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By the time I got a diagnosis, the throat cancer was Stage Four. My first inclination was to let nature take its course but one of my doctors phoned me and convinced me to do the chemo and radiation.

I wasn't told about the full impact of the treatments, but maybe they didn't know. I lost a saliva gland, my tastebuds, and my ability to eat and drink. I have neuropathy in my feet, my motor skills were blindsided, my voice is history, and my guitar playing sidelined.

I do more photography these days than music for those reasons.

I was certain I'd end up going bankrupt again from the medical bills, but my young friend, Kaley Barrick from The Bridge Church, set up an online fundraising page for me which covered the brunt of the initial costs.

I didn't get a whole lot of support from my chuch friends; maybe it was too awkward for them. The church had moved further north than I wanted to drive, and my beloved pastor had moved to Texas.

But Charlie Stamas, a musician from another church that I didn't even know that well, drove down often from Tarpon Springs just to fellowship with me.

I love him for that. Later on, I was able to pro- vide him performance photos to promote his musical ventures.

          I am writing this on August 1, 2021. I've been cancer–free for over five years now. I hope my recounting all this hasn't sounded like a complaint, because I am so grateful to the Lord that He intervened and I survived. I just went for another ultra–

sound a week ago because I now have an enlarged thyroid, which is very much like the original scenario. August 12, whatever I have now is benign, but I still have to follow up with an ENT doctor.  August 24. I saw the ENT and there is no cancer. The

thyroid is not abnormally enlarged, so I'm ok.

I was looking

for some photos that

showed my burns from

the radiation but I couldn't locate them. I did come across pics from the 2015 scan of my thyroid.

I don't know how to

interpret them, but

I thought it was more

than a coincidence

finding them. Maybe

those hot spots are

the cancer cells.

And finally, here is a poem I wrote about my cancer experience.

Stage Five

The blues and greys I wore those days betrayed my civil war,

those battles on my field of flesh that left me burned and broken.

The uniform is laid to rest, the guest of bottom–drawer,

and I'm alive to bring it out when winter is awoken.

But no more boots on mangled feet, no more my supper savors,

no coaxing love from silver strings, no more the sweet of lovers.

I guess the mess I've made of things is not so quite uncommon,

that I've survived by some design to live some lofty sermon.

And after all the algebra, it all comes down to two,

my Maker and my sinful soul see all the nothing I can do.

No more my work for my estate, no more my plans to carry,

no fight to claim a piece of ground, no name to make his-tory.

July 14, 2019 © j.m. thomas