I Got My First Tattoo Today
For over 21 years on active duty in the Navy, I was able to avoid the temptation to get a tattoo. Today, though, I got my first one (or three, depending on how you look at it). They're small -- just one needlepoke worth of black ink -- and spaced around my abdomen, one on each side and one just below the bottom of my sternum. They're alignment marks for the radiation therapy I'll almost certainly start in the next couple of weeks. This will hopefully help cure the stomach cancer I have that was discovered 15 days ago.
I'm actually very lucky. While this is generally a really bad form of cancer, it was found very early. Normally, cancerous tumors at the gastroesophageal junction (where the stomach and esophagus meet) aren't found until the patient complains of pain, or the tumor grows so big that it blocks off the esophagus and you can't swallow anymore. Luckily for me, I vomited up some blood one morning, and figuring that was sub-optimal I went to our family doctor. He sent me to a GI tract specialist who stuck a camera down my throat and verified that an ulcer-looking thing had been bleeding into my stomach, but had stopped. We did a follow-up endoscoping 2 weeks later, and the doctor noted that it had grown significantly, and the biopsy confirmed cancer. Since then, I've had a couple of tests (one involved getting injected with F-18, which all you nukes should remember from having to learn about all the primary sample analyses), that show the cancer apparently hasn't spread from the main 1" diameter tumor site.
I'll go up to Seattle in the next couple of weeks (apparently, the only doctor who can do this surgery in the Northwest is there) for another test to see if it's spread to the lymph nodes, and based on those results we'll decide if I need radiation treatment in conjunction with chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor (followed by surgery), or have the surgery first followed by chemo. I really hope it's the 2nd option, since the radiation treatment will involve the GE junction getting zapped with 5040 rads of X-rays over a 5 1/2 week period; they say it'll be like the worst sore throat I've ever had (but it will last for several weeks), I'll be weak and nauseated, I won't be able to swallow anything, and they'll have to install a feeding tube into my stomach for me to pour my nutrients and pain meds into. Then, after 4 weeks off to recover, I'd go to Seattle for surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, I'm not too optimistic the easier option will be feasible (my doctor's here think it's very likely it's spread into the lymph nodes), so that's why I got the tattoos today.
Needless to say, blogging may be erratic over the next few months. I don't intend to turn TSSBP into a cancer blog, but I find it seems to help me to talk to people about what's going on. If I do blog about it, I'll try to keep it at least somewhat entertaining and/or informative.
While I'm in Seattle, any chance any of my readers stationed on the USS Connecticut (SSN 22) or USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) can get your boat's initial manning Eng a quick unclas tour?
Update 1257 06 November: Thanks so much for all the prayers and good wishes. I'll be heading up to Seattle next Wednesday to take the tests on Thursday; we'll be staying with a friend in the Bangor area when not at the hospital, so if any old friends want to see us on Wednesday or Thursday night, drop me a line.