Yeah well, a couple of years ago, there was a bump on my arm. Grew to about the size of a tennis ball in a couple of months.

Doctor sent me to a specialist. A couple of scans later, what we had was a sarcoma growing out of my biceps. I was sent to the top specialist in the NW, where I was told that it’s extremely rare and highly aggressive. It grows fast, and likes to move.

There have been half a dozen cases, none of which have ended well. I was the latest member of a special club.


The specialist was puzzled: people with less dramatic prognoses generally reacted. “Would it do any good to scream and cry,” I asked. No? Then what’s the point?

So, 20 years ago, the “treatment” was amputation of the arm at the shoulder, which seemed a little extreme to me. And still, most died. Because it loves to travel.

We agreed to go with a different mode: six weeks of intense beam radiation to try to kill off the parts of the tumor that were wrapping around vascular and nerve bundles in the arm. It managed to burn the skin out of my armpit, and it was rather disappointing to see that I didn’t actually light up, so I saved no money on night-lights.

The radiation killed off 60% of the tumor, leaving enough room for the three surgeons to do their thing: one removed the entire biceps muscle, another laid in a dozen and a half small catheters, and the third transplanted tissue in so that the arm looks and acts more or less the same. The catheters were implanted in case any cancer cells got loose, and twice a day following the surgery, radioisotopes were shunted down them by a little robot, to kill off anything that might have been missed.

I had thought that they were hooking me up for fiber-optic internet, but I was wrong; they were catheters for further treatment. That explains why I couldn’t bring up Youtube.

Well, it’s been a year and a half. No sign of recurrence. The specialist says I’m their success story. Say what?

No other person has survived and retained complete function. That means that of those who made it, everyone else ended up with partial or total loss of the affected limb.

He said my attitude made all the difference. Apparently, having a perverse sense of humor is a plus.


About maxredlines

experience: biology, zoology, psychology. authored/co-authored papers appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as numerous professional proceedings. authored articles appearing in computer-oriented publications. featured in publications ranging from books to New Yorker magazine to television.
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9 Responses to Survival

  1. g says:

    Glad to see you beat it. I can understand why your humor prevailed.

    • maxredlines says:

      Thanks, g. I figure the folks who deal with cancer patients get to deal with a lot of scared and pissed off people, so why add to that. So I kept them laughing. When we had The Big Talk where they spend half an hour telling you all the stuff that can go wrong, like you could die, and so on – I knew that. When they got done and asked if I had any questions, I could really only think of one – and mostly because of the tv ads.

      So I asked, “Is my heart healthy enough for sexual activity?”

      Dead silence for a minute. Then they burst out laughing.

      And hey – I win!

  2. T D Williams says:

    This is wonderful news, Max!

    May God continue to bless you with healing, health and perseverance.

    You are one of a kind and more beloved than you know.

    • maxredlines says:

      “One of a kind” – yes, My Bride says that, generally just before she slaps me for screwing up again. 🙂

      Thanks for the good wishes, though I imagine I’ve kind of used up His favors.

      I drew the top sarcoma surgeon in the NW, and he has a team of other specialists. After the first scans, he went to them because the thing had already started wrapping around the nerve and vascular bundles and he couldn’t get it out without trashing them in the process, So he calls me up around 7 at night to tell me that the radiologists on the team thought that if they hit me with high-intensity beam radiation, they could kill off enough of it to give him the working room he needed.

      Whatever. I hoped I’d be able to save money on night-lights, if nothing else. I went with it: six weeks. 20 seconds top, 20 more bottom. A breast cancer patient gets 10 top.

      Burned the skin away and trashed the lymph system – and I never got enough radiation to save a penny on night lights! But it worked.And the lymph system rebuilt itself after a year, so hey. I’m easy.

      • T D Williams says:

        It’s amazing what these guys can do with the little bit of know how and technology that they have. I have a cousin whose mother was one the guinea pig for early attempts to stop cancer through radiation. They gave her too much, her skin burned and blackened, and she died. But, what they learned from her has helped lots of others.

      • maxredlines says:

        Oh my, TD – that sounds truly horrible. My beam radiation was bad enough (of course, that’s because of the long exposure times necessitated by the fact that the sarcoma was growing so fast – they had to kill enough of it to give the surgeons room to do their thing).

        But it appears that I have your cousin’s late mother to thank for my success.

        And wait until you catch what they’ll be doing 10 years from now: bioelectronic tags to turn off tumor necrosis factor, among other things.

  3. ZZMIke says:

    That was quite a fight. Sometimes the good guys win.

    • maxredlines says:

      Fortunately, I’m pretty durable. Never wrote about it, but the latest scans were all negative, so it didn’t get a chance to hit my lungs – and I got the surgeons to to agree to scanning only twice in the coming year; down by half. That’s a win right there!

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