This six letter word strikes terror in the minds of most people. Most people see it as another word for DEATH. At least that was in my mind when I was diagnosed with this dreaded killer.
The first sign I had a problem was a sore on my right ear that did not seem to want to heal. I knew failure to heal was an indication of possible cancer but I convinced myself it was not healing because I was not treating it right; denial. The real trigger was a lump on the right side of my throat. My doctor said it was “nothing” but I knew the lump was there and should not be there.
I went to Silliman Medical Center and stopped a doctor in the hall and asked him to authorize a sonogram of my neck. The sonogram revealed a swollen lymph node. I stopped another doctor and got permission for a CBC (blood test). I figured if there was a swollen lymph node I must have an infection and my white cell count would be high. My white cell count was normal ??? Time to see a specialist.
After an ENT doctor completed his exam I was diagnosed with cancer in my right ear and left lymph node. A new question arose. Why the left lymph node; why not the right lymph node? I requested a CT scan and discovered a huge tumor in my throat. I had no pain, no clue; stage four cancer. It was time for action.
Now the Philippines has world class medical facilities; excellent doctors but they are expensive and after 30 years serving my country, I had earned free medical care. So I flew to Florida and walked into the VA hospital ER at 8 PM. I wont go into the details of the ordeal, but two months later I walked out of that hospital in remission. I lost 100 pounds, lost my teeth, had a feeding tube and was a whole lot uglier, BUT I WAS ALIVE.
It has been six years and cancer has not got me yet.
So what is my message with this column. First, cancer is not necessarily a killer. It can be treated. It can be stopped. Second, there are good doctors and there are bad doctors but YOU are the first line of defense against death. Keep asking questions until you are satisfied with the answers. Be an active member of your “anti-death” medical team. Finally never stop fighting. The unofficial motto of the Green Berets is “Run until you drop; crawl until you pass out; NEVER GIVE UP !”
I , like everyone, will eventually die. If you visit my grave you will find deep scratches in the ground where I tried to stay out of that grave. I will NOT go quietly into that good night….. and neither should you.