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Tom Petty Said It and Now I’m Living It

May 25th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Before I get to the cancer news, let me get something right up front: it has been a spectacular weekend. This weekend was like a commercial for weekends written by writers from the Wonder Years and shot by Robert Altman.

A bunch of my best friends came up to visit this weekend — two guys I’ve known since kindergarten, one guy since the seventh grade, and then my friend Mark Koch who’s been on the scene since ninth grade. He’s the new guy.

It was Mark’s bachelor party weekend. Nobody’s going to make a smash comedy hit out of it, as the whole enterprise was more bourbon and burlesque than blow and strippers. We had dinner at Peter Luger, hiked over the Williamsburg Bridge to have a look at the streetcorner that was the cover of “Paul’s Boutique,” walked the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach and saw a hot and hilarious burlesque show at Bar on A.

My roommate and upstairs neighbor kindly gave up their rooms for the cause and let us spread out in the building a little, too.

Not too shabby at all.

I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. And at points I had my hands over my incision, afraid I was literally going to bust a stitch.

Instead I just stretched. Stretched and healed. I haven’t felt this good in a really, really long time.

So here’s the doctor’s news from the other day:

I’m healing up fine, textbook perfection, basically. The CT/PET scans showed one questionable lymph node up in my throat, but he jabbed around in there with his fingers pretty hard and said “whatever, I’m not feeling anything in there, so let’s forget about that one for now.”

There’s these markers in the blood that cancerous tumors give off — they differ by the type of tumor. But for simplicity’s sake here, let’s collectively call them Carl.

Normal levels of Carl in a healthy adult male might be between 0-5. My Carl quotient was burying the needle at 1,250 before surgery. So they drew blood from me a week after surgery, and whatever my Carl levels were, that’s the baseline right there.

Say I’ve got a Carl of 100 a week after surgery. Then a week later, my doctor expects me to have half as much Carl — a level of 50. A week later, Carl’s supposed to be down to 25. Eventually, those levels will bottom out and kinda flatline. And if Carl flatlines at a level that’s higher than normal, we start chemotherapy.

Awesome. Really, that makes sense to me — it’s careful and cautious, and following the results scientifically. What I wanted was for my doctor to clap and dust his hands off, then say, “that’s it, you’re done!”

But that’s not gonna happen for a good while yet. As a wise man named Tom Petty once said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

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