My interesting condition...

I wrote a little bit about this in Karen's thread the other day ( 0th/ )... and I thought I'd recapitulate that here, in its own thread, and add a wee bit of detail to it. It's... well... different.

The way things are looking now, it could be that I only have another month or two remaining. I started-out in June 2009, diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, with metastases scattered all about my spine, abdomen and organs. Over the next 9-months, that was all cleared-up with chemotherapy and radiation... except for a metastatic tumor that set-up shop in my spine, at the C5-C6 vertebrae. Persistent bugger... and basically, it's wrapped itself around my spine. It's been busily causing soft-tissue damage, including nerves, which has resulted in my right arm being pretty-much crippled-up (can't finger-pick my guitar anymore). In addition, it's also been destroying the bony structure of the vertebrae, to the point where at C5-C6, I've only got bone remaining on the left side; the right-side has been completely eaten away. That left-side bone is all that's holding my head up... or 'on', depending on how you want to look at it.

I had a consult with neurosurgeons last week, in Miami. I am told that the bone destruction has been accelerating since December, and unless surgery is performed in the very near future, they anticipate that the process of bone degradation and destruction will complete itself, and my spinal cord will be crushed under the weight of my skull. It should be very sudden, if it occurs... and I guess it should be fairly dramatic, too, huh? Poof... gone! In other words, my head's gonna fall off , spontaneously (not REALLY 'fall off'... dramatic license)... UNLESS they can get all that nasty stuff out of there, clean-up what remains of my vertebrae, and bolt my head back on with rods and screws. (I've been told that I needed to get my head screwed-on straight. Who knew that was prophetic?) I'm awaiting an MRI, which they need in order to resolve some additional soft tissue details, and complete the surgical plan. Then... we'll schedule it. The surgeon said that I'll be 'fast-tracked' through the system... else my head may fall-off (dramatic exaggeration again... but not TOO far-off) before they can do the operation.

While the surgery has a fairly good chance of succeeding, there's a significant (but presently unquantified) probability of coming out of it as a quadriplegic... and I see death as an acceptable outcome, comparatively speaking; I won't DO quadriplegic.

Believe it or not, I'm pretty-much unperturbed by this... except for the pain, that is. The pain REALLY sucks. Fortunately, though, it's been kept in-check with morphine, for the past 10 months or so. If not for the morphine, I'd be begging everybody I encountered to please... kill me. No joke.

I stopped taking chemotherapy a few weeks ago. My oncologist explained that I had to be free of chemotherapy for 30-days prior to any major surgery being done, and we wanted to be sure that the operation doesn't get delayed while waiting for that time to expire. The 30-days will be up on this coming Friday. It's a remarkable thing... I feel great; I suppose that's a consequence of not having been poisoned for nearly a month. The last time I went so long without being poisoned was prior to last June, and since then, I've felt so crappy from chemo side-effects that crappy has become the new 'normal' for me. I'd forgotten how it is to actually feel 'good'. I seems kind of counterintuitive, doesn't it? I mean here I am, in desperate need of surgery so I don't die within the next 2-months (or less)... and I feel better than I've felt for 10-months. So, dying suddenly (and most likely, painlessly) while feeling 'good', doesn't sound all that scary to me.

Anyway... my MRI is scheduled for Thursday, this week, and I'll talk to the neurosurgeon this coming Friday, or next Monday. Then, we'll review the probabilities for potential surgical outcomes and schedule the operation... IF warranted. You see... if the probability of paralysis turns-out to be unacceptably high, there remains the distinct possibility that I will decline the surgery, and just let nature take its course. If I decide to just let myself croak, I'll be sure to let y'all know... but just so y'all are aware, though, that potential outcome does not perturb me or disturb me in the least, so I'd hate for it to disturb anybody else, unduly. I feel more trepidation at the idea of suffering weeks of pain, agony and helplessness following a SUCCESSFUL surgery, than I am worried by the prospect of not waking-up from anesthesia. So, given the choice between waking-up paralyzed, and not waking-up at all... I'll take the latter choice, thank you very much.

So, there you have it. If there turns out to be an unacceptably high probability of ending-up paralyzed, I will choose to croak, instead.

In case I don't wake-up... BYE-BYE, all. If I DO wake-up... I'll let y'all know, when I am able. (Depending on how debilitated I am following surgery, though, that might not be until around the end of April.)

While I'm out-of-contact... best wishes and good luck to everyone.

Too bad. I'd always imagined my life ending by dying in bed, at about 85 or 90 years-old... caught in flagrante delicto, with a gorgeous 35 year-old babe... shot to death by a jealous husband. Oh well...

EDIT: Corrected mistake; changed 'paraplegic' to 'quadriplegic'.

Edited March 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

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52 replies. Join the discussion

Good Luck !! I agree with your decisions. Hope & pray all woks out well for you.

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you sound like a courageous man - may God be with you every step of the way.

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God love you darlin, I will pray for you, and wish that someday soon, a 35 yr old Babe, will knock your sox off!!!!!!!
Keep the faith,

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Hi Duck! Good Luck on your MRI and going forward. Is there any type of brace that you can wear to immobilize your c-spine? God Bless and Heal You! ♥ Viktory

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I am just without words here for a minute, had to catch my breath..
This is so sad, but so desperate too.
I do understand how you would feel faced with this, l would do the same thing, no surgery if it would mean waking up and being a parapalegic.
No thank you for me to that one either.
I also would feel dying while under the influence of anesthesia may not be so unpleasant.
But. I am still so sad for you, and admire how you are not showing any panic or fear, or even sadness?
I am sure underneath it is there someplace inside of you.
I will feel these symtoms for both of us, if you can't..
I am here for you to talk any time you want.
I need your friendship.
God bless you,

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I forgot to ask you if you have someone to take care of you?
It may sound bold to ask this, but I am worried?
We all need someone to help us with this.
God bless,

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Dear Duck
First off I have to say I just love your writing style. It's good to see humour still shining through. You are up against it at the moment, aren't you? I think I would feel the same way if I were in your situation.
I can only add my best wishes and good luck for your upcoming op (if it goes ahead). If not, well, how about tracking down a 35 year old babe, and trying to go out in style?!!
With love and best wishes, Carolyn
PS: Do you have anyone to keep us informed? We will worry about you, whether you want us to or not! C xx

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You are precious. I enjoyed your post and the frankness with which you share. God be with you.
Blessings R

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Dear Duck, God be with you as you face this huge challenge and decision. I applaud your openess and your honesty in sharing with us.

Blessings, Donna

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Dear Duck
Wishing you all the best, despite the seriousness of the situation you managed to put a smile on my face, I have a feeling it will all work out perfectly, we're here if you need to talk. Good luck,

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Onya Duck,

Outstanding post. If that is your last contribution to this forum, we will never forget it.

But, you know what, I reckon I've just seen the healing secret that will get you through this. Acceptance of our impermanence here on earth.

Wayne Dyer and others argue that when we let go, when we put our lives in the everlasting arms of the higher power, stop the anxiety and the fretting, we open ourselves up to infinite possibilities in terms of healing.

I have no doubt we will be hearing from you in the not too distant future, and by the grace of God may your health be improved and your suffering tolerable.

You are a remarkable man.


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Sounds like you have a handle on everything. You know what you don't want and that's key. I'd have to agree with you on the paraplegic, don't think I'd want to go there either. Let us know of the final decision-to do or not to do! Take care, Judy

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Oh my. I'm speechless and very moved by your courage. You rock!

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I just wanted to encourage you to go through with the surgery. My husband was facing a similar situation last May but without the success you have had on the chemo and radiation. He had two regions of his spine in danger of collapse. They first did cyberknife on the two regions for a week and two weeks later he had the surgery. In retrospect I'm not sure how helpful the cyberknife was but it had no side effects for my husband. The reason I wonder at its usefulness is that the during the surgery all that cancer tissue had to be removed anyways. He had rods put in as you describe. The surgery was about 10 hours. Our doctor being rather friendly and confident never explained how long and complicated the surgery would be so I was pretty upset when my husband remained in surgery for more than a few hours. He had made it sound so simple. Two days later my husband was home with us again it took about a few weeks to get back on his feet again. It was the best thing we ever did and perhaps the only thing that worked out during his whole treatment. It gave us the freedom to travel to Maine and then on to Europe for a week. It gave us a summer with his 3 girls that we never would have had.

My husband passed away in January due to all those other pesky mets that never responded to chemo but his back remained good and strong and he never complained about it.

Good luck!

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I absolutely loved reading your post. I love your amazing outlook on life and death. My prayers are with you!


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Just want to wish you all the best. If nothing else I hope you encounter a 35 year old babe of a nurse to tend to your every need!

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You are amazing... Prayers being sent your way... People like you give the rest of us strength and courage to face what ever is waiting around the corner..

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Dear Duck,
Que sera sera....

I pray for healing and the best possible outcome.


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Praying that all goes well in surgery and you are around with your head still intact long after this awful ordeal.

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PD - i am at a loss for words - and you know how rare thatis....I wish I could say something funny - or serious that would make a difference - but I will say that you are my have the state of affairs that you are in right now - hey - I'll send the 35 year old babe when you are ready for her....who am I to deny a man his last wish.....please keep your unbelievable positive attitude - it will help with the upcoming surgery - I too wish I had known that you were in Fl. I would have made the trip to see you - hand in there my friend..

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