Jim with Owen
In 2001 when Jim was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, we were both devastated, overwhelmed, terrified of what the future would bring. We sat for days in a daze, just looking at each other and crying, because we did not know what to expect. I spent a lot of hours on the internet, searching for information, anything that would tell us that his diagnosis was not a death sentence.
That experience brought us closer together, and helped us decide what we really wanted out of our life together. That is, we found out that we really like being together, and enjoy each other’s company, and that no matter where we go or what we do as long as we can be together, we will be happy.
Along with all the other things we have done in the six years since his victory over SCC, we have continued to educate ourselves about the survival and recurrence rates of that cancer, and to celebrate each day we have on earth together. So, when Jim noticed a little spot on his cheek a few months ago, it was not quite as earth shattering as it was in 2001. Yes, we were concerned, but not afraid.
We signed him up for Veterans Administration medical benefits, so that he could be examined by a dermatologist. I had been asking him (well, ok, badgering him) to fill out the paperwork for VA for a about 5 years, but it took a little spat with him for him to understand just how important it was to me that he do it. So, in July he had his initial exam at the VA Medical Clinic in Hagerstown, Maryland.
They looked into every opening (and prodded into one in particular,(hahaha) and pronounced him healthy except for slightly elevated cholesterol, a low TSH level, and that pesky little spot in his cheek. They told him he needed to eat a diet low in cholesterol, but did not prescribe any medication for that. They changed his thyroid meds to a lower dose. And they made an appointment for him to see a dermatologist at the Veterans Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Two weeks ago, we went for a biopsy of “the bump”, as Jim was affectionately calling it. Tuesday, we went back for the results of that biopsy. Dr. Cohen, the very nice doctor who is head of dermatology at that hospital, came in and told us it was Basal Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. He said there are three kinds of skin cancer: Basal Cell, Squamous Cell, and Melanoma. He said if you have to have skin cancer, then Basal Cell is the one you want to have. He said it was probably caused by exposure to the sun and by exposure to the radiation treatments Jim had in 2001 to treat the first cancer, the Squamous Cell one.
So, while we were there on Tuesday, they did surgery right there in the doctor’s office to cut out the tumor. When they did the biopsy the week before, I stayed in the room and watched, but this time I chose to go to the waiting room out in the lobby. The incision turned out to be quite large, but they got all of the tumor out, and sewed him up. They put four stitches inside, and nine stitches outside. A band-aid to cover it up, and an antibiotic ointment to apply three times a day, and that was it. We go back next week to get the stitches out.
I am amazed at how well Jim is taking this. He said it doesn’t hurt at all, even three days later. He is very glad that all he has to do this time is just the surgery. He is smiling every day, knowing that his little bump is gone.
Dr. Cohen told him that he will have to go every six months for the rest of his life for a dermatology check-up, but now that he has the VA medical, that is not a problem. He should also wear a hat or sun block when he is working outside.
So, now that I have written all this, let me just say to Jim’s Mom and Dad, yes I lied to you and told you he was fine, when he had this little bump we were a little bit worried about. But, since we did not know what it was or what the treatment would be, we just didn’t have anything to tell people. And, Jim did not want to say anything to anyone about it until he knew what was going to happen.
So, now that the bump is history, Jim will continue to go to the VA every six months for a check-up. Besides the one more trip to Washington to get the stitches out, he has to go for blood work to test his TSH for his thyroid again the last week of October, and then he will be done until April.
So, the next time he goes to the VA it will be in Arizona. We have been talking to a campground in Williams, Arizona, about a job there starting in March. The pay is pretty good, and they offer good perks and benefits, one of which is eligibility for AFLAC health insurance after 60 days. The campground is 50 minutes from the Grand Canyon, and a short drive from Sedona. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we get that job.
Also, our daughter in law, Sarah, got her PICC line taken out on Wednesday. I know she is very happy about that, and she can now just concentrate on being Mommy to Owen. He is getting cuter than ever and growing like a little weed. He is already stretching the little toes out of his one piece sleepers in size 0-3 months. He is taking 4 ounces of formula every three to four hours now, and staying awake for longer periods of time. When I talked to Sarah today, she said he was a little fussy yesterday and acted like he just didn’t know what he wanted. She offered him his bottle and he didn’t want it, and was not wet. I think he just wanted his FabGrandma!