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Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes Dad





The Napkin Notes Blog

Digging Deep

WGarth Callaghan


I stared at the computer screen in front of me. How did this happen to me? I am only 42! 22 years younger than the average age of diagnosis! And the tumor that they’d discovered in me? 13 cm at its largest point. Which meant, that if it was growing at the average growth rate, I had had it growing inside me since I was 29. Essentially ever since I had become a father, I had had a ticking time bomb inside of me.
I continued to read. Kidney cancer is notoriously tough to defeat and even when everyone thinks it’s defeated, it tends to show back up years later. Kidney cancer doesn’t really respond to chemo or radiation. How on earth was I supposed to win this battle?
I didn’t want to feel discouraged. I knew, going in to my next doctor’s appointment on Monday, when they would do a number of scans to figure out exactly what we were dealing with and our treatment plan, that I needed to feel like a warrior. I wanted to be the best and most aggressive patient known. No treatment would be off the table. I would jump in to this crazy phase of my life and attack.
I am a self-described geek for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I am not afraid to admit how much I love Star Wars. I spent hours playing with Star Wars toys as a kid and as an adult, I belonged to the Rebel Legion, a costuming group dedicated to charity work while dressed as a Star Wars character. Every time I thought about this battle I was facing, lines from my favorite movie would pop into my head. 
I decided to not only wear only Star Wars t-shirts to each medical appointment, I would tell each member of my medical team why I was doing this. I needed to differentiate myself. Be a person, not just a patient number. I knew how many countless appointments these people had each day. But Garth Callaghan? Oh yeah, he was the Star Wars guy. They would remember me. I would stand out.  I would have brought a lightsaber to my appointments if I thought it would help.
I had a full set of scans on Monday: another CT, an MRI, and a full body bone scan. Lissa and I went to the hospital for the day. I spent the day laying on various tables and staying still. Yet it was exhausting. 
We went home. We had eight days to wait until we’d meet with Dr. Bradford and learn exactly what was going on. It seemed like an eternity. At least, we had Thanksgiving to celebrate to take our minds off things. My mom arrived. We really tried to not let cancer overshadow the holiday. It was already difficult as the first holiday without my dad. Mom wanted to stay past her planned departure so as to be there when we got the results from my tests. But Lissa and I had our anniversary to celebrate right before the next appointment. I was bound and determined to celebrate as if it were my last opportunity. Maybe it was.
Finally, it was time to meet with Dr. Bradford. This time I made sure Lissa was with me. I needed a partner to listen and absorb what was being said. Dr. Bradford introduced himself to Lissa. We discussed the situation and then the scan results. My bone scan was clear. The cancer hadn't spread to my bones. The MRI indicated that the "spread" we had seen on the CT scan was probably not cancer, but a cluster of blood vessels. 
“So this means…” I said, trying to decipher exactly what the doctor was saying. 
“It’s good news,” Dr. Bradford said. “While yes, you have kidney cancer, it doesn’t look like it has spread. So we’ll go in, and try and take it out.”
I looked at Lissa with a tentative smile. I was so excited to learn I ONLY had kidney cancer. We would schedule surgery soon, and if all went well, I would resume a normal life shortly after the surgery. 
As we gathered our things as the appointment wrapped up, I grabbed my bag and pulled out a gift for Dr. Bradford. It was a Star Wars Medical Droid action figure. He looked at it puzzled. I said, “This is the guy who saves the heroes.  It’s your job to save me.”  

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Notas de amor 22.11.2016: