The Enemy Within

Very rarely do catastrophic changes happen without a warning. And I’m not talking about an omen, which is often attributed in hindsight. I’m talking about actual signs and pre-incident indicators.

XKCD by Randall Munroe

Sure, every hundred million years there’s a celestial object that slams into the planet and turns the apex predators into paste. But even today, that sort of sudden change would be forecast.

When you have access to the tools and techniques that allow you to see beyond the visible, you take advantage of those. And when the warning signs arrive, you listen.

That’s just swell, Vol. 1

A few weeks ago, I had some knee pain, thought to be residual from a previous meniscus tear. I started taking over-the-counter pain meds, and then one night I noticed a lot of swelling around my ankle.

I went to get that checked out. Stopped taking the meds, and started wearing compression socks.

When the swelling didn’t subside, I went back to an orthopedist, to see what might be going on. An ultrasound found no evidence of a clot or a deep vein thrombosis, so we moved on to an MRI.

The MRI found a mass. About 7 cm, behind my left calf. The biopsy confirmed it was cancer.

That’s just swell, Vol. 2

One other thing was happening. I was having a strange brightness in my field of vision. It was like someone turned up the contrast on a monitor, but only in the lowest part of my peripheral vision. No pain, no loss of vision. Just odd. It wasn’t constant, but frequent.

The same week of my biopsy results, I went for my regular eye appointment. I told my ophthalmologist about the vision issue, and he took some pictures of the insides of my eyes. (He has a few years of such pictures, so we had a baseline.)

What the image showed was some manner of inflammation behind my left optic nerve. More unwelcome swelling.

The fight is on

As of now, I’m looking at a few rounds of chemotherapy, starting as soon as possible. Then surgery. Then maybe a few more rounds.

It’s going to be a nasty fight.

But it’s a fight I have a great chance of winning, because we caught things early. When something odd impacts your health, to the extent you can, get it checked out. And think holistically. I have no clue whatsoever about whether my optic nerve is in any way related to my calf tumor. If it is, then it would be a huge mistake to just float along, because medical training is often about piecing together these little data points. Denying my doctors that information is like poking their eyes before an exam. Why make it harder for them to fix you?

What is to come

I am blessed in so many ways. Family, work family, a wonderful employer, and a network of friends who will support me as I go. I’m in good hands. This is my journey.

What I am not doing is falling into the rabbit-hole of online self-diagnosis. There are some additional details, but I’m not going to obsess over them. I know my limits, and my penchant for finding the worst-case scenario. Concern, not worry.

My only reason for sharing any of this is to implore you to listen to your body, and take notice when something unusual happens.

Take care of yourself.

8 thoughts on “The Enemy Within”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Ike, and a great lesson for us all. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you enter this fight. Know that while I am no longer your Southern Company colleague, I am your friend. If you need to talk, you have my cell number. And I have yours, so I will be checking in on you.

    Good luck and knowing you, cancer doesn’t stand a chance. Be strong, my friend.

  2. Excellent advice— listen to your body & get it checked out . That is how I found my cancer too – continued prayers for you !!

  3. I am just catching up on all this. But want you to know I will be thinking of you and praying as you go through your fight! I have an unusual stress fracture that is very localized in my left fibular head. I wish your issues could heal themselves as the doctor says mine will. But it will be slow as I have diabetes which makes me a slow healer. Hang in there and thank you for keeping us updated as you are able. Bless you and your family!

  4. Just heard about this. Your photo series of increasingly alopeciac pates finally clued me to look at your wall more closely! You have my best wishes. Do you know what type of sarcoma you’re dealing with? Lipo, rhabdo, etc.?

    1. Thanks!

      It’s not a Ewing’s sarcoma, but it is Ewing’s-like. Which is good. It means that I don’t have near the risk going forward, but they do know how to treat it.

      There will be a couple more rounds of chemo after this week, then a pause, then surgery. Then some more chemo.

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