A Very Uncertain Future

There’s nothing more shocking than to be told you have cancer. My wife Melanie and I drove home in silence that morning, afraid to speak for fear of realizing this was not a dream. My mind was racing; it was going to take a while to understand the absurdity of what had just transpired. The immediate reaction was, “It’s only cancer, I’ll beat it like everything else, it can’t be that serious.” Then fear: was I going to die, how do I tell my kids and the rest of the family and my friends. How much longer will I be able to work, how much of a burden am I going to be, are all my affairs in order? And let’s not forget anger. Why me, what have I done to deserve this? It was a vicious cycle. I went into the hospital that morning feeling 100% healthy, I came out with cancer.

Six weeks

I had six weeks to deal with all the feelings that had taken over my body, mind and soul. That’s when the first transurethral resection (TURBT) was scheduled. The tumors were being removed. I told my kids; they were terrified. I told my friends; they offered support, and I told my boss; he was understanding. He told me to take all the time I needed. I was teaching a television broadcasting course at the time, but I didn’t want the students to know so we kept it quiet.

Pre-surgery routine

Prior to the surgery, I met with my surgeon, Dr. Alexander Zlotta. He’s the head of urinary oncology at Mt. Sinai and is considered one of the leading experts on bladder cancer and its treatment in the world. He explained what would happen, how long it would take and said I’d likely be in hospital overnight. Next stop was the pre-surgical checkup. That took the most of one day at the hospital. It was pretty routine, like getting a complete physical, except I also met with an anesthetist to determine how he would put me under. Since I have sleep apnea, they decided to go with an epidural and not the general anesthetic. On the day we arrived, we were admitted and sent to the fifth floor surgical waiting room. I changed into my hospital gowns (front and back), put on my little booties and hat and sat down to wait. It felt like I was auditioning for an assembly line job.

Waiting to enter the operating room

I was quickly called in and went through the entire physical once again, the only difference this day was that my blood pressure and pulse were understandably quite high. I was then moved to another waiting room with my wife. I sat in a large lounge chair and they gave me a warm blanket. I tried meditating to calm down but it didn’t work, I couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me, just couldn’t accept it. Fifteen minutes later, a nurse appeared telling me it was time, and we walked to the operating room where once again I took a seat with my wife and waited in the hall. Close but no cigar. Another round of questioning, name, address, date of birth, and then it was time. I took my glasses off, gave them to my wife along with a big hug and kiss, and I walked into a very uncertain future…


Find the next part of Jim’s journey here.

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