Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"All exits are final."

Maybe it's just me.

But doesn't it seem as if Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's parking garage should have a better way of expressing this sentiment? Like "No return once you leave parking lot" maybe?

"All exits are final." I can't help thinking of the book "Final Exit" when I see that phrase. Given that many patients coming and going to Sloan Kettering are probably deeply contemplating their final exits, wouldn't you think that the Powers That Be would realize that this is a particularly infelicitous turn of phrase?

Why was I at Sloan Kettering, you are probably wondering? Well, I am a cancer survivor. However, I always feel a little silly referring to myself that way, because my cancer was so bizarre and it was caught so early. You see, it was tongue cancer. Yes, tongue cancer. You probably never heard of tongue cancer; I sure hadn't until I got it. Only 12,000 people get it a year. I was so lucky as to be one of them.

To make a long story short, I had what I thought was a canker sore on the side of my tongue but it didn't go away after about 3 weeks so I had it biopsied and it turned out to be a very early cancer. Being a major hypochondriac (see my other blog, Medicana), I had done a lot of research on line and realized this was nothing to mess around with.

I went straight to Sloan Kettering, to a head and neck surgeon recommended to me by both the oral surgeon who did the biopsy and my husband's dentist (who have no connection, so I felt it was Fate that sent me to him). He did some further surgery to make sure the biopsy had removed all the cancer and found no further sign of cancer. So luckily I did not have to have radiation or chemotherapy and I just go for checkups every 3-4 months.

It was unusual for someone with my profile to have tongue cancer in the first place (as my regular doctor said, "Tongue cancer??? How can YOU have tongue cancer? You're not an elderly male smoker!")

Well, I had been a smoker. Until twenty-five years ago, anyway. I smoked over a pack a day for about 7 years and then quit cold turkey.

I had also been a drinker - not an alcoholic, but I liked my wine. Usually had a couple of glasses a day. Apparently that could've done it too.

But what I like to think is that I had a rough spot on my tooth (which I've since had filed down) and that was what really did it...because I quit drinking completely since the doctor said it would be a risk factor. But I entertain fond hopes that one day I'll start having an occasional glass of wine again -- once I'm fairly confident that I am not about to come down with five more oral cancers. So I prefer this explanation.

It's been a year and 10 months now so I continue to keep my fingers crossed!

1 comment:

RUTH said...

Glad you got through it ok...tongue cancer does sound unusual though I have heard of it before. Will keep my fingers crossed for you too! I must say that car park sign could have been slightly more tactful.
Take care