Friday, September 20, 2013

My friend Tom

Well that isn't enough.
Doesn't seem quite right either.

There just isn't really a word. Or a string of words I can put together that convey even a hint of how and what I am feeling.

It was just 5 weeks ago.
I got the call saying that the biopsy didn't look good.
That I needed to return home for another doctor appointment.
And so I did.

In the past 3 weeks, I have made a new friend.
His name is Tom Stewart.
Tom Stewart Jr.
Tom Stewart Jr, MD.
Tom is my ENT. (aka ears, nose and throat physician.)

Tom told me that I had a high likelihood of having thyroid cancer and that the best option would be to have my thyroid removed.
We set a date of September 10.
Really that was 10 days ago??

Tom removed my thyroid and told me to go home and rest. That I would be sore for at least a week, probably two. Anything is more restful than another night in the hospital.

I think Tom missed me. Because last Friday (oh that's just a week ago too?), he called me and said he wanted to see me that day. That we would do my post op appointment that day instead of Monday.
So I was a good if not a great nurse for over 31 years. I knew Tom didn't miss me that much. That there was more and it probably wasn't good news.
So we drove to Chico to see Tom.
And yes, it wasn't good news.
Turns out I had a very rare form of thyroid cancer called Meduallary Thyroid Cancer. Of all the thyroid cancers, this is the one least seen. Its the type that can metastify, or spread. And it likes to spread to all the lymph nodes on my neck.

Tom, in his sweet way, told me I needed another surgery, and that he had taken the liberty to book me for this Monday.
This time, it would be a bit more traumatic. That I would have two surgeries in six days time.

I would have a modified right radical neck dissection.
I'm not exactly sure what modified really means.
Because today, I have an incision and soon to be, a gnarly scar that reaches from the top of my earlobe on my right side to two thirds around my neck. I imagine that a full neck dissection would go from one ear lobe to the other.

It is very sore. And swollen. And so is my neck.
But I am so thankful for my new friend Tom.
He spent alot of time researching my cancer and what needed to be done. He talked to his mentors from his fellowship days at Loma Linda, he read journals, he left nothing unturned. And he was thorough. He took all the lymph nodes around my neck and sent them to the lab.

This morning, we went to see Tom again. This time, it was a post op appointment and he took out my one remaining drain. Then he gave me a copy of my pathology report that said all the lymph nodes that were tested were clear and had no signs of cancer. 
And I thanked God.
Again, words are just not there.

I will always now have this scar to remind me of my new friend Tom Stewart Jr, MD.
A vivid reminder everyday that God has given me more time.
Time not to be wasted.

And as grateful as I am, I am also a bit baffled and wondering.
Wondering why I am spared of more cancer right now and my friends Nancy and Payton still fight courageously their horrific battles? Life just isn't fair.

There's so much more I could say. And probably will, at some point. You just can't go through something like this and not be changed.
Today, I am grateful for my new friend Tom and thankful for how much he cared about me right from the start.
And thankful for how God used Tom Stewart in my life to show me more of Himself and His love for me and my family.
At sometime in our lives, or in the lives of those we love the most, we all will need a type of Tom Stewart. I hope and pray that yours is as wonderful as my friend Tom is.

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