by Mick Dowd, Gilda’s Club Member and Ambassador

In a previous missive I noted that life can be full of surprises and that I was somewhat surprised when I received a diagnosis for a rare cancer in 2014.

When we joined Gilda’s in September 2015 we joined the Wellness group that meets on Tuesday nights. This Wellness group is split into meetings for survivors, caregivers etc., with dinner provided before the meetings start. The group I belonged to is for cancer survivors and includes survivors who have just been diagnosed, those going through chemo, those coping with side effects and those who have completed chemo but like all the survivors appreciate the mental and emotional support and camaraderie. We would tell our stories, give updates and from time to time someone would get more bad news, it can be a tough group to be part of sometimes, but always wonderful and often fun. There are two basic rules members are asked to follow, “what is said at Gilda’s stays at Gilda’s” and “everybody has an opinion”.

In the summer of 2017 I expectorated some blood one Sunday morning, my initial thought was oh no not another cancer, at that point I was two years cancer free. In a very short time I had a CAT scan which showed a circular’ish shadow in my right lung. I was referred to a Pulmonologist at UW hospital for a consultation, in due course I had another appointment to have an inspection of my lung with an endoscope and possibly have a biopsy. For the procedure you are given a mild tranquilizer. When I regained most of my senses I realized the doctor and nurses were smiling and remarkably cheerful.

The doctor told me the endoscopy had gone well and showed me a small plastic container. He said they had removed a garden PEA from my right lung that had been blocking at least 50 percent of the lung function. This was truly a surprise, plus they had done some basic housekeeping in my lungs like washing them down and a full check up. It had been a fine afternoon because of a good outcome (not always the case with the symptoms I showed). Of course my wife Harwinder let relatives and friends know via social media so there was no hope of keeping it a secret. Afterwards friends asked if I needed to liquidize my meals, particularly peas.

A surprise legume

At the next Gilda’s Wellness group meeting I told my pea story. I did let them know at the beginning of the story that it had a happy ending, this is not a group to keep in suspense. I kept the reason for the problem secret to the very end and then passed round a small clear container with a fresh pea in it. There was a look of horror on a couple of faces but once the secret was out everybody found it amusing. The surprise for me was the number of people who asked if they could repeat the story outside of Gilda’s. Of course I said yes, Gilda’s members take the unwritten rules seriously.

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