Mixing thanksgiving with a happy new year

Posted: January 2, 2015 in Hard Knox Independent

“I’m glad I can eat that,” the man said, looking down at the half-eaten chili dog on the counter in front of him. “I think I’ll have two more—go easy on the chili.”

“Two more?” Paul asked. Paul is the proprietor of Riverside Market and Deli.

“Yeah, and I think I’ll try a little slaw on them, if you have any,” he said. “I’m glad I can eat.”

“Why?” Paul asked.

“I finished my chemo two weeks ago, and I’m beginning to eat again.”

I was sitting beside him waiting for my burgers to go. I looked him over—40-ish plus or minus, trim, healthy-looking, dressed nicely, a warm attitude. What kind of cancer did you have?

He pointed to the side of his throat. “Skin cancer—on my tonsil.”

Oh, I told him, one of my best friends had a tonsil that was cancerous.

“If he had it on his tonsil, it was skin cancer,” he said. “I noticed a little lump in my neck one day”—he gestures again to his neck—“and decided that wasn’t right.”

In the four months since the diagnosis, he’s had surgery and chemo (and maybe radiation). The treatments suppressed his sense of taste but magnified his sense of smell and left him with raw, extremely sensitive tissues in his throat. Getting back to eating has been tricky, and he still can’t eat foods that irritate his throat.

“The only thing I could taste was banana Popsicles, which is good—that’s all I could eat after the surgery.”

My friend had his surgery eight or ten years ago. The treatments put him through hell.

“If it’s been that long, then he’s over it. There’s a 77-percent cure rate.” He smiled. Paul laid his chili dogs on the counter. I stood up.

Well, in 10 years we’ll be congratulating you on being over it.

“I hope so.” He smiled again. “Happy New Year.”

Happy New Year.

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