More about this pic later, but first let me introduce you to a close friend; someone I met in YMCA's Indian Guides when our boys were little; someone who was there for me during Trenton’s setbacks; and who joined us in the waiting room during Trenton’s second heart transplant surgery. This is my guest blogger – Larry Inman…
Regular readers of this blog will notice my story deviates somewhat from the norm, in that my journey to thankfulness does not include some epiphany, deep insight or great resolve on my part. In fact, thankfulness is the only response in my situation. Anything less would have rightfully been met with a “What the hell dude?!”
On July 18th, I had my (somewhat) annual physical with Dr. Tony Swaldi. There were no pressing issues, just a normal well check. During the course of examination, Dr. Swaldi felt a “firmness” on the left side of my stomach, and although he said it very well could turn out to be nothing, he would feel better if “we took a look inside,” and asked if I would be OK getting a sonogram. Two days later, I had the sonogram and the following day, Dr. Swaldi called with the results. First, I wasn’t pregnant (PHEW!!) but they did see a mass on my kidney. He discussed options of what it might be (one of which was cancer), but the resolution on a sonogram is not good and we would need a CT scan to get a better idea. The following Monday, I had the CT scan and when Dr. Swaldi called me with the results, it was, as I had assumed, most likely cancer, and I needed to be referred to a specialist to have the kidney removed. Tony said he would refer me to anyone I chose, but if it were him, he would want the best. Me, the shrewd medical expert that I am, said yeah, I’d be cool with the best, so he referred me to Dr. Ganesh Raj at UT Southwestern. Dr. Raj confirmed Dr. Swaldi’s findings and scheduled my surgery for the first available date, August 24. Both doctors had said our best hope was that the cancer was contained solely within the kidney, in which case, surgery was the cure and I wouldn’t have chemo or radiation. If it was metastatic, it would have a more ominous diagnosis and require a much more rigorous and aggressive protocol.
Although my prognosis either way was pretty good, this over three-week wait for surgery allowed ample time to freak out and worry. One of the first people I reached out to was my Little Sooner Buddy, David Cary. As a friend, I obviously wanted to let him know what was going on, but more selfishly, I wanted/needed his guidance. For almost 20 years, I have marveled at, and been in awe of, the strength and grace the Cary family has shown through unimaginable hardships, and I asked David for help in navigating these waters. How do I tell those close to me? When do I tell them? How do I let everyone else know? Etc. etc. Early on, David told me two things; one, he wanted me to write a piece for his blog (check) and two, people would want to help me and I needed to let them. David knows me well and knows that I pretend to be this big, tough, manly man who can take care of anything, so that last bit of advice struck a chord and created a grateful and receiving spirit in me to deal with the challenges that lay ahead.
I had my surgery Thursday, August 24th, and although I have a “Trenton” level scar, it went perfectly and Dr. Raj was extremely satisfied.
On Friday, August 25th, Hurricane Harvey struck and my daughter MacKenzie’s condo in Houston was completely flooded. She salvaged most of her clothes (and three pair of shoes), a few things in storage, and her car, but lost everything else. Most importantly, she was safe and out of harm’s way. My incredibly strong wife, Deanna, not only had to deal with a 6’4” baby whining, but also be a calming force for our daughter. Since the hospital was still giving me the “good stuff” at that time, I don’t remember all of it, but can only imagine all she was going through.
I spent five days in the hospital, and 5 days after, went back for my follow up appointment, where we learned that our (and a multitude of others) prayers had been answered. The cancer, while being Stage 3 and the size of a small nerf football, was contained within the kidney and the pathology tests on the lymph nodes and tissue were all negative!! Don’t blow my cover, but like so many other days during this journey, I might have shed a tear that day.
As I said, thankfulness is my only appropriate response. Even though I had zero symptoms, and my blood work gave no indication, my doctor was astute enough to find cancer before it spread. Countless people have reached out with thoughts and prayers. Friends from every stage of my life have wrapped their arms around me and, figuratively and literally, held me up with their love when I couldn’t stand on my own. We did not prepare or buy a dinner for 12 days after my surgery and still had offers beyond that. My son, Trevor, who took care of the house and the dogs so Dee could take care of MacKenzie and me, was given a $100 gift card to Whataburger (his favorite fast food) so he could grab a bite to eat going back and forth to the hospital. Many family and friends were at the hospital all day during my surgery to support Dee and me, and only left when everything was ok. A crowdfunding has provided donated items and money to help my daughter’s recovery.
So yeah, I donated a kidney to that SOB cancer and my daughter lost some “stuff”, but we received so much more in return. We have seen first-hand, the tremendous kindness of an extended community, and if it had ever waivered, our faith in humanity and our faith in our savior has been restored tenfold. We have resources and very promising outlooks on both fronts that many, many people in similar situations do not enjoy.
Even though it wasn’t hard to get to and really was the only path available, I am very much STILL THANKFUL.
P.S. Three months after surgery, Larry and Dee celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary, hence the picture at the top (and for Larry Inman, I’m Still Thankful).