Friday, August 31, 2007

The day I died

I woke up this morning after a drunken fondue the night before with a lump on my tongue. It looked rather odd, so I went on the internet to see what it might be. "tongue lump" I put into google. That ought to help me put my mind at rest.

I get this:

Q: I have recently noticed a lump in the right side of my tongue, approximately 1 inch back from the tip. I cannot get in to see the doctor for a few days because of the holidays, and was curious if you could help me narrow it down. It does not hurt, nor does it protrude from my tongue. If I pinch my tongue, I can feel it in there. In size, it is about the size of a pea, or possibly a fraction larger.

A: One of the odd little facts about the tongue is that cancers arise far more frequently on the borders (sides) of the tongue than on the dorsum (top surface) of the tongue. The bottom surface of the tongue can also occasionally give rise to cancers, especially in folks who chew tobacco.

Small tongue cancers usually look like ulcers (small craters with "raw" centers) but can also be nodular (a nodule is a firm ball). Since this lump is on the right side of your tongue, my first concern is that this might be an early tongue cancer. The only way to know for certain is to have the lump biopsied. Your doctor will inject a little bit of local anesthetic into the area of the lump and will then cut out all or part of the lump. This is not much fun, but neither is it as painful as it sounds.

The main risk factors for tongue cancer are tobacco use (smoking or chewing) and alcohol use. Tongue cancer tends to occur in older folks, but young people– even teenagers– have been diagnosed with tongue cancer. Survival of tongue cancer is critically dependent on early diagnosis and treatment-- so do not delay in seeing a doctor! Tongue cancers spread rapidly to the lymph nodes of the neck; even for very small tongue cancers, the doctor must consider treating the neck (either surgically or by radiation therapy) to eradicate lymph nodes that may be cancerous.

So... see a doctor QUICKLY. And if you do use tobacco or drink excessively, this little lump (even if it is not a cancer) should serve as a wake-up call for you to QUIT.

I am going to die. Clearly this is the only possibility. A little more research on this terrible cancer proves to me that I only have a very short amount of time to live. I may be saved by surgery that would remove most of my tongue and half of my neck. Shit shit shit shit shit. I haven't written my book yet! My books!! How will I ever get that part at The Globe with half a tongue?? I'll be reduced to playing people with half a tongue if I live. What roles are there for people with half a tongue. I can't think of any. Shit shit shitshitshit shit. I need to go to the doctor. Biopsy - that's the solution. They can catch it early. Then maybe I won't die. Oh God I split up with my girlfriend. I'm going to die alone. Must call her! No I mustn't worry her. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Okay think straight. I don't have a doctor. Get a doctor. Which doctor? There's one down the road - my brother uses it. Get him to call. Make an appointment. Run to the doctor. Register. Oh god the nurse is going to see me now. Oh fuck ok keep it together, Al. She's taking my blood pressure. Why is she taking my blood pressure? She doesn't like the reading. Oh shit, she's asking me if I'm stressed. NO! I'm dying!! Look at my tongue?! She looks. Gargle with TCP she recommends. FOR CANCER!! You FOOL!!!! Okay it's fine. It's not cancer. I'll just go home and bring up some photos to make sure. Here are the photos - they look the same as my lump. Shit what does she know she's a nurse not a doctor. I'm going to die after all!! Oh god I need to go to hospital. Maybe a dentist will be able to do it - they could use their dental needles to numb my tongue. Then maybe i'd be able to play those half a tongue people. Hey maybe with half a tongue I won't be able to act anymore and I could actually allow myself to get a job where I make real money. That could be good! But not if I die. I need money for an emergency dental appointment. I haven't got my card. I'm near my brother's house. He'll lend me money. My brother looks at my lump, and then passes me to his wife for a second opinion. I stick my tongue out. She looks. "I get those all the time" she says. CANCERS!! All the time!! My god how does she look so healthy. I get a cup of tea. Slowly my brother persuades me that I am not going to die. Oh thank you lord, thank you. I am saved.

The good thing is I am now registered at a GP so next time I am going to die I can get saved quicker. I think everyone should have a paranoid delusional brush with death from time to time. It helps you realise the things that are important, and gives you a kick up the backside.

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