Cancer, really? that just doesn’t resonate. With all the cards I’ve been dealt and played, I never thought this piece of crap disease would be one of them, ever. Ok, so, where does one begin to acknowledge this reality? Denial isn’t in the realm of possibility after the number of doctors, biopsies. blood tests, and scans. It wasn’t until I walked into the waiting room for my pet scan at Cottage Hospital and saw the sign, ‘Cancer Ward’ that it felt real. Holy shit! I have cancer!

I was exceedingly lucky to meet Gary Blum, M.D., Medical Director, Pueblo Radiology here in Santa Barbara. Prior to this I had been told by three prominent doctors that the lump in my throat wasn’t anything urgent, that I should keep an eye on it for a couple of months and if it didn’t subside, well then, we can do an ultrasound, and then, given the necessity, a biopsy.

Gary was as affable as anyone I’ve ever met and in fact the first definitive voice on this “nothing lump” to date. No one should have told you this was not anything to worry about Eddie, it is! I’ll need the pathology, but it doesn’t look right to me.

This biopsy was at 5:30 PM that evening and by 8 AM, I had the answer. He called me at home and told me that I had cancer. He stayed my course and suggested an incredible surgeon and an equally amazing oncologist. Gary was very helpful in my decision process and I was fortunate to make all these things happen quickly.

We knew from the pathology what kind of cancer it was but not whether it had metastasized. If it had spread, there was no guarantee that it was curable, it would depend on the number of tumors and the size. As this was a couple of days before Christmas, I would be waiting for the results until after the holiday or at least until after Christmas day. As luck would have it, I would have my hands full of Sauce and Meatballs, Pasta, Bread, and Cheese for at least the next 48 hours. I prepare this feast and serve it at my dear friends Christmas party every year. They are very kind to invite me and so and I’d never let them down. I would deal with the life and death quiz another day; a perfect Meatball would take precedence, as well it should.

I wasn’t afraid to die, I was in a way, looking forward to what was next. 

To clarify, my near-death experience of over 20 years ago left an indelible mark on me that has remained ethereal while realistic all these years later.

The disappointment in my being sent back all those years ago left a welcome mat of sorts in the portal to that other-world that I was sent back from. And again, to clarify, though words pale the experience, it was like floating in God’s hot tub. I was three feet underwater, 20 yards out and totally paralyzed. Suffice to say, the energy that I felt and the journey that lie ahead was far more enticing than anything I had ever encountered here on earth.

 I was lifted from the bottom that day and gently placed on the shore, long story short, I’m still here. I often thank God for my broken neck.

In the interim, while awaiting the results, I had a conversation with God about the possibilities. We all speak to the light in our own way, some of us simply look within. No matter where you find guidance and inspiration, learn to listen.

The problem most people have with prayer is that they inquire, probe, and solicit in repetitive vainness and never stop to listen to the answers or direction.

Pray and then shut up!  The answers are not delivered in a handwritten directive from your higher power, they are subtlety or otherwise revealed when you pay attention to your life.

My conversation was short and sweet. I am grateful for these past twenty- plus years since my accident and the thought of making that transition was attractive. If that were to happen, so be it, but, I felt I had so much more work to do. TRAP is a fun and simple methodology that has brought joy and happiness to a lot of people young and old, all over the world. The educational aspect of the curriculum has enhanced people’s chances to succeed in the typical world and the social, philosophical, and spiritual realm of the program has brought real-life meaning to the phrase “Love is the Answer” Think about it.

I think it was two days after Christmas that I got the call. The Pet Scan revealed no tumors anywhere in my body, cancer had settled in the lymph node in my neck which would need to be removed, but there was no primary tumor anywhere in my head, face, or neck. There was a hint in the cells somewhere in my mouth, throat, or nasal passages making radiation treatments necessary five days a week for six weeks after the operation.

My surgeon, Doctor McCaffery made the physical risks clear in my pending operation.  The very real prospect that I may not awaken was key in my choice of options.  He mentioned my heart and my age in regard to the length of time I’d be underestimating three to three and a half hours. I told him my heart was probably stronger than his, but the seed of doubt had been planted. (the actual operation was five and a half hours)

The operation was invasive. It looked and felt like the doctor cut my head off and sewed it back on. Despite this Frankenstein-like stapled and stitched, swollen and bandaged new look I was sporting, I awoke from the procedure with a big smile. I’m starting to feel like Charlie Tuna; Sorry Charlie, not this time.

Doctor McCaffery was happy that I woke up smiling. I’m pretty sure he was happy that I woke up at all. Before I met him while sitting in his waiting room, two families with Special Needs children came and sat on either side of me, I knew I was in the right place.

Radiation for throat cancer is brutal. It’s like someone squirted lighter fluid in your throat and then threw a match in your mouth. It looks like you swallowed a hand grenade.

At first, it’s just uncomfortable and then after a few weeks, it gets very difficult and then impossible. You can’t swallow, everything hurts if you try to chew. Thank God for The Organic Soup Kitchen who care for Cancer Patients and the Homeless and others here in Santa Barbara.

They delivered healthy pints of soup to my home every week throughout and for some time after the treatments as well.

The Ridley Cancer Center here in Santa Barbara is a bright light in the midst of shadows and surrender. Cancer creates an atmosphere of darkness. This darkness swallows you whole, it owns you unless you deny it its power.  You would need to be the recipient of said diagnosis to comprehend the dichotomy of emotion it brings. Having said that, nothing is more powerful than the human spirit. 

The Center supports this spirit in a most generous and absolute way.

The care, the understanding, compassion, the willingness to listen, and the comradery of the other patients is unparalleled. I never asked Why me? but what am I to learn from this experience? Well, I learned about the precise uniqueness of Love; the real concern in the doctors, nurses, the receptionists, and technicians. And, the exceptional volunteers who greet you every day by name when you arrive for treatment. 

Doctor Cotter, my oncologist was direct, honest, and reassuring about every step of the radiation procedure. He didn’t candy coat anything yet remained supportive and optimistic throughout. I can’t say enough about him and his incredible staff. And, the ladies in the radiation room, they put a large smile on my face every day despite my reason for being there.

I’m happy to report that I am Cancer Free as of July 8. Not remission, gone.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my extraordinary family and the close friends who stood by me and lifted my spirits every day. You made a tremendous difference in my life, you always do.

Thanks for visiting often, texting and calling a lot and driving when I was not able, even though I insisted I was.

Thanks to Doctor Gary Blum, Dr. Cotter, Dr. Chris Landon, Dr. Nguyen, Nancy Warner, Doctor Marsh, Dr. Lanzon, and to Cottage Hospital Cancer Ward.

I’m happy to support anyone going through a similar diagnosis. It is good to speak with other patients ongoing about the recovery process. I have a long road ahead with various “speed bumps” but, nothing I can’t handle.

Peace, Love, and gratitude,

Eddie Tuduri

Author