In his mind, he’d committed a grievous crime showing unusual temper. Per usual for Jeff, though, he found a humorous way to apologize.
Despite what the cute card said, his reaction wasn’t “for no good reason,” and the real crime wasn’t losing his temper.
Before we’d reached this point, before disability, and a long while after the honeymoon backseat-bottle incident, I saw a notice for a free mouth and throat cancer screening.
I signed Jeff up. I was thinking ‘scared straight’ and ‘this is how much I care’ combined.
I’d already given him facts and articles. I’d already cajoled and nagged. I’d already yelled and cried. I was hoping a doctor could get him to quit, and offer a way to help him do that.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go that way.
He resisted, of course.
I insisted, of course.
We drove to Ann Arbor for the weekend clinic appointment. I accompanied him into the exam. When the doctor asked Jeff why he thought he’d need a screening, Jeff pointed. “It was her idea.”
I explained the chew and the diabetes and what I knew from internet-research. The doctor concurred, and said we could certainly talk about ways to quit after the exam.
The exam was brief. I mean, very brief. He asked Jeff how long he’d had dark spots on his gums, under his tongue and inside his lower lip. Jeff said he had no idea. There were many of them, but two in particular were large and concerning.
So concerning, that the doctor immediately halted his examination. He rolled away and bluntly reported: “I’m 99.9 percent sure what I’m looking at here is mouth cancer. You’ll likely have throat cancer, as well.”
We were stunned. He went on to explain that the only question was what type, which would determine the degree of aggressiveness.
Turning to pull some supplies, he announced, “We’re going to biopsy those.”
“Now?” Jeff asked, echoing the panicked look I was aiming his way. The answer was a firm, curt, business-like, “Yes. Right now. Is there a reason why you don’t want to do it now?”
“Nnnooooo,” Jeff drew out his answer, shaking his head.
He was advised to immediately stop tobacco use, and we were given a return appointment in 2 weeks. At that time, we would know what type of cancer Jeff had, and would be able discuss treatment options.
The timeline, itself, was an urgency marker – a 2-week turn-around. High priority.
I drove us to a nearby restaurant, parked, took a deep breath and turned to Jeff in tears.
“Aw, might not be anything…” he waved it off. I stared at him in disbelief. “Did you not hear him?”
“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Jeff tried to reason with me. “99.9% sure!” I countered, crying out. “Jeff! What are we going to do?”
“No sense in worrying about it for two weeks, yet.” Jeff turned his head away and looked out the window.
“Not gonna change anything…” he softly shrugged.
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