July 11, 2013

Worst Case Scenario

He finally decided to quit when he thought he might have The Cancer. Up to that point, up to the day the doctor told him that he would need to have a procedure to check his bladder for tumors, he still felt invincible. Like a cocky nineteen year old, "It can't happen to me." The Cancer, he thought, is for other people. The unlucky ones. The ones shackled by age and mortality. The ones ready to face the possibility of peeing in a bag for the rest of their lives. Flaccid and old and done by forty.

Yup, the he is me. Feels weird to be writing this post, (not sure where the line is for too much information) but when you share everything online, it feels dishonest not to share moments like these. The ones that are difficult and painful and confusing. The moments that are so painfully human and lonely, that you hope maybe someone out there is at least thinking of you as they read along. There is a lot I am going through, with the fear and stress and confusion, so I need to go to where I know how to deal with life: My words. This blog. You. Whoever you may be at this point. So bear with me, as I deal with this latest episode.

The medical stuff is easy: blood in the urine (haematuria) led to several tests and doctor's appointments starting on the last day of school. CT scans, several blood and urine tests and follow-ups with the kidney doctor (Nephrologist) later, and I ended up at the urologist with the worst case scenario of bladder cancer. The big C can be scary and a mere two minutes of Internet research can leave the most optimistic person grim and dower. A future of pain and disease could easily cloud any possibility of hope. As I researched the wort case scenario, I was busy making staunch promises to myself, "I will never have my bladder removed! No matter what!" I constructed a future where I would be unable to take my shirt off, or scuba dive, or swim in the pool with my kids. I saw myself in a way I had never seen myself before- old. Damaged. I did not like what I saw.

This was my reality yesterday at  9:00 am: I checked into the hospital (I have never been admitted to a hospital for any reason) for a routine cystoscopy. I was put under general anesthesia, meaning I was unconscious for the first time in my life. The doctor looked inside my bladder for the source of the blood in my urine. It was not pleasant.

It WAS NOT The Cancer. There were no tumors, no signs of tumors and worst case scenario averted. Before the procedure I was faced with some life changing, eye-opening thoughts. The point, I guess I am trying to make is that the ambiguity, the possibility of long term physical deterioration, the acceptance of my own mortality and realization that I am no longer young and invincible and lucky was is terrifying. Even while knowing that I am in the clear this time, leaves me to understand that as I get older the odds of being in the clear will diminish. This is the nature of aging. A reality I am not sure I am ready to accept.

The acceptance that our bodies will not always be machines we can take for granted is an extremely sobering phenomenon. I guess I have always thought that my body would make it to the finish line intact. Now, I see that a simple vein or tube in my kidney is wreaking havoc on so many other parts of my body.

Don't get me wrong. I am not and have never been afraid of death. I could die tomorrow and be fine. I have always in a sick way longed for death. And if I do ever have cancer and it is terrible and would force me to suffer pain and humiliation, I would have no problem just pushing the accelerator to super speed and ending it with a bang. If I was single and alone and without a family it would be so easy.

The family is where my fear really grows. I do not care enough about my own life to waste my time worrying about death, but the idea of my wife and girls having to live without me feels incredibly unfair. And what is worse, is that I would never get to see them grow up. I would not know them as adults, or watch them become who they are meant to be. The thoughts of a family separated by death and disease can send anyone into some dark places.

I've had so many thoughts running through my head for the last few days and I have felt the need to document some of those thoughts here, but now, just after the procedure it all feels unnecessary. I do not have any epiphanies or words of wisdom. All I know is that I had a close call with some pretty dark stuff and it made me realize that I need to treat my body with more love and care, if I hope to ride it into old age.

Here is a poem, I was working on right before I went into the procedure:

the room is silent expect for the hum
of the built in ceiling machinery
the conditioner necessary for keeping
the temperature cordial

beyond the curtain
the minimal whispers
of a television show,
mumbling incessantly--
a low grade entertainment
coaxing along the minutes
into hours.

a lifetime of dull distractions
diluted despair
in such contrast with the light
bright and forceful
each ray like a drop
condensing onto the floor
points, to lines, to planes
an algebra of shadows and shaft

Not sure where I was going with that, but I liked the line about the algebra of shadows. It was bright and peaceful in that room, I felt optimistic and terrified. Perhaps the poem was just a life raft to get me thought the morning.

Right now I am in the hospital alone. It is quiet and peaceful. The girls and my wife having just come and gone. The pain is minimal, the diagnosis vague but non-threatening. I have had an Urteric Stent placed in my kidney for a few weeks, at which time I need to come back and see if they can find the source of the bleeding. They say it is nothing dangerous and now we are just following up, but who knows what they will say in a few weeks.

This is not the end of this story, but it is the end of the scary Big C part. I have survived the worse case scenario.  But I have had a taste of the worst case scenario terror and believe me, it is enough. Although I have been sober for eight years, given up meat and dairy, I still occasionally dapple with the "social" smoking. Not any more. I am done with it, once and for all. There is nothing like lying awake at night and watching your life play out in the worst case scenario. Sometimes we are lucky and we get just close enough to take a peak. This glimpse will hopefully allow us to make some serious life changes.

My advice. My words of wisdom. Don't wait to get the bad news or get close enough to be scared. Make the changes you know you should make now. There is too much life left to enjoy. There is no time to waste. 


  1. Jabiz! Wtf! Words of wisdom! Try to stay away from the Internet to look up the worst case scenario. Even if you weren't necessarily looking for it, you will find it! And subconsciously self diagnose! It can turn the sanest, most rational person mad. I am relieved to hear that the worst is over though but sad that you have been in a lot of pain.

    And the big C? It's messed up but also really powerful. Even just the thought or possibility of it can shake the strongest people to the core. The proverbial wake up call. And yup, it's not your time. You still have so much creating to do. I know you won't miss the point because you are paying attention.

    Was going to send this to you yesterday after a friend shared it through her blog. Wasn't sure why. Now I know. The Time You Have http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOksW_NabEk via @zefrank

  2. Damn, for the good news and what is not yet known.

    Live long and prosper, my friend! Please!