Are you the kind of person who needs to know, right now? I always thought I was that kind of person, well I did until recently. I haven’t been posting anything super serious online for the last few weeks because I’ve been pretty sick. This isn’t the standard stuff I’ve been dealing with for the last 20 years and if I’m being honest, I’m terrified.
I’ve had bouts of laryngitis four times in the last 4 months. It started a few days after my gall bladder surgery so the first time I attributed it to having a breathing tube down my throat during the surgery and I thought it would go away and that would be that. Just some irritation. It lasted 3 weeks that first time. Finally around Thanksgiving I got worried enough to go to the ER, they told me I had strep throat, gave me some medicine, and sent me home. I took that round of medication and now into the 4th week of having little to no voice, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and ear pain with a slight dry cough thought well this is it, this is going to fix things. It didn’t. I went a full course, 10 days, of antibiotics and was still sick. The first week of December I went to Urgent Care and the doctor there said I had some random bacterial infection. He prescribed a stronger antibiotic and sent me on my way. It worked! I was incredibly happy to be feeling better so I finished my Christmas shopping and thought nothing else of it.
Two days before Christmas it came back. Just as bad this time and I decided to wait it out at least a week. I waited 8 days and went back to Urgent Care. The doctor there told me it had to be GERD or Acid Re-flux as it’s also called. He said it was burning my throat and causing irritation. He upped my dose of Nexium 40 mg a day to 40 mg twice a day (one in the morning and one in the evening). I did this for the next week and it didn’t help. I called my family doctor. He got me in right away and referred me to see an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) doctor. He wanted me to have a scope done. It’s not pleasant. They take a long tubular shaped instrument and slide it up your nose,bending it just right so it then slips down the back of your mouth and into your throat. It takes incredible concentration to fight your gag reflex. It was horrible and felt extremely invasive (and that’s funny to me because I’ve had a speculum in my lady garden).
The ENT does this test and when done he turns to me and says “Your throat is too swollen for me to see the vocal chords. Let’s give you another Acid Re-flux medication to take at bedtime, see if it works, if it doesn’t I’ll see you back in one month.” Now mind you, I’ve now spent 9 weeks in the past 4 months with almost no voice, trouble swallowing, and painful coughing. I agreed to his plan though because then he hit me with “best case scenario it’s GERD, worst case it’s cancer.”
The bottom fell out for me right then and there. My mind started racing, I of course thought first I’m going to quit smoking! And then went right into, well it’s a bit too fucking late for that right?
My paternal grandmother died of throat cancer. I have heard that she even had a tracheotomy with one of those horrible voice box vibrators so she could talk. I do not want to live like that. My grandfather supposedly had lung cancer and I know my own father died of lung cancer when I was only 23. He was 57, just 17 years older than I am now. Like I said, my mind was racing. I couldn’t seem to stop on any specific thing to calm down. My niece (who’s only 2 years younger than me) was with me and she helped distract me.
I texted my husband that I’d be home later and that I didn’t want to talk about it until I could see him. See I know I’ll die before Steve. He’s a much better person than I am. I talk about what I want to happen all the time with him and I know it upsets him but I’ve always hated how people leave things until it’s all too late. I at least want him to know what I want to happen so he doesn’t have to question his decisions when the time comes. I tell everyone I do not want resuscitated, I do not want to live on any type of machinery, I do not want to be paralyzed or incapacitated. I do not want a funeral, I want cremated with an old fashioned wake. I want people to meet up, enjoy some drinks, love the great food they remember me for, and grieve in a joyous way. I want there to be music, and no not funeral home music either. I want good music. I even have a play list I update on occasion. I even have a blue book called “I’m Dead, Now What?” with all of this information. I don’t want to be stage 4 laying in a hospital room while my friends and family struggle to find time and emotion to come see me, say goodbye to me. I want to go out in a blaze of glory like my father did.
He was diagnosed stage 4 and told he had maybe 6 good months. He said fuck it, he got his house in order, he checked in to a nursing home, and he partied for 2 months. My brothers snuck him in beer. My mother brought him pizza and subs he loved. And me, I brought him cigarettes when he asked me to. Even at 2 a.m., I wanted to be pissy about having to take him smokes while he was dying of lung cancer, but I just couldn’t. It’s what he wanted and he knew he was done. He lived the way he wanted for 2 months and I have nothing but respect for that. I just hope when my time comes someone will say the same of me.
So, I didn’t post about this for the last two weeks but just needed to send my thoughts out into the universe finally. I’m terrified. I’m trying really hard not to overreact and I type that as I still have no voice, trouble swallowing, and painful dry cough that no medication has helped for four months. I have 2.5 weeks to go until we do more testing. I don’t pray but I am quitting smoking. It doesn’t matter if I have cancer or not, I want to be done with it.
I’ll update as more testing is done. I don’t want to dwell on it though so let’s all move on.