On October 15, 2001, I awoke from the anesthesia. I was lying in a bed in a hospital room at Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center in Riverside, California. My wife, Arlene, and my two daughters sat at the end of the bed. I could tell that my thoracic surgeon had already talked to them because they appeared to be in a state of shock. I wondered what it meant.
I had just endured a chest biopsy in which tissue and fluid were removed from the pleural lining that covers my chest wall. Later I would find out that, as I slept, the surgeon had told my wife and daughters that he suspected that it was cancer and my life was in jeopardy, but a definitive diagnosis would have to wait the results of the pathologist's examination of the biopsy material.
"They think it may be some kind of cancer," my wife said gently.
I looked at her and said "Don't worry, I will be okay."
Perhaps it was the anesthesia or my drowsiness talking, but I really was not worried. Deep in my heart, I knew I would be okay and that I would survive.
Soon I was discharged and spent the next two weeks at home waiting the definitive diagnosis. I went on with my life focusing on the future as best I could. I went fishing and flew radio controlled airplanes, two of my favorite pastimes.
During this two week period there were times when I forgot that I was awaiting a verdict from the doctors. Then it would come crashing back in and I would remember what I was waiting for. During those moments my life felt like it was on hold until I heard the diagnosis and prognosis. But, then a voice somewhere in my mind said that it didn't matter. Whatever the doctors said, I knew I could conquer it.
Finally, two weeks came and went and I heard nothing so I drove to the hospital and spoke to a nurse. She told me that some, not all, of the biopsy samples had come back from the pathologist and that I would have to wait for the surgeon to return from vacation to hear what the findings were. Great, more suspense, I thought to myself.
About ten days later I went to the hospital for my follow-up appointment with the surgeon. It was time to take the staples out of my chest - the ones that were holding the skin in place over the biopsy sites. Casually, the doctor said that I had mesothelioma.