IF YOU KNEW THAT YOU WERE GOING TO CROAK

I have seen the movies, a la Morgan Freeman and his bucket list and D.O.A. where a detective has been poisoned and has only three days to solve his own crime death. I had never thought of any of those things because I was not going to the near beyond any time soon. Even in my dotage, I could not really conceive of casting off this mortal pale. Although I have already outlived my father by 40 years, I still have some fire in my belly for some beloved activities and no plans to settle any old scores.

However, a month ago I went to see my dermatologist. I have been going to these skin folks for about 20 years. Right, I did not wear a hat as a kid and I am paying for it. This was different. The doctor looked at a part of my head and said, “We better take that off, not freeze it.” Now I have had things removed before, some large sections of my head or throat. This was a really different set of circumstances.

The doctor had a quick pathology done in a few days and called me to tell me that she was making an appointment at Hershey Medical Center for me to have a doctor there take a look at my head and my pathology. The person at Hershey told me that I was the 47th person in the U.S. that had this kind of cancer in the past 20 years. It was called lympho epithelial like carsanoma (spelling doesn’t count). I was to come back in a week and I would have the top of my head excavated and have the bad stuff all removed. Or so I thought.

I came back and did the usual thing before and operation. I undressed, for some reason, put on one of those strange smocks and lay down on a gurney bed. Carol was with me all of the time. I was prodded and poked and made to wait six hours before the doctor was ready for me. Actually, the six hour wait was a boon to my back. I was sitting up in a position that allowed the muscles to relax. That’s called looking through rose colored glasses.

Once in the operating room, I was asked to count to five, while a mask was put over my nose and mouth. I remember nothing else. I got up about three hours later. I was feeling fine. However there was a cone on my head that had strange looking gauze attached by black thread to my head. They had also grafted some of my loose neck skin (I still have some extra) and placed it in strips on the open wound. I was then told by the doctor that I would have to wait about ten days to find out if my “stuff” had metastasized to any other part of my body. That was the zenith of my emotional eruption. How was I going to react to what might be a death sentence, or, at least, months of chemo and radiation treatment?

As the week wore on, I began to make plans for what would happen if I was given negative news. I announced to Carol that we would be jumping into our van and traveling across the U.S. for the following six months. I had also decided that I was not a good candidate for either of those treatments. As I said, I was already 40 years past my father’s age, when he passed away. I have led a full life, have great children and grandchildren and a wonderful wife. I would leave with a smile on my face and “There Goes my Baby,” in my heart.

I think Carol was aghast. “How can you say that?” Hey, it’s my choice, and I really do want to do the trip that we just missed (for only 30 days). My appointment with the doctor was last Friday. It was a quick wait to go in- the usual weigh-in, blood pressure and temperature. She came in with a smile on her face, one intern to the left and a resident to the right. She told me that I was o.k. and that nothing had spread. She excised all of the stitches and sent me and Carol on our way.

There is no conclusion here- just something to think about. I now know something about myself that I did not know before.

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