Tale of Two Cancers IV


Sorry it’s been awhile since my last post, I was taking it easy and enjoying the March break with my family, relaxing and hanging out.

I think my last post brought me to the end of the first time through the process of treating cancer. And I thought, as did my oncologists, that would be the end of things, as it is a rare occurance to get Hodgkins disease twice.

For three and a half years things went swimmingly. I resumed full time work, quit smoking, got into really good shape physically to the point where I was as strong as I’ve ever been and was running 6 1/2 minute miles (and I am not your typically skinny running type). Caroline, my wife, went back to school to get her teaching certificate during this time, which would prove to be a financial lifesaver in the long run for our family.

I was also busy in the studio, catching up on lost time, and thought that everything was back to “normal”.

Then one evening at work I hit my head on a low hanging beam in the basement of the cafe where I was working as I was picking up a couple of cases of quart bottles of beer, nailing it as I was standing up. I just about knocked myself out, which is quite a feat on its own, what with my thick skull. I was waiting for the headache to begin, but it didn’t and I thought nothing more of it for a couple of days until I woke up with a lower back ache. I figured it was probably a result of cracking my head and treated it as such, but it refused to improve with time and kept on getting worse as the weeks went by.

I went to chiropractors, physiotherapists and my own doctor, a new guy my family had found after our previous doctors folded their practice in order to go into specialist mode. At first everybody thought things should improve with time and treatment, but as the weeks rolled by the pain became worse and I started to notice tingling and numbness in my feet, something that made me think there might be something more going on than simple back pain.

When I told my G.P. about the tingling and asked him for pain relief he looked at my chart and noticed I had been to rehab a decade earlier to get help in treating my alcoholism. Instead of asking me more about my symptoms, he came to the conclusion that I was after painkillers for kicks, which was my first warning sign that this wanker wasn’t going to be much help in treating my condition, whatever it was. Another month and a half went by with worsening pain and a few more visits to this doctor, who by now treated me as a whining pain in his ass. During one visit when we were going through our dance of me describing the deteriorating condition of my health he told me that there was a new rehab clinic opening downtown to treat drug and alcohol abuse and that perhaps I might be interested in it. This after I had just told him I was now getting no more than twenty minutes of sleep at a time due to the incresing pain and that I had dropped a shift a week in order to try to help my body heal.

My response was to call him an asshole and to remind him that I was a dry alcoholic who worked as a bartender for a living and that I was raising two kids and had no temptation to have anything to drink despite easy access to booze. I then told him that as a bartender I also had access to a variety of painkillers in exchange for free drinks for people and that one way or another I was getting painkillers that day in order to get some sleep and that the choice was his : either he could give me a prescription and monitor my intake or I could take street drugs. With reluctance he finally wrote me a prescription for oxycontin, otherwise known as hillbilly heroin.

The only other prescription he’d given me was for an anti-inflammatory called celebrex, which resulted in the development of an allergy due to the horses dose he’d prescribed.

As for any testing or specialist referrals, he refused to book me for either a CT scan or an MRI and he booked me an appointment with an arthritis specialist. The fact that continuing lower back pain is the first symptom of a recurrance of Hodgkins disease seemed not to have occurred to him, although he was aware of my previous encounter with the condition.

When I went to the arthritis guy, he took a quick inventory of my symptoms and asked me what the hell I was doing at his office as it was obvious my condition was serious and unrelated to his field of expertise. He then wrote a letter to my G.P. thanking him for the referral of this pleasant young man who is in obvious pain and needed to see a surgeon at the very least. His appraisal of me as pleasant ruffled the G.P.’s feathers since he thought I was an increasingly ill tempered bastard, to which I replied “Yeah, that’s what pain will do to you “. With hesitation he agreed to contact a surgeon, and I told him to make sure it was with a neurosurgeon because they work with a lighter touch than orthopedic surgeons and that my (second) chiropractor had advised me to go with a neurosurgeon, as had my first chiropractor ( whose response to the name of my G.P. had been “oh, that asshole–I shouldn’t say that as a professional, but he’s an asshole”, also the later opinion of more than one nurse at the emergency ward ).

By now it was just over four months since the pain had begun. I was waking up, when I could get a few minutes of sleep, with screaming, burning pain running through my hamstrings as well as the pain in my back, which was also spreading upward by this time. I finally got a CT scan by going to the emergency ward in the middle of the night when the brother of a friend I played hockey with was on duty. He arranged it for the following week and when I told my G.P. he freaked on me for going brhind his back. I told him that I’d had to since he wasn’t taking me seriously.

In addition to the pain, here’s what else I’d told him :

I had lost eleven kilograms of bodyweight, I was getting what little sleep I could by passing out in a hot bath (awaking when my face dropped into the water—scary shit), I had quit working because I could no longer stand or sit for more than ten to fifteen minutes at a time, and the twentyfive to thirty oxycontin pills a day I was taking had little to no effect anymore.

Did he order tests ? Contact my oncology team ? Get me a timely appointment with a surgeon ? Do ANYTHING ?


Which is when I told him once again that he was an asshole . He said he was doing the best he could for me. I told him that if this was his best then he was not much of a doctor. He suggested I find another G.P., even though my place of residence has a shortage of doctors and a waiting list of at least 20,000 people looking for a G.P.

I said fine with me , just give me ny fucking records and get me the fuck outta there.

Which is the wisest thing I could have done.

Next up : Happy 40th to me.


~ by Rocky Green on May 8, 2007.

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