- - Monday, October 27, 2014

It’s 4:16 a.m.; I can’t sleep, so I thought I’d try to get myself back to work. I’m having a rough night wrought with pain, confusion and I hate to admit it, but some fear.

I have so many dang things swirling around in my head.

I know, I’m not the only one who’s having a tough time. The economy is terrible, our government lies with impunity to our faces, and things like the fate of our children and Ebola are lurking in the shadows, out of our control.

But this story begins in late July. I remember getting up, doing my daily “brush and flush,” shaving, nothing special. Around 3 p.m., I was walking into a Costco and I remember feeling a little pressure on my neck. I reached up, ran my fingers across my face and noticed a very large bump on the left side of my neck. It was big and it wasn’t there when I shaved earlier in the morning. I was a little alarmed but it didn’t hurt — and anyways I’m a tough guy and us tough guys don’t need doctors. So I waited for the bump to go away. I’m not the most patient of people, but if it keeps me away from a doctor I can make Job look like a speed freak.

So I waited. One week. Two weeks. I had dinner with my old friend Suzanne Somers, who is not the biggest fan of going to the doctor or using pharmaceutical drugs. Her knee-jerk reaction? “You need to get that thing looked at right away!” So, I did what any red blooded tough guy would do — I only waited one more week. On week three, it was still there, getting bigger and more uncomfortable so I went to an urgent care doctor who ran some blood tests and then forgot to call me back with my results.

I called and called trying to find out what it was. Not that I was that worried, but I wasted my time, spent some money and now wanted it gone. After a few days of my phone harassment, I finally got my answer: The nurse said, “I talked to the doctor and she said, we have no idea what it is, you should go to the E.R.” (That was $280 well spent.)

The next day, I waited four hours in the E.R., looking around the roomful of coughing children and elderly people with portable oxygen tanks, feeling like I shouldn’t be there. This is where sick people are supposed to go! I just have a stupid little bump. Once it was my turn, I had an MRI and a number of tests run, and just five more hours later they came back with this clear, conscise answer: “We have no idea what that thing is. You need to go to an ear, nose and throat guy.” (That was about $3,000 well spent.)

So, I called right away and got the very next available appointment for the ear nose and throat doctor and after only a two-week wait, the doctor says: “Wow … we need to run some more tests on that. I’ve set you up for a biopsy in two weeks and I’m hoping it’s tuberculosis. Ever been out of the country?”

I replied: “Uhhhh. Yes I’ve been out of the country, and you’re hoping it’s tuberculosis?!” I’m no doctor but that doesn’t sound very good.

So, now it’s two weeks later, I’m at the medical center 50 miles from my home for the biopsy, and I guess I’m hoping I have TB. As the doctor is jamming multiple needles in my neck to takes sample (eight needles to be exact) he’s looking through a microscope and saying, “Wow, that’s weird, I mean it’s really weird.” I ask, “Is it a good weird? A bad weird?” The doc says, “I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

“What, are you fresh out of med school or something?” I hoped in a joking tone.

“No,” he said, “this is my 15th year in my specialty but don’t worry, we’ll run all the tests and get it back to you in 72 hours.”

So, another 72 hours go by and I complete another doctor’s appointment, followed by another, and finally after a bit my ear, nose and throat guy exclaims: “I’m really not sure what it is, but here are a few guesses I have.” And like the roar of a giant waterfall a dizzying array of possibilities come pouring out of his mouth, and none of them sounds good. Lymphoma is the one that sticks out as the strongest candidate, but I can tell you when the doctor is giving you all of this information for the first time, nothing sticks in your memory very well.

Surgery in a month is the decided course of action, and I have to tell you, I’m starting to get nervous now. I’m not really nervous for me, I’ve had a good life and if the Lord wants me, who am I to argue. However, my wife passed away a few years ago and I have two daughters who still need a parent in their lives and honestly none of this feels very right or very fair. So, not only am I a bit scared but I’m ticked off as well.

So, a month goes by and now it’s surgery day. I’m told it shouldn’t be a big deal, they have an hour-and-a-half scheduled, I’m told not to worry. (I’ve never had surgery before but the don’t-worry part kind of went away a few months ago.)

Honestly, all I remember was the anesthesiologist saying, “It might sting for a bit.” And then a lightning jolt of a sharp pain in my hand where the IV was and then boom. I’m very, very thirsty, having difficulty trying to open my eyes and I can’t talk. I see my loved ones in my hospital room, leaning over my bed saying, “Wow, that was four-and-a-half hours!” Four-and-a-half hours? I thought it was only going to take one hour. What did the doctor do, go out to lunch in the middle of it all?

A few hours later the doctor comes to the room and announces, “It’s Necrotizing Lymphadenitis, a very rare disease that I’ve only seen twice in 30 years. We still aren’t quite sure where it came from or if it will recur, but it ate away at many of your veins inside your neck and the jugular vein was compromised. I was able to stitch it together and put back what I could.” It ate away at my jugular vain? Again, I’m no doctor, but that doesn’t sound very good either!

I’ve done some research on the disease/virus/whatchamacallit thingy they think I had. It appears to be most prevalent in young Japanese women, which in looking in the mirror describes me to a tee. By the way I’m not that young, not a woman, not Japanese and have never been to Japan, although I am a big fan of the Benihana restaurants.

So, here I am, staring at this computer screen trying to tell you what’s going on, all while trying to figure it all out for myself.

Good news: It’s not cancer.

Right now, it’s very uncomfortable having a big tube sticking out of my neck and right now my tongue doesn’t work very well so my speech is off and it’s hard to eat, but I have so much to be thankful for.

It hurts, but I’m not in excruciating pain. My energy levels are all over the place so I get tired easy. I’m alive, I have wonderful people in my life who have been so kind helping me get through this and my friends and colleagues at The Washington Times have been nothing but supportive.

I’m resting and have started the healing process. I’ll have more columns on the way but maybe at a slower pace for a few weeks. Videos and podcasts will resume when my speech is back to where I’m comfortable.

I pray a lot more, giving thanks to God for those in my life, for keeping me around and I’m remembering to hug my daughters more often.

I hope you’ll keep us in your prayers as well.

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