Cancer Journey Part 3

Foxhole perspective

Wow, where has the time gone? Last time I was talking with you it was late summer and now here it is the year end holiday season. During the last leg of my journey I was a newlywed and had moved from Georgia to Illinois. It didn’t take long before my family started growing. During my short marriage to my former radiation therapist I was blessed with two more sons. The marriage only lasted 6 years and was plagued by some very immature decisions by my ex-wife. Her personality type is one where she enjoys being the center of attention and unfortunately she married me and my cancer journey wasn’t over yet.

My medical needs and uncertainty was too much for her to handle. In early 2006 I was consulting with a plastic surgeon for what could be considered an elective procedure and was diagnosed with melanoma which took priority to my elective procedure. This caught me completely off guard. I had had previous, lessor types of skin cancer like basil cell carcinoma but NOT melanoma! Melanoma is the big league of skin cancers and left untreated can be fatal. I underwent a procedure to remove the melanoma and any affected skin near its border. The surgeon made a wide incision across my lower back and removed melanoma site. Due to the depth of the melanoma it was decided that I should undergo a sentential lymph node biopsy.

Sentinel node biopsy is a surgical procedure used to determine whether cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into your lymphatic system. It's used most commonly in evaluating breast cancer and melanoma. The sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains. Sentinel node biopsy involves injecting a tracer material that helps the surgeon locate the sentinel nodes during surgery. The sentinel nodes are removed and analyzed in a laboratory.

Since I received radioactive solution before the procedure, the surgeon used a small instrument called a gamma detector (see picture below) to determine where the radioactivity has accumulated and identify the sentinel nodes. Fortunately mine traveled north under my armpit and tested negative for any spreading in to the lymphatic system.

It was very scary having a radioactive substance injected in my body and it really hit home when the gamma detector sounded like a Geiger counter as they moved it across my back. I felt like I had been exposed to an unhealthy amount of radiation and I was the only person in the room not wearing protective gear.

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As that procedure and recovery drew to a close, so did my marriage. I was raked through the coals by my ex-wife’s attorney and my attorney did not do much to prevent it. They painted me as the “angry ex” and did not award me me the 50/50 custody that I was pursuing. Instead I got this convoluted 9/5 placement schedule for my two young sons even though I had 100% custody of my older son! “Angry ex”…..what the heck, she cheated on me how was I supposed to act?

As you’ll learn as I continue to write, the divorce was a blessing. I learned a lot about sociopathic behavior and how not to over analyze or try to fix something that’s outside of your control. I was aided in my recovery by an excellent local author, Paul Mason who wrote Stop Walking on Eggshells. This book helped me to understand that the odds were stacked against me and that I didn’t do anything wrong. Some people are just wired poorly and have borderline or straight out personality disorders.

Stay tuned as my journey continues both medically and personally...

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