My Breakfast with Blassie. Nope. Er, uh My Journey Battle with Newly-Discovered Cancer
– By Michael Lano, DDS
I feel most everyone I’ve known in the biz from the boys, office staff of my Los Angeles wrestling office territory home base shooting for Mike Lebell’s program launching from there to shooting for every global newstand wrestling and boxing magazine, fans, etc. are my extended family. Some of you know I’ve battled and thankfully been in remission from Multiple Sclerosis for years since Mayo Hospital in Minnesota first nailed my diagnosis. Although M.S. isn’t supposed to be “familial” or “genetic,” it appears to run in my family as my great uncle had it, as did my mom. Both were quickly wheelchair-bound which I’ve thankfully not had to deal with. In fact, most can’t tell there’s anything “wrong” with me other than I’m a goof.
That all changed after a freak gym accident this past Tuesday morning at 7:25 am when I was doing my last exercise thing before taking off.
I thank our web guru and sensei Karen for allowing me to blog a bit here. The purpose of this is hopefully to help at least one person who may be going through benign or like in my case apparently, malignant cancer not feel scared and alone. I’m concerned there’s X percentage of us who feel super healthy but may be carrying around cancerous cells, malignant tumors, etc. that aren’t diagnosed. If you can’t palpate (feel) that there’s anything unusual, strange or “wrong,” how would one ever uncover or diagnose any cancer going on inside you. Women are wise enough to do monthly self-mammography or palpating regularly to check their breasts for the possibility of any lesions. Most of us over 50 know we should get regular, every 10 year Colonoscopies where you don’t feel a thing. They’re totally easy as one is “knocked out.” You wake up, no pain and you’re all done. Feels like you just nodded off in a nap.
Any tidbits, shortcuts, tips, etc. I can offer, I will. It’s cathartic for me to put what I have to go through and again, I’d be happy if a few read it, maybe became more self-aware and caught stuff early. Pro actively. So survival chances are heightened for everyone. That any of us who face the awful battle to fight cancer can, for lack of a better tired word, “smackdown” cancer. Put it down for the count and looking up at the lights. And all the trite cliches only I can come up with. Or as B.M. first said when we started out around the same time as Torch newsletter columnists – he was major, I was the occasional Japan columnist since I was going there so much. Anyway, Bruce said at the time I was like the king of Mixed Metaphors. So be it. Here goes nothing. Or something.
Basically last Tuesday morning, when I picked up what I thought was my work-out club’s regular, older, non-bouncing Slam exercise balls, I had no idea they’d recently added new ones that really bounce up like super balls. That look exactly like the old ones. They put these new ones alongside the old, non-bouncing ones we’d always used. I went to bounce what I thought was a regular 15 lb’er and it shot right up high some 6′ at my jaw, nailing it into my head and I fell back on the floor on the back of my head and was ko’d for about 40 seconds, the trainer said. Began throwing up, pupils different sizes (both hallmark concussion symptoms) so I was ambulanced to lame Alameda Emergency Hospital where I was stuck for 6 hours where they did nothing and finally claimed that I “have a severed Jugular Artery that’s bleeding into my brain,” that they couldn’t help me after multiple botched CT scans and that they were rush-transferring me via another waste-of-time and money ambulance to horrible Oakland Emerg/Crisis unit Highland Hospital. More multiple MRI’s, CT ‘contrast or dye’ scans, and an ultrasound and they claimed that they found 2 golf ball sized lesions behind my neck muscle in my neck which have now been diagnosed as aggressive malignant tumors. This is after Aspirational Biopsies, etc. and encompassing several days in the hospital where they have in-house, ASAP labs to focus on the cells sucked out of my reportedly cancerous lesion masses. That next Thursday or sooner, after more lab work, they’ll have to flap open my neck and remove them ASAP, once the lengthy, stupid process of “Insurance Preauthorization” is complete. And okayed. Hopefully.
Rule 1 learned: Make sure any doctors doing thick needle Aspirational Biopsies anesthetize the area they’re injecting. And first applying topical 2% Lidocaine to make said shots, needles not hurt so much. In my case, I had an oldtimer who claimed he couldn’t anesthetize the region or my SCM muscle, so I’d have to tough it out, w/out anesthesia. That’s bullshit. And led to:
*Worst pain ever with the cancer specialist inserting the aspirational wide needle repeatedly (to try to minimize that intense pain, I was chanting, meditating each time said mofo needle went in there), plus having thick aspiration needles inserted into one’s throat, going thru my SternoCleidoMastoid just to try to get fluid out of these lesions that are located unfortunately near my spinal column, Jugular Vein & Carotid Artery & esophagus, which one of the masses is impinging upon is scary. And did I say painful? Did I say before 7:25 am Tuesday, I felt fine and healthy. Had no clue anything was wrong or morphing/growing inside my neck near my vocal cords, etc. F.
*Last Friday and Saturday I felt I was on top of the world. Or at least my world. A major, super major APW spectacular card at a wonderful location Friday night not near the venerable Cow Palace we love so much as usual. This one is a few miles away and across the street from the revitalized, magnificent Orignal Joes of Westlakec(or what we will always call here in the SF/SJose/Oakland Area, Joe’s of Westlake. It’s like the greatest Italian diner in the world. Or one of them like they also renovated, new Original Joe’s right in the City (San Francisco that is). At Westlake Joe’s in the back, private area they let me go thru with my camera before APW wrestling, they have many of the old classic 50′s and on photos of famous people eating there. Like Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens and promoter Roy Shire who was a great worker in his Professor days himself. There was BTW in nearby Fremont/Newark just across the Bay Bridge. APW was the superior card as usual, with Joey Ryan in his first time match with the former WWE star Yoshi Tatsu (who told me WWE kept asking, hoping his dad had been a wrestler so they could call him one of their “second-gen stars” they’re so hung up on he said. They said fans would have a hard time pronouncing or remembering his real name (which he thought was silly and I agreed) so they created his work name out of his dad’s name which was really Yoshi Tatsu. The Shimmer women’s world champ was on the card in a terrific match. Legendary Kris Kristofferson’s very talented wrestler son Jody won APW’s top prize in a 4 way with MVP (yup!), Dylan Drake (who’s wife just had their first baby) and champ JR Kratos. Loaded, loaded and always 5 star APW show Friday night. The next night I spoke with Meltz at length while I shot cageside the always awesome Bellator show (MMA’s Mr. Wonderful defeated superstar King Mo in the main) at San Jose’s biggest, most prestigeous venue in the HP Center/”SharkTank” where our SJose Sharks play and are headed towards the hockey finals at the same time, oddly, as our Golden State Warriors of Oakland are hopefully winning their 2nd World NBA Championship. When Bellator was over I zoomed a few miles over to one of Roy Shire’s great secondary show venues in the beautiful San Jose Civic (now the National Civic) to shoot a legends of lucha great show with old old friends I went out with later, like Mil Mascaras, Canek, the original Solar (I shot a ton of him when he worked in the early 90′s for Japan’s Universal lucha group), Negro Navarro (who put on a mat and chain clinic vs Solar to show off to Hijo de Rey Mysterio Sr, who is Lucha UGround Trios Champion with Prince Puma aka Rikochet) and Rey Mysterio Jr./Little Oscar in a dream team. Tons of other lucha legends like Blue Demon Jr, etc. And they all showed up. So I was photographically at least on top of the world. And healthy. Or so I thought.
So again, demand that any time anyone anywhere is doing an “aspirational biopsy” with needles, that they anesthetize, numb up the region as best they can. Don’t try to deal with the intense, major pain I gritted my loose teeth thru.
The above was painful to the f’ing max, because the specialist said they were having trouble reaching both lesions behind that big thick muscle. And again next week at the earliest, they’ll have to open up my throat, laying what’s called “a flap” to take out both growths that’re about the size of golf balls and near my carotid and jugulars, my spinal column & voicebox which makes removing them tough and f’ing dangerous. If you have cancer or have to get it, don’t follow my lead. Have it somewhere else than where mine is (just being sarcastic) Had no idea those little mofos were there at all — if they hadn’t taken the CT scans and Ultrasound exams to see if my jaw was broken during the concussion, they wouldn’t have discovered it. That was why I allowed myself to go to Emergency in the first place. I knew I had a concussion from all I’ve read all these years since it became such a hot button issue first in our biz, then in other sports/ent worlds. And I wanted my super sore TMJ, jawjoints checked out too. I wonder how many other people even get possible early-detection for stuff they have, that they’re also clueless on. They said told me to prep myself mentally for possible, eventual rad/chemo to try to knock this out ASAP. OK, there goes my full head of m o f o hair for an old geez of 59 who’s lived his life for wrestling. Well, and girls, music and comedy concerts. Bowie and Prince who I photographed stage-side many times. Bowie first in 1972 back home 500 miles south in Los Angeles at the Fabulous Forum. Lord knows what lame corporate name they call it now. The Great Western Forum next to a huge ditch that may house the San Diego, er L.A. Chargers and/or returning L.A. Rams? Not our Oakland Raiders? Whew.
*Hospital Smackdown or Cage Match Brawl
So on a selfish level, to keep my mind off this shit, I’m hoping to blog regularly here and elsewhere. Again hoping (although who would do full body regular xrays as they’re too general, not really diagnostic nor practical. But any early detection advice I can give any readers, to the boys, fans, whomever. And for someone trying to read everything out there on sports concussions since I finally had one. That was insane (well, Tuesday morning that started all this and unearthed or uncovered unknown cancer. Had no idea and again was clueless anything at all was wrong with me).
*To keep my mind off this shit, going to blog here and elsewhere about my little journey battle. Hopefully offering early detection advice to the boys, fans, whomever. Anyone kind enough to read this stuff. And for those wanting to learn how to take care of stingers and sports concussions. Because after reading and obsessing over them since even before we lost Benoit who I roomed with in Jan of 1991 at NJPW’s Keio Plaza Hotel, when he was still working under the Pegasus Kid mask there, and I happened to be back covering all the great shows that occur several times daily during New Year’s Week (they celebrate the whole week after Jan 1st, not just the Jan 1st day), I was reading and trying to learn as much about concussions which wrestling “smartened up” on first before other sports. Chris Nowinsky and all his tremendous, important work. Big thank you shout out to Chris.
*I’ll be back in a few days or whenever I learn anything else on concussions, TMJ and cancer that might possibly, remotely assist someone else dealing with the same shit I’m going through. Make sure you surround yourself with positive thoughts, vibes, meditations, uplifting people. And loved ones. Your significant other, if they’re loving and concerned, can really be a life saver. As can your family. Time to lean on them and friends. Work cohorts. The rest of the planet that gives a damn. As former promoter/WWE writer and all around major dude Court Bauer just emailed me, “fight this dude. You can win this. Beat this thing.” Or something along those lines since I’m mentally fuzzy right now after a nurse nailed me with a cortisone shot for pain 5 minutos ago.
Love and Buena Suerte con Effecto to all.
*Don’t use ambulances unless it’s really necessary. If your insurance pays for the majority of their massive (read INSANE) charges like $1600 or so for going a few miles in stage 3 mode (all the noise, horn and light action), okay. But that money could easily go to help you in your healthcare battle or to help others. Not some lame ambulance outfit.