“Let me see that again,” I questioned my seven-year-old son as he was brushing his teeth. There was a white spot was on his tongue, something I hadn’t noticed before, and something I knew shouldn’t be there. I took his toothbrush from him and tried with all my might – short of making his tongue bleed, of course – to get that white spot off of his tongue. It didn’t respond. But as Ben started to gag from my overzealous wielding of his toothbrush I decided to give it a rest.
Honestly, I put it out of my mind for the next few hours. As we were eating lunch I asked him again to stick out his tongue. The spot was still there. Now, I have a wildly overactive imagination but I could have sworn it had grown in size since brushing his teeth earlier in the day. I was hoping that my persistence with scrubbing the affected area wasn’t the reason why it appeared to be larger. I was confident that if we didn’t get in touch with his doctor before the day was over that it would grow to astronomical proportions and perhaps even be speaking by the end of the day. I could imagine it saying “Feed me, Seymour,” or “Hi! My name is Cancer!” Either dialogue was completely unwelcome.
Before the week was over we had visited his pediatrician and had a surgical consult lined up. The word “biopsy” was put out there which made me run to my panic room with my tail between my legs. Ben had technically been cancer free for three years but with the amount of treatment we had to subject him to they warned us that secondary cancers could rear their ugly head at any time. Not only were we threatened with the fact that Neuroblastoma was more than likely to return (which it unfortunately eventually did), we had to live with the fear that other cancers might decide to move in, too.
He’d been through the process before – at least 50 times – and I’m always slightly offended when the surgical department asks during their initial round of questioning “Would you like a tour of the facility?” or “Is your son nervous about his trip to the hospital?” Are you freaking kidding me? We’re not newbies to this world of surgical procedures. I have his medical record number memorized from all three facilities where Ben has been treated. In my wildest of daydreams I envision a ceremony where they retire his “number” and all the kids can look up at his “jersey” and say, “Wow. That Ben Brewer. He’s my hero. He is one of the greats.”
So, back to the tongue. The biopsy relayed the fairly benign news that it was leukoplakia. While it’s not a threat on its own, it is a condition where cells multiply quickly (gulp) and can be a precursor to cancer. We were right to get it taken care of immediately. In usual “Ben fashion”, he sailed through the procedure without issue and came away with a single, solitary stitch right in the middle of his tongue. He wasn’t happy about it. Later, before bed, he decided that he’d had enough of that stitch and pulled it right out of his tongue. I know! HE PULLED IT OUT HIMSELF! Kinda makes me wonder why they didn’t offer us a “cone” after his procedure so he’d keep his hands away from it. Regardless, it healed just fine, and – despite an eventual relapse of the original beast – he’s gone on to live a fairly normal life. He is one tough dude.
And, he’s got a conversation piece to get girls close to his face when he reaches the age when that might be appealing.
Holy Cannoli, Joe Grande. Tongue? I was horrified as my initial thoughts swirled around the task of writing something that wouldn’t be rated NC17.
Seriously though, I cannot tell you what you and your wife mean to me. You two know how to rock the unconditional love! I admire the strength of your relationship and the love that you shower upon your children. I’m so happy and honored to be a part of your extended family.
Thank you for encouraging me to let my light shine. Thank you for opening my eyes to new outlets to showcase my creativity. And when I finally get up the nerve to do my stand-up routine, I hope you’ll be in the audience (but don’t let me know you’re there before I do my set!) I love you guys. Unconditionally.