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Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes Dad




Perspective on My Cancer Fight


The Napkin Notes Blog

Perspective on My Cancer Fight

WGarth Callaghan

From August 7, 2014

I woke up at 5 AM today. It was dark and too early for me. I usually like that time of the day, but I have gotten used to sleeping past 7 lately. 5 AM was tough.

I had a busy morning scheduled. I had a 6:15 MRI then an 8:10 with my doctor. I drove to the hospital while yawning and remarked to myself how hungry I was. I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink until much later.

I signed in and was first in line. At least I wouldn’t have to wait around. Wrong!

As they brought me back into the MRI area, we walked right past the best and newest MRI machine in Richmond. I did a double take and pointed behind me. “Ah, I am here for that other machine. I always use that machine. It has the best images.” I felt like Sheldon Cooper saying, “You’re in my spot.” Someone else was scheduled for the good machine. “I can wait. That’s ok. I am a patient patient.” I walked back to the waiting room without even hearing their answer.

The rest of the MRI appointment went off without a hitch.  I don’t have any unease or claustrophobia. I actually just imagine that I am in some type of space capsule floating between the stars. The appointment flew by.

I headed over to my doctor’s office. I didn’t know that Nicole Kiniry was working behind the scenes to get the MRI results. She wanted to really help out and allow us to see what the Radiologist saw, and that process usually lasts a couple of business days. I owe her a special thank you for her hard work behind the scenes.

I wasn’t expecting her to hand me results. I really wasn’t.

I have read enough MRI reports that I know how to skip to the important parts.

Codes – skip over
Report – skip over
Indication – skip over
Comparison MRI – skip over (I know EXACTLY what my last MRI reports stated!)
Contrast – skip over
Technique – skip over
Findings – BINGO

I have two lesions. Both are slightly smaller than my May 28 MRI. That’s great news!


Why did I start crying in the doctor’s office then? Why was my wife congratulating me on the results as I felt like I failed? Why am I so incredibly disappointed?

Why was everyone texting me with congratulatory messages and I couldn’t help but feel like this was a hollow victory?

I expected more. I expected a bigger achievement. I needed a bigger “win”.

I wanted to have no cancer.

I need to be cancer free.

This has been a long fight.

There are times I am just worn out. Today is one of those days.

This wasn’t my plan.

That’s really the crux of it. It wasn’t my plan.  My plan was to be cancer free. I had such high expectations and I didn’t even come close. I wanted to lower my treatment dosage so I can feel human again.

It has been a humbling day.

This wasn’t my plan. I forgot that my plan doesn’t really matter in this battle. I haven’t chosen this path. I have been put onto this path. I don’t know where it leads, but I need to follow it and continue to inspire parents to write Napkin Notes to their kids today. I need to continue to inspire other cancer patients to fight like hell. That’s what matters.

That’s His plan for me. I know it in my heart. I know it in my soul.

So, yes, I have had a disappointing day. I have cried more than once. I am actually on the verge of crying now.

I need just a little time to regroup. I need some time to shake this off and get ready for tomorrow’s battle. I am declaring the rest of the day “Garth’s Cancer Day” and taking a break.

“This whole fight, this journey thing, is not a solo venture. This is something that requires support.” – Stuart Scott, ESPY Awards acceptance speech.

Thank you for supporting Emma, Lissa and me in this battle. We can’t do this alone.

Tomorrow is another day. I’ll be ready to battle again.

Pack. Write. Connect.

Epilogue - August 7, 2017: If you made it this far, I still have those same lesions we saw three years ago, more or less. Some scans show a little more, some show a little less. I have an MRI/CT scheduled on Tuesday. We'll see what we can see!