Two months ago I had surgery for bone cancer, where 8 cm pieces of three ribs were removed, as well as a piece of my spine. Here’s a post-surgery update.
First of all, a big thank you to everyone for your superb support, generosity, well-wishes and great humour. It has helped me a lot over the past two months.
Yep. Today is two months to the day that I went under the knife.
People have asked me if I see the world in a different light after getting cancer. The answer to that is, “yes” and “no”
I’d like to say that I’ve been flooded with profound visions of wisdom, but I’m still no smarter than I was before. Maybe I’m just more aware of the source of my inadequacies and idiosyncracies. During a cancer CT scan, I was recently shown that I have a harmless hole in my brain—left, front temporal lobe. That explains a few things, don’t you think?
Anyway, what are the profound thoughts of a guy dealing with torso swelling, missing ribs, cancer fears and an abridged spine? Here’s one:
I went to a place, here in Singapore, looking for organic spinach and ludicrously expensive organic blueberries. Passing “John’s Bar” I saw a group of guys that I couldn’t help but stare at. They were expatriate guys smoking, drinking Guinness, and eating greasy fish and chips.
And the bastards were old. I’ve never wanted to smoke, drink Guinness, and eat greasy crap before, but I wanted to join those guys. I wanted to be one of them. “You lucky sons of bitches,” was all I was thinking. You’re old. You look like crap. You’re not dead. And you don’t care what kind of garbage you put in your bodies. And it made me laugh. Loudly.
And they looked at me. One scrawny Keith Richards wannabe gave me the “You want a piece of me?” look. Damn, that bugger was still defiantly snarly enough to visually threaten an ectomorphic “cancer survivor” in a spinal support vest. That kind of guy doesn’t give a crap about anything, and for a few minutes I wanted to be that guy.
Is that profound or totally wacked? It must be the hole in the brain.
Anyway, I am feeling much better. Today I had an x-ray and the fluid in my lungs has finally dissipated. My scar is long, but it’s very clean. A lot of flesh in my back was slightly re-located, but I have a great range of motion and under the circumstances, decent strength.
I go to a physiotherapist regularly, and I’ve been diligent about doing the exercises at home as well, with an emphasis on strengthening my core muscles and some specific structurally important muscles in my back.
I found that I can walk on a treadmill on a high incline, so I’ve been doing that four times a week—and I’ve been pushing myself. I think the uphill “marching” really helped to clear my stubborn lungs of the fluids that were threatening to infect them. My lungs were supposed to have cleared after a handful of post-surgery days, but 4 weeks later, there was still pooled fluid in them, and if things weren’t clear on today’s x-ray, they were going to put a catheter in me.
On a few social occasions, when I don’t want the not-so-subtle Asian community staring at me and asking questions, I venture outside without the spinal brace on. I’ve been asked, “Why you wear that?” more times than I can count. And I’ve started to lie–mostly about a car accident I was never in, and one time, I convinced a local guy that I got attacked by a shark.
I’ve found that when I tell the truth about cancer surgery, most people’s expressions tell me that they’re talking to a dead man. It’s a strange feeling. And I think beyond myself when this happens. I think of all the other people who have or have had cancer, and the hope and encouragement that I’m sure they’d much rather see in the eyes of other people.
The fact that I can venture out without a spinal brace is encouraging on so many levels, of course. It means I’m getting better. Yesterday, with the spinal brace on, I jogged 200 meters, and it didn’t hurt.
As for the cancer—it isn’t coming back.
I’ve also made an ambitious goal to enter the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge at the end of April, and finish in the top 20. You can blame the delusion (if you think it is one) on the hole in my brain.
Even if I do crack the top 20, I’ll be the slowest defending champion in the history of the Singapore event. But, no matter how I’m placed, I’ll probably be crying as I run the final kilometre. Just thinking about it makes me misty-eyed.
Here is the article I wrote about the 2009 Singapore JP Morgan
I love applying one of Shakepeare’s quote whenever it suits me:
“Nothing is either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so”
And I think everything is great.