A while back I wrote that I was having problems writing because I had too much on my mind and that Mark Manson‘s advise – to create meaning based upon current needs and their urgency to be fulfilled – was not really working for me at the time. As I hinted, there was really too much going on at that moment in time and I had one big need with a maximum urgency level. A need that I could not write about, simply because I needed all my mental strength to face what was about to happen. Four days after I wrote that short post – one can hardly call it an article – I was supposed to undergo a complex operation in the hospital at Cascais. Because of the nature of the surgery as well as the reason for it, I refused to let any form of fear set its teeth in me. This was literally about survival, so writing was not really a priority. The article about Talenthouse I published in July was something that I could have written in twenty minutes, but took me weeks to hammer into a reasonable piece of text. My mind was elsewhere. It still is at times…
What had happened? Well, in September 2016 I walk to the Centro de Saúde to get a fit-to-drive-declaration from the doctor in order to renew my driver’s licence. As we all know, that is a farce and within five minutes I have what I came for and as I’m ready to leave the doctor’s office I ask him to take a quick look at a lump that has been steadily developing at the side of my neck. Xana had been worrying about it longer than I, but by then it started to really annoy me and – deep inside – I knew it was not good. It wasn’t there, so it shouldn’t be there. A quick look is all the doctor needs to confirm my thoughts. “Não está bom!” he says and picks a form, fills it out and with a serious frown tells me to go get a CT scan as soon as possible.
And so it begins; CT scan at one place, X-Ray at another, MRI at yet another location and at the hospital’s department with the fantastic name otorrinolaringologia a friendly lady puts a needle into the bulb to take a sample of it and of course my blood gets analyzed. A laryngoscopy is also part of the circus in this phase. To be completely sure they perform a small surgery to take several samples of the tissue at the back and base of my tongue. At last the doctors confirm; there is a fast and aggressively growing tumor at the base of my tongue and the lump in my neck is one of several metastases developing in the lymphatic system.
Luckily, the doctors have a plan of which they are positive that it will eradicate the problems. It consists of major surgery, followed by chemo-/radiotherapy. They tell me to prepare myself for a painful journey, both physically and mentally and to focus on healing, family, friends, fun and keep taking those walks to keep my body in shape. Some weeks later I receive a message that I got scheduled for surgery in april.
So, I follow the advice. I take long walks, spend a lot of time with my loved ones and put a lot of effort into preparing my body for the journey that I’m about undertake. No more meat, milk, cheese, alcohol and a cut back on everything that contains sugar. I really don’t want to feed the monster.
Some of you are probably wondering why I did not tell you. The answer to that question is both simple and complex: suddenly, I had a lot on my mind. From planning online banking transactions to buying pyjamas and creating the ‘what if don’t wake up after surgery electronic envelope’ to be sent to a close friend, to dealing with the news and creating the perfect mindset to go through the process. Of course I asked myself which friends I wanted to tell the news and I came up with a number close to zero.
What purpose would it serve to create fear or even panic in the hearts and minds of people that truly cared about me? And what would happen if I called a friend that hadn’t heard from me in months? Let’s face it: in this age of facebook and virtual friendships, it’s sometimes not easy to figure out who are our real friends. Some I haven’t heard of in years, should I call them or send them a message? Should I tweet a photo of my wrist with the colourful hospital tag when the time has come or write a status update on Facebook? Was I that desperate for attention? Hell no!
I decided to go through the process and deal with spreading the news in a way that I’d figure out step by step afterwards. If you think that decision was wrong, so be it. You are free to call me and can tell me if and when you want to, it will not change the facts. A few weeks ago I spoke with a friend on the phone and he said that yes, he would have wanted to know, but also understood and respected my decision because, after all, it was my life and I had to deal with it the way I felt was necessary. He decided to just be glad that I am still around.
Anyway, by the time the day for surgery arrived, a handful of friends knew about `the situation´ and I am truly grateful for the support we received from them. As it turned out, for me it was extremely important to know that Xana had the support she needed and that they truly believed that I could get through this. If there is one thing that I needed was positive energy, rather than fear. I was not afraid. Seriously, from the moment I received the news I have been able to keep fear out of the equation. Fear is something that we create ourselves and it has nothing good to offer when we have to go through a life altering challenge such as beating a tumor.
Where are we now?
It seems a good idea to not get too much into the details of the past months. I’ve been told the operation took about ten hours and I’ve got some scars to prove it and the pain is still not completely gone. Considering the statistics it is safe to assume that everybody knows that chemo- and radiotherapy leave their marks also, most of which are temporary, so I don’t have to go into the details.
Yesterday, november 20, one of the doctors who operated on me checked my throat and it was a pleasure to here him say that he saw what he had expected: no signs of disease. Next friday I will go for a PET scan to confirm the therapies were successful and tomorrow I will be having one of my regular blood analyses that are used to monitor the thyroid function, iron level and whatnot.
Mentally I am pretty much OK, physically I am recovering. I need a lot of sleep, am in the process of slowly gaining weight, my hair is almost completely back in nearly every location. I eat lots of soft material – chewing a steak is out of the question – and just the other day I tasted my first glass wine which burned like hell on my tongue but did wonders for my damaged saliva production.
Other than that you could say that I am recalibrating the different person I am changing into.
Where are we going?
When asked why he was writing a good friend of mine once said that he wrote in order to keep his sanity, but that it really only makes sense if he wrote about stuff that matters. He was probably right about that. What is the value of a text when there is no connection to some underlying meaning? I want to write more and yes, it has to be about stuff that matters. And what I went through definitely does matter. So, rather than connecting to everybody I more or less know and drop the bomb I decided to write this article. I feel there is more to come. I don’t really know where it will lead my blog, but it sure will be interesting to find that out.