As a Cancer Patient, I Would Have Been an Inspiring Example of Courage, with an Endearing Sense of Humor that Belied My Dire Circumstances

09.22.2005 | 9:52 pm

As my stomach slowly recedes, I’m starting to see other things where my stomach used to bulge out. My ribs, for example. I haven’t seen those in some time. Or ab muscles: those are still buried pretty deep, but I can at least tell they’re there. And what’s this? I do believe I have pecs! Waddaya know.

About a month ago, I noticed one other thing: a lump in my chest. On the left side, just below my rib cage. And as I lost weight, it became more noticeable. And it wasn’t going away.


I Do Not Panic

There’s been enough cancer in my family (my wife, my sister Kellene, my stepmother, my stepfather, my paternal grandmother) that I was pretty sure I had cancer. I did not tell anybody. I also didn’t call a doctor for a good long time. After all, what if it was just one of those really-deeply-buried zits that take forever to go away?

But it continued to not go away.


I am Twisted

Finally, I decided I’d better go learn the inevitable, so I could begin my treatment. On Tuesday, I made a doctor appointment for the following afternoon (Wednesday, for those of you who have trouble with math).

Once I had made the appointment, my mind kicked into overdrive. I started thinking about the implications of having cancer. Here are the predominant themes of my thinking:

  • I felt bad for my wife having to take on the extra burden of watching the kids while I’m sick
  • I decided that I would try to continue to ride my bike during treatment, even if just around the neighborhood
  • I thought about what great stories I’d be able to make from this experience. I would be courageous, good-humored, and encouraging to my fellow cancer-havers. I would be the model cancer patient. People would be so inspired by me that they would buy yellow wristbands, cross out the "Strong" in "LiveStrong" and change it to "LiveFat."

I should point out that if you’re a little bit bothered by the fact that part of me was looking forward to cancer treatment — even after I had seen the hell it put my wife through — you are not alone.

Strangely, I did not worry about whether the cancer would kill me. In fact, that thought did not even occur to me until after my doctor visit.


I am Fine

Of course, you can tell from the title of this post that I do not have cancer, or the title of this post would have been, "I HAVE CANCER!!!!" The doctor checked out the lump and said, "You have a Lipoma."

A Lipoma, which I am capitalizing in a desperate attempt to salvage some seriousness out of a very trivial thing, is a benign tumor, made up of fatty tissue.

It is, in short, a lump of fat. In other words, my tumor is a metaphor for me: An initially alarming — but ultimately harmless — lump of fat.



Today’s weight: 162.0 lbs. Which means I have hit my target weight for the week a day early. Just think how light I’d be without that lipoma!


Late-Night Update: I’ve decided to run this topic into the ground with a little context. Basically, I’ve talked with a few people, read a few comments, and have decided I have some explaining to do.

First off, you’ll note that I never explored the comic possibilities of this lump until I knew it was safe. That’s because I didn’t see any comic possibilities in it until I knew it was safe. Only then was I able to cast the silver lining I had created for myself — "Well, at least I’ll have some good stories to tell when this is over" — into a wacky boast: "Hey, wouldn’t cancer be a great conversation piece?" Which is to say: no, I wasn’t really looking forward to chemo. I’ve seen it up close, and it’s not something I liked to think about at all. Which is why I waited a couple months after I discovered the lump to consult a doctor. Those of you who have been reading the blog long enough that you remember the story of how I waited several hours after suffering partial paralysis to consult a doctor will recognize this as in-character behavior.

The second point is one my wife made, and which I ought to have considered: not everyone comes away from that doctor appointment with the sense of relief that I did. Some people come away knowing that they’ve got a whole bunch of hell in front of them. To those people, this isn’t a very funny story. And to those people, I apologize.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 09.22.2005 | 10:25 pm

    if you’d like, i’ll come over and remove the LIPOMA. i collect them. however most of the ones i have are small and cute, i suspect yours is rather large, and, well, not cute.i’m not bothered by the fact that part of you was looking forward to cancer treatment. am i alone?

  2. Comment by Jeff | 09.22.2005 | 10:39 pm

    dug, you are most likely alone, and isolated both physically and emotionally from others. But I agree, I too, am Bothered By The Looking-Forward Part of Not-As-Fatty.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 09.22.2005 | 11:06 pm

    you’re not alone dug….you’re twisted, but not alone. i think fatty has a longing (not so subtly) to be a tragic hero.lipoma…what a crock

  4. Comment by Unknown | 09.22.2005 | 11:19 pm

    Fatty–everyone thinks they will be the model patient right up until the proverbial poop hits the fan, or in this case, the needle pierces the skin…since one cannot imagine the hell that is chemo and the pain and the nausea that come with the illness, even though so many close to you have done it. Do you remember the first Leadville 100 when Ken introduced a then, not-so-healthy Lance Armstrong sitting up in the corner of the gym bald, pale and not inspiring? Truth is, it’s easier to be inspiring before and after…but not so easy during. Your other half would likely affirm….I am just glad that you don’t have it. It’s better to not to know how you would handle it and imagine it as all positive. And it is a bit weird that you were looking forward to it….

  5. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 12:24 am

    fatty, pay no attention to rocky. live or die, i think you’d be the best cancer patient ever. a little part of me almost wishes we could find out. is that wrong?

  6. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 09.23.2005 | 12:51 am

    dug – you’re right. it’s huge, but you cannot have it. i have come to adore it. i have given it a nickname, and that nickname is "Cap’n Courageous."jeff – you said you agreed with dug, and then you finished the sentence by disagreeing with dug. so i guess i agree with you. either way, we both know you threw yourself down that ravine just to look macho, so you don’t have a lot of room to talk, buddy. rockhead – you sound like you speak from experience, almost as if you thought that a big surgery wouldn’t be a big deal, and then it turned out to be a pretty big deal after all. the difference between us is that for me, giving up a kidney would have been an outpatient surgery. was armstrong really there at that first lt100? i don’t remember that. i should have challenged him to a race.

  7. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 1:33 am

    speaking of kidneys, i used to have 3, but while at the local fun center, my mom was looking under the weather. i took my own kidney out and actually, with tweezers, placed it in her body through the belly button. while we were in line for the bumper cars. i’m pretty sure i bled a little on the seat, but that’s why they have those 5 dollar an hour teenagers, right? it’s no big deal. sheesh. except for it’s my mom, and who wants a close up of their mom’s belly button?

  8. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 1:55 am

    Hey fatty,I am in the medical field and I think that one of the scariest things in this world is cancer. You can do everything right, not smoke, not drink, eat the right foods, and it can still happen to you — at a young age. Lance is lucky in many ways. Testicular cancer is one of the few cancers that is CURABLE. Unfortunately, despite all of the fancy schmancy equipment and drugs that doctors have, most cancers are are discovered when they are no longer curable. The days I really hate are the ones where someone age < 40 gets diagnosed with incurable, metastatic disease. Really, really, really sucks. Keeps me awake at night.Thank god for benign a diagnosis – I will take a lipoma any day. It is refreshing to hear good news.You must be a very strong person. Most people at some time in their lives will have a similar scare and it can be very hard to deal with. I was stuck with an HIV+ needle several years ago — 6 months until you know you are clear, with testing every month. I generally seemed to be able to not think about it, except for when they tested me. Waiting for the results after the test was TORTURE (usually took a day). By the way, if you want to REALLY lose weight, just try taking the triple therapy for HIV — it gives you anorexia, makes you anemic (guess that wouldn’t help with the bike riding too much), and hypoglycemic. Great stuff. Don’t know how people with HIV survive it.Sorry for the long comment, but the subject touches home.great blog, as always

  9. Comment by Ariane | 09.23.2005 | 2:23 am

    I’m glad that you have not been afflicted with cancer. That said– So are they going to remove the thing– erm– Cap’n Courageous? Maybe you could use it for something creative, like as substitute mayo, or as chain grease? I always thought that if I ever had to have anything removed…well, you know, I’d have to at least try to use it, for something. I mean, if I had taken the time to grow a lipoma, I wouldn’t just chuck it once it was off. At the very least, you could dry it out and make it the focal point of a necklace.

  10. Comment by agreenmouther | 09.23.2005 | 2:30 am

    Well, after your post-your-favorite-disgusting-food-combination bonanza yesterday, way to pick a topic that no one feels truly happy commenting on it. Possibly one of the most immensely awkward juxtapositions I have ever seen. Keep up the good work.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 3:33 am

    Dear Porcine Pedaler,Well, frankly, I think your response to the Great Unknown was the absolute best. Having been in that awful position some five years ago (I remember some c-r-a-p about "no hope and very little time"), I can tell you that the worst part of the process is the part in between the suspicion and the actual diagnosis—the part when you don’t KNOW and your mind is going at warp speed, not the part when they tell you. So, since you did not know and were in that in-between part, I think your response was a very positive one; you weren’t hoping to have cancer, you were planning for it in the event that was the result. Planning for the future, whatever it is, is one of the things that saves those of us who survive. I feel that La Ciclista Sophista has the right idea… surely your lipoma ought to be enshrined in some way. Perhaps you could have it encased in lucite with a sign saying "The Cancer that Never Was," or maybe "You Want a Piece of Me?" and use it for a paperweight.I have no doubt that you would be Captain Courageous, and an "Inspiring Example of Courage, with an Endearing Sense of Humor that Belied [Your] Dire Circumstances." (That’s not original… I read it somewhere lately…LOL!!!)I’m awfully glad for you, your wife, your children, and the other people who love you, also. And I hope you know that even if it was not you who had cancer, you have been infected with a communicable disease that I call "cancerchondria." I think it’s impossible to avoid it. Until your life is so affected by cancer, you believe you are immortal and immune and so is everyone you love; once it has been affected, cancerchondria is inevitable.Hugs,MuMo

  12. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 09.23.2005 | 4:17 am

    mumo – thanks. i know you’ve been through it, so the fact that i didn’t offend you with this story is a relief.ccm – i just write ‘em as they occur to me. except there’s one that i’ve been saving up for a while. in my head, at least, it will be my best post ever. it may also be the post that everyone remembers as "when fatty jumped the shark."a.toad – the dr. says that i can have surgery to remove capn courageous if i want, or i can just let her (yes, i have decided capn courageous is a female) stay. since it hurts less to not have surgery, the capn and i are a long-term team.spinecho – you give me waaaay to much credit. which i am happy to take. thanks.

  13. Comment by Hillel | 09.23.2005 | 12:09 pm

    I have several lipomas as well, though they show up even through my much thicker fat – 6′ 215. They can start to hurt with pressure after a while, but otherwise I have had no issues with them since I found them about 6 years ago…

  14. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 1:52 pm

    fatty, your head is a lipoma.

  15. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 2:23 pm

    This is weird. When commenting on the food topic yesterday I was going to mention that my husband was addicted to Diet Coke and that I believed it was responsible for these fatty deposits he gets, which he has had some removed surgically. Didn’t know what they were called at the time and I thought it would be too much sharing. And now today it is the center of topic for Fatty’s blog. So to help prove my hypothesis, any addiction to Diet Coke, Fatty? I’m not bothered by your thoughts and reactions in today’s blog. This is who you are and your personality and style are why most of us visit your blog every day. Wouldn’t expect anything else. Kudos for making weight goal this week.

  16. Comment by Kenny | 09.23.2005 | 2:45 pm

    "It’s Not a Tumor"I have also had a LIPOMA removed. I thought the doctor would just make a small cut and push it out like a big Zit, but he had to use a fork like tool. He grabbed it and forcibly removed it from the sorounding tissue. Don’t worry you’ll get to suffer a little bit.

  17. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 3:27 pm

    Dug is right…Fatty doesn’t want to give up the lipoma because it IS his head, and the blog would not be nearly as entertaining if he didn’t have that…I knew Dug was a smart guy…I knew it.

  18. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 3:28 pm

    Dug is right…Fatty doesn’t want to give up the lipoma because it IS his head, and the blog would not be nearly as entertaining if he didn’t have that…I knew Dug was a smart guy…I knew it.

  19. Comment by Zed | 09.23.2005 | 3:54 pm

    Sue,You notice that it’s DIET COKE that’s messing your hubby up? I’m telling you, stick to normal sugar! Yes, it gets stored in fat, but it’s sure better than the alternative. Fatty, let us know if they do find gray matter in you lipoma. That’d be way flippin’ sick nasty! Or impossible. Either one.

  20. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 4:26 pm

    diet coke. yummmmmmmm. it’s only 10:30 here, and i’m just starting my second 44. with lime. yummm.

  21. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 4:29 pm

    There is some evidence ( that aspartame, the root chemical in the diet sodas de jure, creates an embalming effect in its consumers.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 4:31 pm

    re your late night update: to paraphrase edward abbey–never apologize, never explain.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 5:36 pm

    …except when your wife tells you that you should…

  24. Comment by Nina | 09.23.2005 | 6:09 pm

    Sad day for Rats everywhere: Aspartame only causes cancer in rats, not humans ( unless you drink the equivilant of 2 fridgepacks a day…maybe I should cut back…

  25. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 6:27 pm

    So help me understand…only if you drink the equivalent of two fridepacks a day do you flirt with the cancer, but any quantity less than that is somehow magically, shall we say, benign? Let’s don’t be silly now. And the fact that in the lab rats it shows some tendency toward a cumulative effect….hmmm. Fatty confessed to drinking down at least a two litre bottle everyday. I like the Fatty, and I worry at his copious consumption of embalming fluid…

  26. Comment by Unknown | 09.23.2005 | 6:46 pm

    just makes it easier at actual emballming time.

  27. Comment by Ariane | 09.23.2005 | 8:02 pm

    Aspartame’s the devil. I had to write a paper on it a while ago… =shudder= …flashing back…Aspartal-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester (which is what NutraSweet and Equal are made of) is made from the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and methanol (wood alcohol). It’s all right to use in cooler foods and drinks, but it breaks-up into its constituent chemicals when it gets much hotter than, like, 90 degrees F, I think. I don’t remember if it will do all that in your body (I’m not motivated enough to go find that paper), but I do remember that the methanol will continue to break down after ingestion. It becomes formic acid, some weird thing called DKP (uhh..Dyke……? Yeah, I don’t remember. But it’s also known to cause brain tumors), and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is embalming fluid, but, wait, there’s more– it’s also carcinogenic, and can lead to coma and/or death. Yay! I seem to remember that there was a real big list of fun side effects too… Anyway, the whole rats-with-brain-tumors thing got the FDA to un-approve it, after it had already been approved in the 70’s. Throughout the 70’s, the CEO at G.D. Searle (since cannibalized by Monsanto), Donald Rumsfeld, helped it on it’s way to final approval in the early 80’s. (Maybe 1981?) I guess I should point out that Monsanto also makes bovine growth hormone, Round-Up weed killer, and, once upon a time, made the now-unpopular Agent Orange. Mmmmm… Orange-y.

  28. Comment by Ariane | 09.23.2005 | 8:34 pm

    grrr… I guess I am motivated enough to refer back to that paper. You have know idea how buried it was. I seriously could’ve used the last half hour for homework…what a dork.Anyway in a nutshell, that’s Aspartyl phenylalanine-1-methyl ester, 85 degrees F, diketopiperazine, headaches, nausea, vertigo, insomnia, numbness, blurred vision, blindness and other eye problems, memory loss, slurred speech, depression, personality changes, hyperactivity, stomach disorders, seizures, skin lesions, rashes, anxiety attacks, muscle cramping and joint pain, loss of energy, symptoms mimicking heart attacks, hearing loss and ear ringing, and loss or change of taste (of course not every body gets side effects), and 1981.

  29. Comment by Donna | 09.24.2005 | 6:46 pm

    Granted I have never had cancer, thank God, but I do know that everyone deals with things in different way. Personally, I prefer the way you do.

  30. Comment by Jesse | 10.14.2005 | 8:08 pm

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