Editor’s note: News-Sun editor Todd Bailey was diagnosed with an “aggressive Sarcoma” in his lower left leg in 2020. After chemotherapy and radiation treatments, it was determined having the leg amputated two inches above the knee on Oct. 12 was the best course of action.
Hate is such a strong word.
But I don’t know of another word to use to describe my current situation.
Things are not the same as they were a year ago and yet things are quite similar.
Before my leg amputation for a sarcoma found in my left calf, I went through about three weeks of chemotherapy and radiation at Lovington’s Nor-Lea Cancer Center.
It was right around this time a year ago when I started those three weeks. And now, a year later, I find myself in a similar situation.
You see, I’ve been hiding some information from a lot of people, some I consider friends, because, well, I just didn’t know how to talk about it.
So let’s talk about it now. Last December, about two months after my amputation, I found a lump. Yeah, those kinds of lumps. My cancer came back. It’s in three lymph nodes in my left pelvic area near my limb. I guess the amputation surgery didn’t get it all.
I don’t blame anyone. Cancer cells are so small that with today’s scans they are almost impossible to find. Nevertheless, there they are.
By the time I found the lump, I was already set to go through the chemotherapy that cost me my hair. For four months I went through a level of chemo that was considered the most strenuous a body can handle. It’s a type of chemo that attacks cancer at the microscopic level throughout the body. My oncologist wanted to do this last August but got overridden by my surgeon. So after my surgery, I got turned over back to my oncologist and we returned to his level of chemotherapy.
So, I started the chemo about a week or two after I found the lump. After it was scanned and assessed, I was told the worst of news. I had about 6 to 18 months of life. It was a very “disappointing” reveal according to my oncologist.
Disappointing? You’re telling me I could be dead before my next birthday and it’s “disappointing?”
Yeah, I was mad. It was hard to not lash out because I truly wanted to. That was right around the first of the year. I took a couple of days to deal with the shear shock of my situation. I was still recovering from my last “cancer episode” that now I was faced with another? And expected not to live?
I had some moments alone where I yelled at the sky. Calling it every colorful metaphor I could think of. I told my family, yeah tears were shed. I told Daniel Russell and Blake Ovard, my two compadres at the News-Sun. Lips quivered and then Daniel asked THE question.
“You’re getting a second opinion, right?” he exclaimed.
“You damn right I am,” I said.
I called up MD Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston. I set up an appointment in January and met with a sarcoma specialist. Tests were scheduled. More poking and prodding commenced. I was used to it by then. Tests came back and, yep, it was confirmed that three lymph nodes were full of that wicked, wacky “C.”
The MD Anderson doctors all decided for me to continue with the severe chemotherapy in Lovington for the next three months.
In early April, I went back to MD Anderson for some follow-ups. I was hoping they would tell me the chemo worked and the lymph nodes shrank. Turns out the chemo kept them from growing, so a new type of chemo was scheduled. This type of chemo is suppose to attack the sarcoma specifically. But because it is an aggressive form of cancer, everyone at MD Anderson didn’t want me to get my hopes up too much.
At that point, I had — and have — made peace to the idea of death. Don’t take this as me giving up. Just the opposite! I’ve got more fight in me.
For another three months I returned to the lovely ladies at the Nor-Lea Cancer Center, who, of course, treated me with incredible care. Afterward I returned to Houston in early July for more poking and prodding. The results were mixed. One lymph node grew a little bit. One stayed the same and one shrunk a little.
However, that was good enough for the MD Anderson doctors to prescribe me with five weeks of radiation and then possible surgery to cut out the lymph nodes. In their eyes — and in mine — this was the best case scenario. They wanted to start quickly, but I couldn’t leave my News-Sun team in the middle of a week that featured the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, the start of school and the fair’s livestock show. My doctors understood and were cool with the idea.
So it’s Monday, August 16, and I just started my second week of radiation. The only difference between this version and the one from a year ago, is that a different part of my body is being microwaved and it’s all being done at MD Anderson. If everything goes well, I should be done with radiation in early September. Give me about two weeks to recover and then we have the surgery. Following some recovery time from that and I could be back in Hobbs by early to mid October.
And that’s if everything goes well. I have learned in life, even before this health crisis, to always expect the best but plan for the worst. There’s nothing wrong with a back-up plan. There is an “if” to everything.
For now, I’m in Houston, which returns me to my original thought to the usage of “hate.” Yes, it is such a strong word but it applies to my current situation.
No, I’m not talking about the return of my cancer. No! I’m not talking about the five weeks of radiation. Nope, I’m not even talking about being away from home for another possible eight weeks.
I genuinely HATE Houston weather and I’m angry about it! I’m a dry-heat kinda guy! Do you realize there is nothing worse than Houston in August? I lived here from 2008-2010 and I was miserable then! So I know what I am talking about!
Temperatures in the mid to upper 90s with about 75 to 80 percent humidity! You can’t take hot showers in Houston because you’ll look like steamed broccoli! And you can’t take a cold shower either because in Houston, there is no cold water!
It’s like Dante discovered a 10th circle of Hell and named it “Houston in August!” Oh! So you don’t know of Dante, or that of his poetic journey through Hell? Did you miss that week in high school? If so, do what all the kids these days do and Google it.