Traffic locked up tight, stuck in a snowstorm on the Interstate. Called the doctor’s office. No problem, we were told, the doc is stuck in that same traffic mess where you are. Okay. Okay, Be cool. Be cool. “You’re fine, Mr. Porter, go home.” Right.

Met the doc, good man. Called up my scans on his computer, took a good look. Looked again. Looked closer. Looked worried. Looked at me. Blinked, stood up. Said he would consult with his team. Left.

We waited. And waited. And waited. That worried me. I was hoping for a quick resolution, a Go Home order. This was not good. More than an hour. Waiting. This was not good. Must be something. Must be discussing things in depth. Calling other experts? Waiting.

Talked to the nurse. Or Physician’s Assistant. Nice young woman. Told us about a big Beatles thing in Louisville, Abbey Road on The River. Gonna look into that, oughta be fun. Sure.

Waiting. As always Diane was way cool, and fun, lots of laughs. Waiting. Still waiting. She looked over at me, just adorable, that asymmetrical-cut red hair falling over her right eye, those luscious green eyes above a jaunty, ever-optimistic Irish smile. Always happy, always in a great mood. What would happen to her if I could not help her? What would she do?

Finally the doc came back. Looked me in the eye, took in a deep breath. Told us it looks like basic scar tissue, healing itself, no problem.

Really?? REALLY???

No tests, no nothing. Followup scan in six months to be sure.

WOW!! I could not believe it. Fantastic! I felt like I was walking on a cloud out to our van and then zooming back towards Dayton.

Diane and I celebrated with an extensive lunch/breakfast at Bravo, salads and soup and pastas. Excellent. (Gluten-free of course!)

I feel like I just got out of prison — and won the lottery on the same day, I told her. She just gave me that radiant Irish smile yet again. Fabulous girl. I am so glad to be with her. And grateful, very grateful for getting some tremendously good news for us both.


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