Thursday, November 16, 2006

Diagnosis

Because the lack of communication in my family extends not only to the way we convey information but also to how we receive it, I had to deduce the name of my father’s cancer from a few clues dangled in front of me via a telephone call from my mother.

“Your father can’t remember the name of his cancer,” she said.

“What?”

“He said the doctor told him but that it's long and he can't remember it. There are three words and it begins with an ‘sz’ or something.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” I sat there a moment in disbelief before practicality overcame me. I held the phone to my ear as I leaned into my computer and fired up Google.

“One thing your father did get out of the him is that this cancer has an 80% cure rate.” A lifetime of hope and fear was in the heft of those words. “I couldn’t believe the doctor actually said it. Cancer. The whole time my mother was dying, her doctors never once uttered that word.”

“Um-hum. Um-hum.” The computer keys tap-danced staccato under my practiced fingers. “Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx,” I said, suddenly.

“Yes, that must be it! Where did you find it?”

“Google.”

“S-Q-what?”

“Squamous cell carcinoma.”

“How do you spell that?”

“S-Q-U-A-M-O-U-S.”

“Definitely. That's it. Wait till I tell your father. He’ll be so happy.” She chuckled at the absurdity of it. “Would you believe he was actually shocked when he found out it was cancer? You should’ve seen his face. All those years of drinking and smoking and now using that chewing tobacco, and still his eyes were as wide as saucers. He just thought it couldn’t happen to him.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I remember when he was a police officer and how he’d always say he was okay with the idea of being killed by a bullet, but he’d never want to die of cancer.”

“So he smoked two packs a day.”

I could see her on the other line, shrugging off my sarcasm. “He just didn’t want a drawn out death, by any disease. But he always said cancer.”

“Then why…” I trailed off into the realm of speechlessness I’d be better off to visit more frequently. Brief silence ensued.

“Well, anyway, how do you spell that again?” My mother was bright with the solid prospects of my investigative discovery.

“S-Q-U-A-M-O-U-S.”



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6 comments:

Lauren said...

Glad to hear that there is such a high survival rate. I love the way you wrote this.

jen said...

i love the parent/child dynamic you speak of in this post (perhaps way more than you might....)

thinking of you and your dad.

Mrs. Chicken said...

The survival rate is very high. The odds are in your favor here. Thinking of you and your dad.

toyfoto said...

Cancer of the larynx is not an easy diagnosis, but I'm glad the cure rate is so good.

I'll be thinking of you and your family.

Mrs. Chicky said...

The more serious the situation the more bizarre it becomes.

Linda said...

The diagnosis of cancer is always a numbing one and, like your Dad, most people think it's never going to happen to them until it does. And no one ever thinks it can happen to a loved one - until it does. At least the fact that it has a decent survival rate takes some of the sting out of the diagnosis and I wish your father nothing but the best in his treatment and prognosis.

When my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma I felt the same overwhelming things that you are going through with the very big exception of the fact that his cancer was "treatable but not curable". My Dad had always said that if he ever got cancer, he'd kill himself rather than go through that kind of slow, lingering, miserable death but when he actually got cancer, he decided to fight it instead and fight it he did. Sadly, though, it really wasn't curable no matter how much we hoped for a miracle.

I wish your father a successful fight and strength not only for him but for your entire family. Keep us posted on how he does!