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My Day of Diagnosis Story

Tim6003's picture
Tim6003
Posts: 1497
Joined: Nov 2011

I post this NOT as a "negative" but for any and all who are recently diagnosed and are overwhelmed. You are not alone.

Now you "hunker down" and fight for yourself, family and loved ones who need you. You get all the time you can and you love those who love you.

This story depicts me at one of my worst times, and today I am NED (7.5 months after treatment). We all live with the "what's next" of course, but with family and your online friends here ...you can get through anything (for me it was the above plus prayer).

Here is My Day of Diagnosis story.

It was a Friday night at 6pm when my doctor called with the results of my CT scan to the head and neck which had been performed earlier that same day. I said to my doctor “this is not going to be good if you are calling me on Friday at 6pm” …I was right, the news was NOT good. She told me about the “mass” on the left base of my tongue and informed me it appears to have spread to one lymph node on the same side of my neck.

I had been reading on-line for some of the worst case scenarios for a couple of weeks (since I had been feeling terrible even before my lymph node swelled up). My research and based on what the doctor said I determined I was more than likely at stage III or greater if this was to be cancer. I remember thinking to myself this is one of many times in life I hope I am “bad” wrong.

As is apparently the unspoken rule all doctors adhere to, she would not say for sure without a biopsy and an ENT to review all the records, that it was cancer, but she did admit it did not look promising in so much as it was “not” cancer.

This next statement might make me sound to be brave or crazy, but I am neither. I did not tell my wife that night about my scan results. In fact I did not tell her for another five days. I did not tell her until the night before our visit to the ENT. I did not tell her because I did not know how. She was the mother of our five “young” children. How could I give her such news? How do I tell her I may not be around in 2 years, 3 years or whenever. If it was cancer, stage III or greater, the statistics say there’s a 40% chance I will not be around in 5 years. How can I be sure it even was cancer? I was afraid to tell her. I was afraid myself of my future.

We had the “pumpkin lighting festival” coming up the next day (Saturday) at the Pancake House. It was to be a family event. We had gone last year and all was normal. I will tell her Monday, that way I can at least have a weekend without this dark cloud hanging over our heads. No, I should tell her immediately, she would want to know. No, I will have to wait because she works the next 3 days. If I tell her today, she will be a mess and not be able to function at her job, much less deal with the day to day of family life. On and on the reasons kept coming. At the same time I wanted to tell her because I was scared. I felt incredibly alone. She was my best friend, my wife. If ever I needed to lean on her it was now!

It was a night or two after my scan, but still days before I had told my wife of the scan results, that I was putting my son West to bed. I kissed him good night and sent him upstairs to his room when he suddenly turned to me half way up the stairs and asked me “Daddy, how old will I be when you die”? I can’t imagine what my face must have looked like. All I could think to myself was what?! Then I asked West, “why would you ask me a question like that?” (I wanted to say why now, why that question but I caught myself and realized there is no way he could know what is going on or what was happening). So I gathered myself and said “West, I don’t know how old you will be when I die. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. I could die tonight of a heart attack, next week in a car accident or years from now of old age. But no matter how old you are when I die, I will always love you and be a part of you and I will be waiting in heaven for you”. West then stated in a matter of fact tone “I hope I am a million years old when you die”! I responded “me too West, me too”.

I then went to the bathroom and turned on the water, as if I were taking a shower, and had a very good cry. I remember distinctly praying “Lord, I need you right now”. I had no specific request or needs I asked for, I just remember being utterly drained and repeating those same words quite a few times.

~ Tim Cogdill / Head & Neck Cancer Survivor
Proud father of Georgia, Kohle, West, Jace & Raylan

ToBeGolden's picture
ToBeGolden
Posts: 697
Joined: Aug 2010

Need to post just to say thanks. Needed to post as a vote to keep your message on top for awhile. Rick.

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3085
Joined: May 2012

My Dear Tim,

Nice story, we must be getting close to the 1 year anniversary (pumpkin lighting festival). Let’s hope we all have many more years to share our stories. I can’t wait for your next chapter (kidding).

Best,

Matt

November 11, 2011 is when I knew something was wrong.

katenorwood
Posts: 1862
Joined: May 2012

Tim,
Thank you for sharing ! I remember being sick for awhile with weak lungs, after surgery on a bad hip. When I say sick, I mean not able to get my strenghth back. I Worked for a care center and could clean the entire place in an 8 hr. shift by myself on a Sunday. And I prided myself on being fit, and healthy all my life. My biopsy, no scans at first came back positive for cancer. It was a week before Thanksgiving, on a Friday night around 7. I knew also, it wasn't gonna be good news. It was my docs partner that called me....and I asked why he hadn't called ? Was told he wasn't good with bad news. I said thank you for the info. and hung up the phone. My hubby who is legally blind, couldn't see my face, but could tell it wasn't good news from my voice. I'm thinking I was pretty numb, as I had just lost my Mom to ovarian the previous yr. Listening to your story Tim, I just feel so lucky as all of my children are grown and on their own. I'm not NED yet, but am pushing positively to reach this ! I'm inspired by you and all the others to continue my fight. Thanks again Tim ! Katie

cureitall66's picture
cureitall66
Posts: 879
Joined: Aug 2012

As I'm getting myself ready for church and taking some time to read some posts I came across yours Tim.. Again tugging my heart. Tears...but happy ones. We have so much to be grateful for ...more than we can even imagine.

God Bless you and your family.

hwt's picture
hwt
Posts: 2008
Joined: Jun 2012

Thanks for sharing. May God bless you and your beautiful family.

Tonsil Dad's picture
Tonsil Dad
Posts: 488
Joined: Dec 2011

Nice post Tim,
I have no doubt you will be around for a million years.

The wife Frances says hi..

God bless
Tonsi dad,

Dan.

Greg53's picture
Greg53
Posts: 830
Joined: Apr 2010

Tim,

As usual -awesome message. Hope you are doing well!

Greg

osmotar's picture
osmotar
Posts: 956
Joined: Jul 2011

Tim,

Great Post, thank you for sharing.

Linda

jcortney's picture
jcortney
Posts: 426
Joined: Sep 2012

For me, a very timely post. I am almost exactly at the stage you were. About 10 days after diagnosis (Sq T1 with impacted lymph nodes on both sides) and sitting here typing this post with watery eyes. I'm not much of a crier but I had to leave my bed in the middle of the night because my sobbing would probably wake my wife and lord knows I don't want to scare her any more than she is.

I have no idea what to do, I've met with three doc's (surgeon, Rad, Onc) and they all push their speciality. Tomorrow I go to MD Anderson and hopefully I'll come back with a clearer picture but, I can't help but dwell on how horrific this can, and probably will be.

So, thanks for the post, maybe the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a freight train after all.

Joe

ditto1
Posts: 634
Joined: Mar 2012

as always I look forward to your blogs, they are full of inspiration and you keep it honest and down to earth. You have a little of each of our stories in yours. You are so blessed with the life and family you have, I could see why you would go to Hell and Back to stay here with them. Hope your son is correct that he is a million years old before you go. Thanks for being here.

osmotar's picture
osmotar
Posts: 956
Joined: Jul 2011

First of all we have all cried at one time or another...my most recent was going to my 3rd PET scan this past tues, for some reason driving along listening to tunes, I had what I'll call a mini melt down, I've been done with tx since Dec 2011. When I first met my onco she was going on and on about this and that, it was like she was speaking a foreign language, words , squamus cell , chemo, radiation...she then looked at me , I must have that deer in the headlight look, and she said you know this is a lot of sh*t to take in at one time , then she said lets get together next week and plan the course of treatment. Right then and there I liked her, I put my trust and ultimately my life in her hands, as well as my radiologis, the nurses and the techs.. I had what my onco referred to as the mother of all treatmentst. Is it a rough path yes, is it doable yes, ask questions , be proactive, if you don't feel comfortable with what the docs tell you get a 2nd opinion. I posted at the beginning of Aug around my birthday and mentioned the light at the end of the tunnel , in my case it wasn't a freight train at all, for me it was the next chapter in my life, maybe not the life I had prior to the beast that found us, but a year has passed from the date of my first tx, and I'm looking to Dec 31, 2012 as the year post tx ended..a celebration of my life. We all have found a great resource here with this band of H&N warriors.

Linda

Tim6003's picture
Tim6003
Posts: 1497
Joined: Nov 2011

I had no idea what to do either. I just listened and asked questions and had to ask them (docs) at times to slow down for me. It's really all you can do.

For me the goal was to try and understand all the "flak" that was flying around and figure out the best course of action for me. Asking questions, thanking them for slowing down and being patient I think helped them be a bit more human (most were great, but one doc was kind of formal towards the process, which is okay...but not when you are scared and confused).

The 2nd goal was to be around for the wife and kids. I remember not knowing how good or bad it would / could be and asking the Lord for 1 more summer, to get the kids out of high-school (my kids ages are 2 - 13 as I type) ....my wife is 12 years younger than me and I just felt it would leave her in a terrible position to be so young with five kids. My life insurance would help, but in our world I'm the "one who talks to the kids about everything and is the disciplinarian of the family...and I was just concerned (as she was too) that the kids would go wild :) I guess that's any dad. We like to feel needed you know. :)

It will come Joe. It will pull together shortly. One thing I would do different if I had it to do over is share with my wife that I have my "sob" moments from time to time, but I would rather have them alone (I guess as a guy I don't mind crying with my wife, but the sob moments I like to have alone..don't know why that is)? My wife told me she was "wondering" if I was a concerned as her at the begining" ...so that's just my opinion. It's okay to share you are scared...who wouldn't be. I don't mean to sound brave when I say this, I sure did not wnat to leave this beautiful life, but I think I was more scared for my wife and kids than I was me dying....but again, I did not want to leave, just yet.

So hang in there...come to the board often...any questions feel free to private message me ..I'm no doctor and will never give anything more than my experience or opinion ....but like most people...I have lots of opinion...lol.

Be sure and go get an ice cream with the wife ...stop at some jip joint and enjoy it with her ...that will make it better, I promise. ; )

Tim

Tim6003's picture
Tim6003
Posts: 1497
Joined: Nov 2011

I appreciate all of you more than you will ever know ....

Tim

VanessaSLO's picture
VanessaSLO
Posts: 280
Joined: Jul 2012

Tim,
your inspiring and encouraging words are soooo helpful to me and my family, and my Mom and Dad... I tell them almost every day about you and your journey through all of this. When my Dad is down and cranky, I tell him how you have survived all of this with 5 children!! My Dad at least has quiet room to rest and I (as his daughter) am already adult and have my own family, so he at least does not have to worry about me (because I'm not a child anymore and he does not have any financial worries over me). I think that my Mom and Dad are so overwhelmed by your story and my Mom is also praying for your health and she is so thankful that I found this forum and have so much support here. You and so many others on this board are true angels!

Thank you, Tim, for your blessings that you give us each day on this forum! You have a wonderful family, beautiful wife, wonderful place to live! Let it stay that way!

To tell you the truth I'm really scared how things will turn for my Dad.. His tx will end this week, so far so good... But, he was N3 just before the start of tx. When diagnosed he was N2b, but we waited almost 2 months for tx to begin, so it was N3 in the end.. And that scares me so much... N3 usually has bad outcome. Even if tx is successful there is a big chance for recurrence... At least stats say so. His primary cancer was not that big, T2 and docs did not worry about cancer itself. Lymph nodes are the ones that make a concern. Now those nodes are pretty much gone, not touchable anymore, but anyway... It is scary.
But I try to believe that he got this desease like "kick in the ass" to change his and Mom's life... Because they just did not know how to live, they did not know how to explore and enjoy life...
I got married and moved to another city few years ago. And since then they just did not know how to enjoy. House was too big financial issue for them, so they sacrificed everything to take care of the house, the dog, chickens and rabitts, cats... I always tried to encourage them to try to enjoy life and stop working so much and give away that mini farm they had. But all they did was just wining without making any real step to better life.
And then... this cancer showed up. And even though it is hard to cope with this and to get thru this tx, they finally decided to change their lifes. They are selling the house, moving to my city in two months from now.... It is just wonderful and we are so happy that we will live closer and they will see their granddaughter more often... Well, I live for that!!
We will be closer, they will start a new life, they will not have to work that much anymore because they will live in a smaller appartment. I just hardly wait. So maybe this desease indeed has a message. Maybe, just maybe it is worth it!
Sorry for my English :)))

And thank you Tim again for everything!

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8103
Joined: Sep 2009

My thoughts and prayers Tim...., you have a great resource and are a great resource...you family.

Best,
John

Tim6003's picture
Tim6003
Posts: 1497
Joined: Nov 2011

I got a message from "someone" who said there partner was "emotional" and it was not like that person to be that way.

So I hope you all don't mind I brought this thread up again just to let the newbies on this site know it is normal and okay to have those emotional moments. I certainly don't bring this up to hi-lite me or my situation. The diagnosis and days before treatment begins and first couple of weeks into treatment can be VERY overwhelming.

I like what one reuglar on here often puts as his closing statement ...

"stay calm and carry on" ...

Best,

Tim

I am now approaching one year from diagnosis and I have had the best time hunting the last few weeks as well as cutting four cords of wood for our home and spending LOTS of time with my wife and kids!!! I am NED and I plano n living (with the grace of our good Lord) to 101 years old, but I told my wife she has to live longer than me!! :)

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