For some reason, I’ve always had the belief that myself and those I held dear where immune to death, that we could not be susceptible to fatal illnesses because, God loved us too much to let us suffer. So when I read stories of people dying of Cancer or kids having Mitochondrial Encephalopathy, my reflex reaction was fear,sympathy and pity, but never really empathy because I didn’t understand what these people had to go through on a daily basis, and deep down, I felt there was some kind of shield that repelled fatal illnesses and occurrences from me and my loved ones. ( It didn’t matter that my grandmother had died of breast cancer, I had never met her, and although I loved her, to me, that illness ended in her generation)
When I began to notice brown patches on my inner cheek, I still wasn’t scared. “Remember that time you were stooling blood and you thought you had cancer but it turned out to be complications due to constipation” I’d say to myself, “this is just one of those minor stuff”. I checked google all the same, just to be sure and safe.
Tip 1: Don’t go to google when you’re scared. He/She/It blows things out of proportions.
Results started attacking me as soon as I entered the search term “brown patch in cheek’. Melasma! Oral Melanotic Manule! Malignant Melonama! Benign! Oral Cancer! These words, these names almost drove me crazy, but I told myself “Keep calm, there really isn’t anything to worry about except the shape or texture of the patch changes”.
Jinx! I shouldn’t have said that. No the texture didn’t change, but the shape did. It began to expand, and expand, and then it appeared on my right cheek too.
Back to google to check out the symptoms of oral cancer
1. Swellings – Well, I took out my tooth three days ago(remember the cavity?) and I haven’t healed yet, but no, that’s not why that cheek is a bit swollen, its the cancer.
2. Unexplained bleeding- My gums bled a bit when I brushed last two weeks and the dentist said it was because I was due for a cleaning, but no, its the cancer.
3. Unexplained numbness in the mouth- My cheek still feels numb from all the ice cubes I’ve been using to speed the healing of my socket after taking out my tooth, but, i really think its cos of the cancer.
4. A feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat- Aha! After eating bread last week, for two days I felt like it was stuck in my throat. Definitely the cancer!
5. Difficulty chewing or swallowing- Refer to number 4.
6. Ear pain- Well, it wasn’t really a pain but now that you mention it, I feel this sensation in my ear.
7. Dramatic weight loss– My aunt said I lost some weight because I haven’t been able to eat for a week since I took out my tooth. I checked the scale and it was confirmed. I lost 2.20462 pounds. Ha! What a dramatic weight loss. Damn you Cancer!
True, I had self diagnosed my self, but I knew I wasn’t ready to leave the earth yet. There was still so much that had to be done, leaving my foot prints on the sands of time, taking care of mummy in her old age. Oh Poor mummy! she wouldn’t be able to bear this news. I picked up my bags and rushed to my doctor friend in exasperation, maybe this is still stage one and something can be done. He began to laugh hysterically at me, not because he was happy that I was dying but because I was not dying at all, because those brown patches were really just veins and in the next month i’d be able to see their etched lines clearly enough. I jumped for joy at the good news, then stopped, because I remembered the others who actually had cancer, the ones who weren’t lucky enough to have their doctor tell them that what they thought was cancer is just a blood clot, how about the ones who are not lucky enough to survive the wrath of this selfish killer, who have to succumb to death and proceed to the unknown land beyond. Finally, I could empathize with them.