Joan and I were waiting in Kaiser’s surgical admittance by 6:45am yesterday. I was finally admitted around 9am, then wheeled into the O.R. around 11am. My team consisted of Dr. Garabedian, my pulmonologist; a youngish doctor on fellowship; and two kind and humorous nurses, Dee and Ana. First, I was given more forms of lidocaine than I knew existed (a mist I inhaled; a gel they pushed up my nostrils with a syringe; a cinnamony-burny liquid they squirted in the back of my throat; and finally; 4% lydocaine solution Dr. Garabedian swabbed my gullet with). Next, the younger doctor started trying to push the 1/4″ thick, scope-tipped tube down my left nostril.
This is what I learned:
- No way you’re gonna shove a 1/4″ tube up any nasal passage of mine while I’m conscious…and live through it.
- My gag reflex works quite well…and my pulmonologist is remarkably agile.
- If I didn’t have vocal chords, perhaps they could have done the procedure without anesthesia…but I DO have vocal chords.
So, they ended up sedating me, after all. I was still awake, but the tube they finally threaded down my throat, larynx, trachea, then bronchus, no longer bothered me…much. AND, once they arrived at the bronchus, guess what? They kept right on probing, as the airway is no longer blocked by a big, ugly lesion. They even took pictures, to prove it. Yes, there is still a tumor in my right middle lobe. But, my radiation oncologist confirmed this morning that there seems to be no sign of disease within the bronchus itself. That was not the case when they took a look on November 26th, the day I was diagnosed with lung cancer.
When Dr. Garabedian hazarded there seems to be a 60-70% reduction in the size of the tumor, I was afraid to believe him. Dr. Garabedian is a wonderful doctor; but he seems to be an optimist. Optimism should be a welcome trait in a doctor treating one for cancer. Unfortunately, I was afraid to even hope that he was right. I waited until Dr. Goy seconded the opinion this morning before I allowed myself to truly feel like celebrating.
I believe that I’m an optimist, as well. However, I also pride myself on being a realist, if a somewhat romantic realist. Since I was diagnosed, I have been afraid to count on: tumors shrinking to nothing, an NED diagnosis, a full return to health…ever. Outwardly, I’ve been positive; inside, I’m from the “show me” state. This is probably directly related to my need to be right all of the time. If I were to embrace the idea of “licking cancer,” as my friends claim to believe I am capable of, what happens when the disease takes a turn for the worse? That would leave me not only wrong, but someone to be pitied. I know how silly this sounds, particularly for someone who usually views all her glasses as half-full. Yet, fear of ending up as not only a dead cancer victim, but a foolishly optimistic dead cancer victim has kept me from hoping for too much of anything. Instead, I follow doctor’s orders, enjoy every minute I can; trying neither to worry…nor to get my hopes up.
In an effort to change my less-than-optimistic internal outlook, I’ll pretend that Remission is some elusive hottie I’m pursuing (since I have never been afraid to pursue a romantic interest in my life), and stop worrying about whether or not said hottie will ever move in with me permanently. The thrill of the chase has always been a huge motivator; now it’ll be stimulated by more than just pheromones and astrology. And, if Ms. Remission eludes me, as the occasional hottie has managed to do, I won’t feel stupid. Who could be ashamed of pursuing such a one, as fickle as she might sometimes be?