Biopsy Boy

purple mushroomsImage by yewenyi via Flickr

Hey folks,

Wanted to fill you in on the consult I had Friday with the oncologist.
PET Scan shows very positive for cancer in my lungs but
Biopsy returned 3 (three) negative results for cancer.


What they DID find was a fungal infection which is associated with a common bacteria to which humans are normally immune. This bacteria lives literally everywhere on the planet, and is therefore very common.

For some reason last year(apparently) my immune system suffered some deterioration and the bacteria was able to establish a stronghold in my lungs. It’s this which caused the fungal infection, with symptoms very much like pneumonia. I will be seeing someone who is a specialist in these types of diseases on Monday. I am already taking a specific antibiotic to combat the bacteria.

Biopsy Boy

Other than that there are 3 lymph nodules of interest in/near my upper respiratory tract which also indicated in the PET scan may be cancerous, determined by the high uptake of dyes. At least one of these, if proven to be cancerous, would be considered inoperable. I will be scheduled for another biopsy within the next couple of days.

Since the 1st biopsy returned no cancer cells, it appears that the cancer in my left lung may be surrounded by the fungal growth, which in the end is a great thing as it would mean that most likely this cancer has been detected within only a few months of its presenting.

The survival rate for patients diagnosed with lung cancer at my age is very low, ( less than 3% live 12+months after diagnosis) but that is because most cases in that demographic are diagnosed in a late stage of the condition. If I am right, and the cancer is very young, my chances of survival increase exponentially.

Depending, of course, on the exact form of the cancer, whether small-cell or non small-cell. (Small cell is inoperable at every stage.)


I think the order it came to be is something like this:

I caught a flu virus, was sick as hell for about a month beginning Nov 07.

Right after that I caught another DIFFERENT flu virus and was sick about another month beginning late Dec 07.

I think I inhaled some foreign substance, possible while cleaning computers ( a common task) while I was getting over that flu.

The substance lodged in my lung and created a mild ‘walking’ pneumonia that kept flaring up every 3-4 weeks until last Aug, when I experienced a partial lung collapse. During this time, I think my immune system became weaker due to constantly fighting this pneumonia.

As the system grew weaker, an avenue was created for the bacteria to gain a foothold in the weakest part – my lung.

I think the reason for the collapsed lung was the fungal growth caused by the bacterial infection.

After that, I drastically reduced my smoking and felt slightly better for a month or so, then in late October last year became seriously ill to the point of being bedridden for a few weeks. I think the cancer was allowed to start right about then, while my immune system was nearly completely dead.

Between the fungal growth and the cancer, I developed a massive amount of infection in my lungs. When I drank all that moonshine in Nov and it made me feel better, I think that perhaps I had just flushed much of that infection out of me. The stuff I coughed up back then was thick, nasty and mostly black. Naturally I would feel better for awhile after that, until the infection built back up and completely closed most of my airways again. Which is what drove me to the doctors this time.

Anyway… you can see that there are still no definitive answer(s) just yet. I was really hoping there would be something a bit more concrete to tell you, but as this thing progresses it appears that more questions are revealed. Bottom line is this: more tests next week and the following week, most likely some surgery and then it’s all smooth groove after that.

I am Jon, walking through the weather, as are we all.

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Dilemma – The Poetry Of It All

Still part of life even after death: a decompo...Image via Wikipedia

The Future Of The Past

I have always, since my earliest remembered childhood, tried to imagine my death. The whole thought of it has quite simply fascinated me, and as I sit here, pondering my cancer diagnosis, I find that fascination still grips me.

I don’t, and have never looked at death as an ending. It is an event we all experience – every life that has ever existed on this planet eventually dies. It’s simply one of the most natural things all of us do.

That it is shared universally among all of us, whether we are animal or plant or whatever makes it fascinating. Name for me, if you can, another event that ALL LIFE experiences.

That we don’t understand it only serves to make it that much more exciting. As our lives progress the ‘new’ seems to gradually fade away until much of life is boring. When was the last truly NEW thing you experienced? The nature of death ensures its newness, at least for most of us.

Today, please enjoy this brief drink from the lifeblood of my past. The thing wasn’t originally written about death, per se, and in the end the question it asks is more about the choices we face in life than anything else…


A thousand tiny gnats are
biting me at once. Pressures
build up on all sides.
There are no good decisions
sometimes. I walk eternally
between the living and death.
A million monstrous rats are
begging me to follow. Why
do I feel so afraid?

I am Jon, and I wrote that years ago.

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2 By 2

lung cancer among branchesImage by sara b. | 2009 via Flickr

Inches, That Is…

Regular readers here @ Wordout will recognize that I haven’t been publishing anything lately. You’ll also remember that I’ve been fighting an illness for quite awhile. The two are related.

Last week I was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer seems to be about 2 inches by 2 inches (4.5cm X 5cm), as measured using the CT scan. The lymph nodes in my lungs appear to be clear and healthy, which is a great sign that it may not have spread yet. More test results are required to verify that it’s still only in the lung. I will have those results next week, after the biopsy has been done.

So far I’ve been through the xrays, the CT scans, the PET scan and an MRI on my brain. Next week I will be laying on a table quietly while a doctor punctures my chest with a huge honkin’ needle to withdraw some of the mass for direct observation. A couple of days after that I’ll be able to know exactly how bad the situation is.

Only then will I know what treatment options are available. Right now, it appears that I will either 1) Be a good candidate for surgery or 2) Have no options at all.

Either way, I am alive today.

I’ve done a bit of reading, and here’s a couple of excerpts and links for you, in case you’re interested.

National Cancer Institute

Survival rates can be calculated by different methods for different purposes. The survival rates presented here are based on the relative survival rate which measures the survival of the cancer patients in comparison to the general population to estimate the effect of cancer. The overall 5-year relative survival rate for 1996-2004 from 17 SEER geographic areas was 15.2%. Five-year relative survival rates by race and sex were: 13.4% for white men; 17.9% for white women; 10.4% for black men; 14.5% for black women.

The stage distribution based on historic stage shows that 16% of lung and bronchus cancer cases are diagnosed while the cancer is still confined to the primary site (localized stage); 25% are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to regional lymphnodes or directly beyond the primary site; 51% are diagnosed after the cancer has already metastasized (distant stage) and for the remaining 8% the staging information was unknown. The corresponding 5-year relative survival rates were: 49.5% for localized; 20.6% for regional; 2.8% for distant; and 8.3% for unstaged.(See Fast Stats for more detailed statistics)

Mayo Clinic

Fluid in the chest (pleural effusion). Lung cancer can cause fluid to accumulate in the space that surrounds the lungs in the chest cavity (pleural space). Pleural effusion can result from cancer spreading outside the lungs or in reaction to lung cancer inside the lungs. Fluid accumulating in the chest can cause shortness of breath. Treatments are available to drain the fluid from your chest and reduce the risk that pleural effusion will occur again. Cancer that spreads to the pleura is considered inoperable, so surgery isn’t an option for treatment.

Cancer that spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis). Lung cancer often spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body — most commonly the opposite lung, brain, bones, liver and adrenal glands. Cancer that spreads can cause signs and symptoms, including pain, nausea, headaches or others based on what organ is affected. In some cases, treatments are available for isolated metastasis, but in most cases, the goal of treatment for metastasis is only to relieve signs and symptoms.

Death. Unfortunately, survival rates haven’t improved for people diagnosed with lung cancer. In most cases, the disease is fatal. Almost 60 percent, or three out of every five people, diagnosed with lung cancer die within a year. Keep in mind, however, that this number includes people diagnosed with all types of lung cancer at all stages of the disease. People diagnosed at the earliest stages have the greatest chances for a cure. Your doctor can discuss more relevant statistics about your chances for survival with you.

No Doubt

There is no doubt that my lung cancer is caused by excessive smoking. I could spend my time doing the ‘If Only…’ and that time would be wasted, so I’m not doing that. It’s too late to change that past and as stubborn as I am, I probably wouldn’t change it anyway. I bought the ticket, and that train is never late.

But look – it’s not too late for you to stop. If you’re smoking, it’s like making payments for your own ticket. Ask yourself: Is that the (one way) trip I really want to take? Look around you. Are these the people you want to watch you die?

I am Jon. Put out that damned cigarette.

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If You Call Me In The Morning…

I’ll Tell You What To Do

OK, officially, this is what the doctor said:

Actually, I don’t really know what the doctor said. I didn’t go back for the results of the tests. My sister, however, works there in that office, and the doc told her that I need to chill a bit. The universe must be in agreement, because here it is the end of August in North Carolina and instead of 100 degree temps we’re enjoying the mid-to-high 80s.

Is that doctor good, or what?

Seriously though, my heart (which is what I was really worried about) seems reasonably strong for a guy pushing 50 who sits on his rear all day just peckin and clickin, with a 39 year history of tobacco (ab)use. The lungs, well, they aren’t in such great shape. We’re talking an advanced stage of emphysema which was clearly evident in the x-rays even to me. In short, my lungs look like bubble wrap. In a strange twist, I don’t show many of the signs of such an advanced case. My blood oxygen is better than most non-smokers at 98%, my blood pressure clocked in at 92 over 60 and all the other tests returned results in the ‘normal’ range. I don’t have uncontrollable (or even ‘controllable’) coughing fits.

Doctors and Such versus Me

By far, the most stressing thing about this ordeal was the stress test. I have a serious phobia when it comes to people who hold doctorates in any discipline, especially in any of the medical sciences. Especially them. And the people who work for them. Especially the people who work for them. You may wonder why?

Because they lie. Since getting out of the military, every single time I’ve been to a ‘doctor’ or a ‘dentist’, I’ve received what I consider to be either substandard treatment or else been outright lied to about the treatment and/or the condition. In my developed opinion, these guys are to be trusted less than politicians or lawyers or religious clergy. To all of you who work in these fields, I offer no apology. What I have experienced is what I have experienced, and nothing you can say or promise will change my perception of your career field or how you, personally, conduct your professional affairs.

For instance, the reason I didn’t go back for the results? Because these guys lied to me about the stress test. First they tried to say that the doctor misinterpreted something (that should make me feel better?). Then they tried to tell me that they had called me and told me the correct procedure(They called twice: once to tell me to call if I had any questions, but that the person I needed to talk to about my questions would be out of the office until the day before the procedure, and second, an automated call to remind me of the appointment). Finally, they tried to tell me I should have called them to make sure they had told me the truth.

At no time did they ever admit to the truth, which was that they told me something that was not true. They told me that I would not have to have an injection, knowing in advance that I would not agree in advance to any injections for any reason. And not once did they offer a real apology. (Telling me that you’re sorry I misunderstood is NOT an apology.)

End Results

Yeah, I let’em stick me, knowing that my body wouldn’t react the way they said it would. Knowing that they lied when they said it would not have any effect on me at all and would be flushed out of my system within 48 hours. (Forgive the graphics here, but my bathroom time was very disrupted for about 6 days.) I wanted the results of the stress test, and they wouldn’t perform it without the injections.

But the end result is this: they proved my fears to be well-founded and correct. And I will never again voluntarily subject myself to any medical personnel in the future, for any reason, regardless of who asks or begs for it. They are nice people at home, I am sure. But they are exactly who I thought they were in the office, self-assured and overconfident. Conceited, even, thinking their medical prowess so great that they can manipulate PEOPLE into doing what they want ‘for the person’s own good’.

These medical professionals made me feel used, unimportant, and angry. They mocked my intelligence, my ability to research and understand the material I researched, and, in general, my entire philosophy concerning how I live my life.

What is it about some people, that they think and feel that they know what is best for someone else? I know what’s best for me, and I can guess at what is best for people I know well, but there is practically no way I can know what’s best for someone I have just met. And even if I thought I knew, I wouldn’t use lies and trickery to get them to do what I wanted.

I am Jon, not a doctor, but not an idiot, either. (Nevertheless, I am taking steps to reduce or eliminate stresses in my life.)

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