2021 November


– A personal look at what goes on during such a fight.

To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I’ve got cancer; Stage 2 liver cancer to be precise. I’ve been sitting on this piece of news for some time now and have only shared it with family and close personal friends as I didn’t want to be awash in sympathy cards and notes through social media; I still don’t want to hear it. I’m going to beat this devil, which is probably what every person diagnosed with some form of cancer says, but I think I have a good medical team in place and I am optimistic. I am therefore writing this to let people know what it is like to go through this process, what goes through a patient’s head, and hopefully help someone along the way.

Years ago, I wrote a column titled, “Cancer, the Big Kahuna” of diseases which described the various forms of the disease. Since then, I have lost a lot of friends to the many forms of it, e.g., pancreatic, lung, brain, and more. Each had a unique experience in their battle with it. I realize there is no super-cure for cancer, but we have still made considerable progress during my lifetime. As of this writing, I am in my 67th year on this planet and there is still a lot I want to do with my life, but I am now mindful I have a problem and will watch the clock carefully.

What triggered all this was a routine review of my blood by my primary care physician who informed me my platelet count was falling. According to the National Cancer Institute, “a platelet is a tiny, disc-shaped piece of cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets are pieces of very large cells in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. Having too many or too few platelets or having platelets that don’t work as they should can cause problems. Checking the number of platelets in the blood may help diagnose certain diseases or conditions.”

To check on this, I was turned over to a specialist who ordered a biopsy of my bone marrow as produced from my hip. As it turned out, I was producing a lot of good blood, but something was eating up the platelets. This resulted in a series of tests, including an MRI, CTscan, and another biopsy on my liver. After all this, I was called in to speak to the doctor who broke “the news” to me. He was all business and “matter-of-fact” in his demeanor, and I appreciated his brutal honesty and professionalism, even though this wasn’t the news I hoped to hear. I learned a long time ago in business of the necessity of not sugar-coating anything of a serious nature. Political correctness be damned.

As I drove home, “the news” started to sink in and I found myself in a Twilight Zone or fog, wondering how the hell I got cancer. It was a very odd feeling, particularly since I feel pretty healthy right now.

There was no real history of cancer in my family, other than my maternal grandmother who fought and lost to cervical cancer, but neither my mother or father had any trace of the disease. I was asked if I had any exposure to Hepatitis C or a dirty needle; none to my knowledge. I was also asked if I used excessive alcohol; I said “No” as I consider myself a social drinker. The only other possibility was that I had become rather heavy years ago which may have created a “fatty liver” which would lead to cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer. For those of you who remember, I threw off considerable weight some time ago. I also stopped drinking a few weeks ago after hearing “the news,” which is helping me to lose weight.

Another thing I thought about while traveling home was Mickey Mantle, the legendary New York Yankee slugger who I revered as a kid. In 1995 he succumbed to an aggressive case of liver cancer. The doctors tried to give him a donor liver to solve the problem, but this didn’t occur. This too passed through my mind. Something else, for five years I was the primary caregiver for both my wife and mother who lost their battles to COPD. I find it rather ironic that I am now the patient and not the caregiver, something I never thought would happen.

The first thing I did when I got home was to “circle the wagons.” I reviewed the results with my former primary care physician who retired a couple of years ago and lives nearby. He read through the documentation carefully and clarified a few things my doctor had mentioned to me. I also reviewed it with a friend who is a retired Oncologist. He too confirmed the findings of my Doctor. I consider myself to be fortunate to have two friends from the medical community who could coach me accordingly.

As mentioned, I notified family and friends about my condition which surprised just about everyone. I asked them to keep this quiet while I tried to sort out what to do. One was a breast cancer survivor who fought her battle just a couple of years ago, so she was particularly sympathetic with my plight. My immediate family was very supportive, but I am determined not to let this have an adverse effect on their lives.

As some of you may know, I lost my wife almost two years ago. Recently though, a lady friend has entered my life who also fought and beat breast cancer about five years ago. She has been a tower of strength to lean on and I appreciate her candor on the subject. This group represents my safety net which I think is natural for humans to create as we want as much advice as possible

One of the first tasks I performed after learning of “the news” was to have my will and related estate paperwork updated. I had not reviewed the documents since we left Cincinnati in 1985. As good as it was, it still needed some updating which a local attorney handled promptly. He also helped me prepare a Power of Attorney, and a living will. This is something I should have been more mindful of, but finally put it to bed.

Following the initial shock, I then underwent a battery of tests and visited specialists who confirmed my diagnosis and discussed various treatments. The tests revealed the tumors were localized in the liver and not spreading. I also discovered how liver cancer is treated is not quite the same as with other forms of the disease. For example, chemotherapy is not applicable in this case. A liver transplant is one option, but I was told mine should be handled differently. In addition, surgery could be used to cut out the tumors and the liver can grow back. Unfortunately, in my situation, there would be a lot to cut out and my liver would never recover. The final treatment, and the one I will be undergoing, is to go in with vascular surgery and cut the blood vessels in the liver feeding the tumors, thereby killing them. So, the lesson learned here was: keep an open mind and consider all options. My doctor friends, as mentioned earlier, agreed this was the right road for me to take.

It is unlikely the surgeon would get 100% of everything on the first pass, so I might have to undergo the same treatment a second (or third) time until it has all been eradicated.

So, how do I feel about all this prior to embarking on my therapy? At first I was a bit in shock. As I said, physically I feel fine right now which caused me to disbelieve I have a problem. Then you ask yourself, “Why me?” Once you get past this stage you start focusing on the problem with a clearer head. More than anything, I appreciate the professionalism of my medical team. This has given me a sense of confidence and optimism.

Am I scared? I suppose I should be, but I have lived a good life, have seen a lot of the world, met a lot of people, and I’m proud of my family. Instead of being scared though, I have been preparing myself mentally as if I was going into a football game much like when I was a young man. I am not so much concerned facing a formidable opponent and getting hurt, but I am now focused on beating my enemy on his home turf. I realize pain will be part of the game, but I believe I can take it. Frankly, I like my odds of winning.

One last thing I’ve noticed since my diagnosis. The next day, I went to a local family-style restaurant I frequent and ordered my meal. Across the room in a booth, an argument erupted between a husband and wife. From what I gathered, it had something to do with simply keeping the house clean. It turned rather loud and nasty with a few choice expletives thrown in for good measure. To me, it seemed blown out of proportion. I just looked on in disbelief at the rage over something rather innocuous as cleaning a house. It was then that I realized we as humans tend to worry about the wrong things.

Now on to the next stage: implementation, which will occur shortly.

Remember this: all of this was triggered by a simple and routine blood test.

Again, please no sympathy cards or notes. A little prayer wouldn’t hurt though.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – For a listing of my books, click HERE.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2021 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on Spotify, WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; SVA RADIO – “Senior Voice America”, the leading newspaper for active mature adults; or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

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