"My father is fighting cancer." Nope. Sounds too much like a back alley brawl, and this is a much bigger deal than that. "My father is battling cancer." Closer to how he, the Marine, looks at this. Given the great chunks of medical machinery being brought to bear on his illness, "battle" does seem more descriptive than "fight". So, my father has become a foot soldier in humanity's on-going war with cancer, the one in the trenches, dealing with the crap rations, the foot rot, and the deafening machines of war. We, Mom and my sisters (but mostly our Mom) and you, his many extended family and friends, are a close and motivated troop; his support staff, providing love and support, and eagerly and nervously awaiting news from the front.
While speaking of his support staff, I’d also like to mention both Dr. Simms (the oncologist) and Dr. McKee (the surgeon), his doctors with great bedside manner. I’ve watched them communicate with my parents and me and explain what was wrong, what we might do about it. They inspire confidence and hope, which is a very important part of the Dr./patient and family relationship — to convey a sense of, 'I'm here on your behalf to try to make things better' — and are both very approachable people. I imagine that's one of the challenges of medicine, especially when you're caring for patients with terrible diseases. In my experience, some doctors are more naturally empathetic, and others are more distant. I would guess that there is also the protective mechanism, a tendency to sometimes keep a distance from the patient because it's emotionally difficult to have so many patients die. A cancer diagnosis is a real defining moment in people's lives. Most of us don't think about our mortality, but when diagnosed with cancer, you are thinking about it. When you think about it, you meet your oncologist and surgeon for the first time, talk with each for maybe a half hour to an hour, undergo some tests, and then agree to go through an operation that is life threatening. That is a remarkable trust the patient and family puts in a doctor. In a profession that many of us feel is eroding, with medicine turning increasingly into a business enterprise, consisting of insurance plans and profit margins and that often times is advertised like a car dealership, with signs advertising liposuction, breast implants and other optional treatment, they are both attributes to the medical profession. We have respect for these men.
So now, to the moment you’ve all been waiting for…..Nels’ surgery Thursday went very well. Took about 3 hours, he went into recovery without the need for oxygen, and within 1-2 hrs was in ICU, hooked up to a lot of monitoring equipment, but quite alert and doing well. While in surgery to remove the growth, they took lymph node samplings around the lung area, which will be tested to determine whether radiation and/or chemotherapy will be required in the future. These results should be known sometime later next week. I visited him again late Friday afternoon, still in ICU, and he was sitting in a recliner telling many stories to his very attentive primary nurse Kristin. So, he’s doing well, and asking for his Blackberry.
Thanks to all for your support, I imagine Nels will be posting again soon!