It was mid-December 1989. We had a two and a half year old and a baby girl on the way, due in less than two months. I have a lump, he said. Where, I asked. On the side of my neck, he answered. Swollen gland, lymph node, mono? Off to Dr. R. Could be a cyst. Let’s treat it with antibiotics for a week and recheck. No change. Need to see an ENT. So off to Dr. M. we go. Cat scan & biopsy, he said. Second opinion, I said. Enter Dr. D. With a simple touch he told us it had to come out. The lump was in the salivary gland and the only way to remove it was to remove the entire gland. This wasn’t uncommon and the majority of the time, the lump was benign. Can we wait until after the baby is born? Yes…
March 1990, surgery is scheduled. It takes longer than expected. Finally, out of recovery, I can hear him yelling from down the hall…”Where’s my ear?”. The nurses ask me to keep talking to him, comfort him, that he was okay. They assure him that I am by his side. The doctor had to make an incision from the back of the ear to the front chin area and because of it, the entire left side was numb. His ear was fine, he just couldn’t feel it.
Monthly doctor visits for three months and still no word. It was when we walked in on that day in June and the doctor asked his nurse to take our son into the other room. We knew. It was cancer. It took three months to determine what kind. Tissue samples were sent to the Army labs in Washington, DC, because they couldn’t identify it here. It was a cynic cell carcinoma. And they got it all, contained in the gland. No chemo, no radiation. Just constant visits to the doctor, which eventually turned to bi-yearly and finally, yearly. No recurrence. By the grace of God and constant prayers, he kicked it.
Fast forward twenty years. I have a lump, he said. Oh God, where, I said. In my chest, in the breast area, he said. Off to Dr. L. Order a mammogram. YES! Men can get breast cancer, too! Test done. A clogged gland…nothing to worry about. But worry we did because history has a habit of repeating itself. But God isn’t ready for him yet, he’s not done down here. He has now been cancer free for 24 years.
I’m happy to say that Neil is still a pain in my ass. And I have no doubt that he will continue to be one for a very long time. And I thank God every day for that.
Men and women, if you feel something, don’t wait. Get yourself checked out immediately!