Today, while in the middle of teaching my evening class at ACC, I got the phone call Cheryl and I (and more than a few of you) have been waiting for! The lab results are in and all tests came up cancer free! Hurray! And, thanks to God for this good news!
The biopsies they did both came back negative for cancer. My Lymph Node test was the most important, since if cancer starts up there, it can move anywhere in your body. That area has shown up as "hot" before, so we were all pretty confident that this was just another round of false indications. That was the case.
My nose sore ended up being a "hyper-active ulcer" that is having a really hard time healing in that radiation zone. Just what Dr. Scholl suspected. His ointment treatment is actually starting to work, and the area is healing. Except for the place where they cut out tissue for the biopsy. That part is still looking bad, but getting better. (Isn't it ironic that the tests you do to see if you have cancer can end up being more dangerous than the cancer itself? Oh well, that is the price we pay in this battle.)
So, it was all good news! Still, there is nothing yet to really tell us how things will go. I will go through this same process in another three months, and have the same wait for results yet again. As Doctor Scholl noted when I saw him right after this last surgery: "We have been here before!"
You might not be aware of this, but we all have cancer. According to my doctor, there are cancer cells in all of us, but our immune system stomps the rogue cells down in most folks. Only when those cells get ahead of your immune system and have a chance to grow do we say that you have cancer for real.
Dr. Scholl fought with my second cancer a year ago, and got everything he could see under a microscope, and then went into the tissue around where he could not see anything and removed a bit more in the hopes that he got everything. I went through the second full round of radiation to zap the area around where that tumor had been, again hoping that we were killing off any other cells powerful enough to overcome my immune system. In the end, none of those things worked they way we all hoped, and I got to experience my third battle with cancer. We all know the results of that.
Do not get me wrong! I am very grateful to all of my doctors, and to all of my supporters for helping me win this battle - so far!
The Battle Continues
The battle must still continue. You are never really cured, having entered this great fight. The experience changes you in fundamental ways. Some folks cave in and spend all of their time fearing death. Others gather up their inner strength, and face cancer head on. I hope I am in that second category, I am sure trying to be.
But being in this battle changes how you react to this kind of good news. Good news, while great to hear, still leaves you with a "Yes, but..." thought in the back of your mind. So I heard the message, was relieved with what I heard, and immediately called Cheryl to tell her. I walked back into my classroom and told the students the results.
They started clapping! I almost cried!
Just before my class, I went to the Audiologist in Dr. Scholls's clinic to get hearing aides. My $15 hunter's amplifier, bought at Cabelas here in Austin, did help me hear better in my left ear, but the sound was very tinny, and not very pleasant to listen to. So I stopped wearing that gadget. Dr. Scholl finally decided that getting real hearing aides would help me, especially when I am teaching and need to hear better. So instead of a $15 one-ear device, I now own a pair of aides that set me (well, the insurance system) back $3600. Yikes, they better work great for that.
Getting fitted was interesting. They put the devices in your ear, then listen to the echoes of sound moving inside your head to adjust settings. I asked if there was "an app for that" only to discover that the smart phone industry is still working on that.
So, I have two devices, each one drapes around your ear so the electronics part is behind your ear, out of sight, and a small, nearly invisible tube extends into the ear canal where a rubber cone holds things in place. (Actually, there is a thing plastic tube you wrap inside your ear to help as well. Weird!) There are volume adjustments on each shell. A button on one side moves the volume up on both devices, and on the other side moves it down. Amazing gadgets. They talk to each other, using what? Radio!, Well that could be, but they also might use sound traveling through your head. Both technologies can work, and, knowing me, I will have to find out exactly how they do this.
I saw a great quote a few days ago, which I failed to write down. It went something like this:
The most exciting times in a scientist's life are those when you encounter something you do not understand!
That explains a lot about why I do they things I do, and study the things I study. I have a lot to understand, about a lot of stuff!
Cheryl and I made reservations to fly back to Falls Church, Virginia the first weekend in October, to attend my 50th High School Reunion. We were holding off doing that until the test results came in. I get to hang out with old friends, some of whom I have not seen in that long. Judy Ingalls Hughes, who has been running the reunion web site, and who stuck a link to my blog up for all to see, is on my list for a big hug (and Cheryl's as well!). Thanks, Judy! I will also be thanking a bunch of other classmates who have followed my adventure for quite a while.
Other than that, things are settling down to "normal". I am back into the daily work of helping my students get ready for their life adventures. Hopefully, cancer will not be part of that!
I have also volunteered to be a Judge in the Capital Area Best Robotics Competition, an event that brings hundreds of middle and high school students together to learn about computers, robotics, science and (ugh) that math stuff. I did this last year (before this latest adventure with cancer) and had a great time. The students put together some amazing machines.
When I got home this evening, Cheryl told me that she had sent an email out with my good news, and had spent the entire rest of the evening answering phone calls, text messages, and more emails from folks who had been waiting as well. That kind of thing humbles you. It is very easy to pull back inside yourself, and focus on your personal battle in a private way. But doing so can leave you missing the simple fact that your fight affects a large number of other folks, some of whome you may not even know. It still amazes me when I hear from someone "out there on the Internet" who is reading this blog to help them through things.
Both Cheryl and I will never be able to thank all of you who read this blog enough. We will keep trying, though. We both hope this blog helps you cope with your adventures, if you, or someone you care about, are unlucky enough to join us in the fight against cancer.