My religious attitude towards regular updates of my blog has been cast aside. You’ll have to take my word for it that I continue to punish myself physically and psychologically through running.
Today I wanted to take a bit of your time to tell a story. About a year ago, while giving me a massage, my girlfriend discovered a rather large lump in my upper right back. It was right underneath a tattoo I’d had done about a year prior to that. Here’s my tattoo. It’s awesome. Bonus points if you can identify the image in the comments field.
Anyway, so the lump was a bit disturbing, because it was about the size of a baseball. On the bright side, when I moved my shoulder blade, it would make my tattoo move, so I had a neat new parlour trick.
I went to a walk-in clinic, because really, who the hell has a family doctor anymore (btw, if anyone can refer me to a GP who is taking patients in Burnaby or Vancouver, I’d be much obliged…). Walk-in clinic doctor advised me that it was really no big deal, just leave it. I said I’d kind of like to get a better answer than that, and was able to persuade her that I should be referred for an ultrasound.
The ultrasound technician said I had a Lipoma, basically a mass of fatty cells that just randomly shows up in certain people, and while it may not be aesthetically pleasing, is not really a big deal. I went back to the clinic. Lo and behold the doctor who saw me last was no longer at the clinic, so I saw a different doctor. Again, the story was, no biggie, it’s a lipoma, just deal buddy. I advised the doctor that I really didn’t want to have a giant lump on my back, and I’d like a referral to a plastic surgeon to see about having it removed. While I was told I’d probably have to pay for it out of my pocket, I was given the referral.
I’ll keep a long story short by saying it took about 3 FUCKING MONTHS before I finally got in to see the surgeon. He immediately said “I don’t mean to alarm you, but we should really make sure that’s not cancer” and advised me that my state sponsored health care coverage would certainly cover me for having a lump of that size removed. You know, just in case it turned out to be cancer, or became cancer, or that sort of thing.
Again, to keep a long story short, it took about 3 FUCKING MORE MONTHS before I finally got the MRI scheduled. Apparently these cancer doctors run a pretty tight ship because between finally being in touch with their office and getting the MRI, it was about a week or two, and I saw the doctor another week or so after that.
Now, to digress, the biggest concern I expressed to anyone to this point in the story was that having the lump removed was going to bugger up my tattoo. It may be the case that I was slightly understating my concern about my health.
So I go see the cancer doctor, MRI results in hand. First thing he says after I take off my shirt is “Iron Maiden fan?” “Yes, yes sir I am,” I replied. Then he tells me that I have a well differentiated liposarcoma. He told me that I should definitely have it removed. He said it might take a while, but that I should really be quite happy that I am not at the top of the surgery priority list.
Of course I made a point of asking him if we could do this without wrecking the tattoo, and he said he was pretty confident he could find a way.
I mistakenly understood my diagnosis to be “not cancer”, but digging around on the internet, turns out it actually is cancer, just a form that hasn’t metastasized and is unlikely to.
I scheduled my surgery for July 13. That would be Friday the 13th of July. Go figure, there were some available spots for surgery that day. I should mention here that Friday the 13th is actually kind of a lucky day for me. It’s the day my marriage ended, and the day I was called to the bar. I was thrilled to continue this lucky streak of Fridays the 13th.
In the weeks leading up to the surgery I made a conscious decision to push myself with some interval training. I set new PRs for Hill 1 and Track A. My theory was that if I could build up some muscle mass before I had to spend a week or so lying around doing not much of anything, my increased metabolism would keep my weight under control.
So I had the surgery a week ago. Before I went under, the cancer doctor told me that he was going to look at the tumour after it was removed, and if it was entirely benign he wouldn’t need to see me again, but otherwise I should schedule an appointment to come back and see him.
Then they knocked me out, I woke up about an hour and a half later, and I went home.
So on tuesday I phoned the cancer doctor to see whether he wanted to see me again. I can happily announce that he has no further interest in me.
I’m recovering quite well. Since the doctor cut through a bunch of muscles in my back and sewed them back together again, I’m a little sore, but nothing that I can’t manage with an occasional painkiller or 5. My range of motion is coming back nicely.
Today I went for my first run since the surgery. A little under 4.5k. It went pretty well, probably on account of my taking it very easy. Perhaps by coincidence, or perhaps by design, my weight hasn’t really fluctuated much during the week I’ve spent laying around feeling sorry for myself, eating junk food, and playing video games. in fact, I’m a couple pounds closer to my target of 225lbs, perhaps on account of having the lump of fat cut out of my back?
Anyway, if you were waiting to the end of this story for some moral about how great it is to be alive, or how this series of events has changed my perspective on life, I have very little to offer you. All I will say is that spending the last year with the niggling threat of a life threatening disease always in the back of my mind has probably been a lot more stressful than I’ve let on to anyone, even those closest to me. Being able to let that go finally is a relief of the highest order.
What I do have to offer is the wonderful news that my tattoo has survived without a mark. I’ll post some pictures once the bandages have come off.
Oh, and one last thing, while I still fucking hate running, I’m pretty fucking happy that I’m healthy enough to do it.