Archive for March, 2017


I’m Just A Lucky So and So!: What is a survivor?

So the title is “I’m Just a Lucky So and So” written and performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 1940’s.  My personal favorite version is from much later and is sung by Ernie Andrews with the Phillip Morris Superband.  Ernie is a very underrated West Coast scene.  He is not really a blues shouter, but he is definitely a BLUE SINGER!  I also liked his work with the Frankie Capp/Nat Pierce Juggernaut Orchestra which is comprised of a who’s who of ex-Basie/Ellington sidemen who settled on the West Coast after leaving the road.

However this title popped in my head recently while I was receiving news I hoped I’d never have to get, but did anyway.

Back three years ago I was hit with a pretty major illness that caused me to blackout and pass out in the bathroom.  On my way to the floor I made sure to bash my head into anything available.  My wife heard me fall and came in yelling at me to see if I was alive or dead.  I couldn’t figure it all out.  I thought I was asleep for the first time in days…a deep peaceful slumber that was much needed.  Frankly I was sort of hacked she woke me up!  But then again…I didn’t know I’d passed out either.

So off to the ER for a forth trip.  They were concerned about a concussion and thusly scanned my body.  What they found was I was not busted or bruised, but they had noticed I had a strange nodule showing up on my left lung.  We were shocked.

We followed that little nodule for another 3 years to see if it was growing.  My wife was deeply concerned because she had lost her father to cancer, her mom had done battle twice with the disease, my mom had done battle 30 years ago with colon cancer. So Missy was mortified because I wasn’t really worried about it.  I had been told it could be a benign node (non-cancerous) and we’d just need to watch it.  So we did.

So this year it was found the little turd had grown by twice its original size…which to me meant it was time to stop testing and start cutting.  My feeling was it would be better to remove a golf ball sized thing than a basketball sized thing.  I could only imagine standing in line at the grocery with my picture on front of the National Enquirer holding my bouncing 7lb baby tumor.  NO THANKS!

So we met with doctors who agreed this was the thing to do.  And in fact we did the deed on  March 3rd.  I was not scared nor concerned.  I had an strange confidence in my surgeon.  He was the only one!  I don’t know why other than just a gut instinct.  The rest of the doctors had not made me feel very enthusiastic, or confident.  In fact I was seriously thinking “second opinion” until I met with the surgeon.

The surgeon explained things logically, had obviously been down this road numerous times and told me what to expect. GREAT!  When can we do it?  he said “Next Friday!”  “Great!!” I said.

The plan was they would do everything with robotic assist through small incisions in my side.  They would cut out the nodule (which was now a tumor by definition based on size.)…while I was still on the table it would be quickly biopsied and if the result was no cancer…stitch me up.  If the result was it was cancerous…they’d cut off the lower part of my lung.  This I was not wild about!  AT ALL!

So we agreed, and I went home to announce the plan to Missy that night.  She was visibly shaken.  I assured her I wasn’t dead yet.  Privately I was thinking that at least if I did “check out” during the procedure…at least I got to spend time with her again.  But that refers you back to the previous post about first true loves.  So I’ll let that alone for now.

We talked about it and knew what had to be done.  But it would put emotional and financial pressure on us.  I’d be out of work depending on the procedure for up to 6 weeks.  4 of those with no real paycheck once y PTO time was exhausted.

But I assured Missy we’d get through.  I’d survive.  It would be okay.

The day came and went.  I went in the operating room as scheduled.  The operation went well.  The news was delivered.  It was lung cancer.

Well…while not surprised, the surprises were yet to come.

The doctor went on to explain that the type of cancer I had was the most common cancer contracted in the lungs by non-smokers.  It just kind of appears.  No reason…it just does.  We asked all the obvious questions…cigars?  Nope!  Paint/solvent fumes?  Nope!  Genetics?  Nope!  It just happens.

The good news was then delivered that the surgeon was pretty confident they got all of it!  That was a relief, but we would not know for sure until several days later when the lab was done doing a complete looksee.

I left the hospital on the following Monday morning around 10am  Home by 10:30.  But while sitting in the hospital I began to ponder…would people start calling me a “SURVIVOR”?  God I hope not.  I had joked to the surgeon that this whole business from diagnosis to cure took less time than the last cold I fought off.  That got me thinking…what is a survivor.

So as I pondered this over the next few days, the call came from the surgeon while I was recovering at home.  My brother had come up from southwestern Ohio to babysit me for a couple of days.  On that Wednesday we were laughing…at great pain to me…about how badly we would screw up projects we’d been watching on “Tip from a Shipwright” via YouTube.  This guy Louis Salzedde is a genius.  He does brilliant things, that Jeff and I would watch and say…”Yeah!  But I’d have that thing cut into a million pieces…blah…blah…blah”.  We’d laugh about our ineptitude…and it was much needed after the recent events.

I digress.  So the phone rings and it’s the surgeon.  I could hear a bounce in his voice.  My brother muted the tv…and the news was delivered…”The lab found no cancer at a cellular level outside the main tumor.  None found in the lung tissue, or blood vessels leading to the tumor.”  The cancer was fortunately captive.  “The normal procedure is monitoring and check ups, but no need for Chemo or Rediation”. My brother was coming off the couch with excitement.  The doctor had the best of all possible out comes.  I was happy to be sure.  But after the excitement died down…that question kept nagging me.  God…are they going to call me a “survivor”?

Missy and I spoke about the issue some time later.  She explained by definition I was a survivor.  I don’t disagree.  But I didn’t do anything except show up for the surgery I pled!  What is the definition f a survivor.  Is it over used?

My thinking was that my mom fought a fairly long battle 30+ years ago again colon cancer they said she wouldn’t survive.  She did.  She fought mentally and physically.  Chemo…radiation…the removal of a large part of her colon.  My mother-in-law had battled the disease multiple times.  One of my dearest friends from high school…his mom (One of my surrogate mothers) was fighting cancer a second time…with all the trimmings.  These folks are survivors!  They worked hard and made a mental decision not to give up.  They fought and survived to continue living.

In my case I could make no such claim.  I did nothing heroic.  I only made a decision to do it now rather than later.  Much of that decision was based on financial basis of insurance.  Then I showed up at the time…got on the gurney…and had a surgery. That’s it!  I’m not being humble or self-effacing.  It was just the way it happened.  I confess I feel damned guilty about it.  I’ve watched people, including my ex-wife, experience this horrible disease.  It’s not fun and it can become a mind game for the rest of your life wondering if it will come hunt you down again some day!

Those people who are outlined above are survivors by definition, as am I.  But they fought a long hard battle.  I did not.  4 to 6 weeks of pain is not a battle by comparison…its a hang nail.

I finally arrived at this.  I am only a survivor by definition.  But the first person who calls me that with any regularity may open a can-ful-o-knuckles!  I am exactly what this post title says…I’m just a lucky so and so!

Oh yes!  I’m grateful!  I’m grateful for the outpouring of kindness and support from family and friends.  My wife has been amazing.  My mom n pop…and my brother for looking in on not just me, but allowing Missy to catch her breath by being here for her.  My Faux-Daughter Chelsea and her boyfriend who made me laugh at the hospital when I needed it.  Facebook friends who offered encouragement.  Those who called to check on me.  And those who didn’t so I could rest.  It has been amazing how people have rallied around us.

But there was no fight.  The circumstances could have been so much worse.  I am just a lucky so n so.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Now, I’ve got a wife, a boat, and two chins to support.  So it’s time to get on with it.