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Glen Allen, VA 23060

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Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes Dad

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Today Is The End of "Normal"

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The Napkin Notes Blog

Today Is The End of "Normal"

WGarth Callaghan

Today is my last day as a ‘normal’ cancer patient.  I know that each cancer journey is unique. Mine started when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer at age 42. That in itself, is unique, as the average age of kidney cancer diagnosis is 64.  Additionally, kidney cancer only accounts for about 4.5% of the “common” new cancer diagnoses.  Where is this luck when I buy lottery tickets?!?

I jumped into high gear and wanted to differentiate myself from my patient number.  I gave my doctor a Star Wars Medical Droid action figure and boldly stated, “This is the guy who saves the heroes.  It’s your job to save me.” I decided then to only wear Star Wars shirts for any medical appointment and made sure that the people treating me understood why I did so.  It wasn’t for my love of Star Wars, although that was an added benefit.  I wore outlandish Star Wars shirts so that some part of them might recognize me from appointment to appointment. 

After two surgeries and two additional diagnoses of cancer, I think that I can say that I left “normal” behind long ago.  We set a new definition of normal in our family.

Today is my last day in what was my “normal” cancer journey.  Tomorrow I venture in to a very unknown, but exciting realm. 

Tomorrow I become a guinea pig, of sorts.   

Tomorrow I join a small cadre of patients that take a drug in the hopes of staving off a cancer recurrence. 

My medical team unanimously agrees I have microscopic kidney cancer cells hanging around, waiting to gain a foothold.  I won’t go into why this scares the heck out of me, but it started with the words, “Mr. Callaghan, you’re going to die from this.” We all have to die from something, right? I just don’t want to rush quickly to that destination.

We’ve decided the best course of action is to proactively attack what might be there, and the best way to do that is with a drug that messes up kidney cancer cells’ abilities to grow and spread.  I steadfastly believe this is a necessary step in my life. 

Tomorrow I enter a world of managing side effects, and not the fun ones like, “You should call a doctor immediately if you ever have an erection that lasts more than 4 hours.”  Tomorrow I start paying close attention to diet, weight, how I feel, changes in skin or hair color, vomiting, diarrhea, and even more interesting effects!

Many have asked me why I would start down this path. I choose this path, not for myself. I choose this path because I love my wife and daughter deeply.  I owe it to them to fight to the best of my ability.  I am anxiously awaiting to see the next steps in this journey. 

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.