I entered the waiting room at 758AM. I was the first appointment of the day, 8AM. I had just worked a 28 hour shift and had to rush over from the other hospital in my scrubs. I was hoping to enter the clinic waiting room in normal clothes and not give away the fact that I also worked in health care, but I didn’t have time. The nurse told me to undress and put a hospital gown on, which I did. She didn’t leave the room while I undressed which I found odd, but she was asking questions and marking things down on a chart. “Age?” “29”. “Weight?” “185 lbs” (I lied, I weigh more like 190-195, I don’t know why I lied about this). “Why are you here?” “I’ve had a white lesion on my lip for 2 months and a family doctor referred me here because he thought it might be cancer”. Saying those words was gut wrenching. It made the situation so terrifyingly real. As if being at a cancer surgeon’s biopsy clinic hadn’t made it real enough already. “Ok, well slip into this gown a doctor will be in to see you”. Notice she said “a doctor”, not “the doctor”. I was worried about this. I am a resident at a hospital in Kingston, Ontario. Both hospitals run with the help of residents. Residents help with running wards, performing surgeries, resuscitating patients in the emergency room, and helping out in cancer clinic. I came to see “the doctor”, the attending physician who would ultimately make the decision and decide on the biopsy. “A doctor” was a resident, potentially someone I knew and socialized with. Not someone I wanted to see. The resident came in, and thankfully I didn’t know him. “Let’s have a look”. He looked at my lip, “Okay I see what you’re talking about. We’ll freeze that lip up and take a little biopsy, shouldn’t be long”. He looked at my chart and started reading a few things, then he looked up at me, “You’re a resident?” “Yes.” I said. I was a little put off because this obviously meant that he hadn’t read my chart beforehand, I could see it in his hands, with “EMERGENCY MEDICINE RESIDENT” boldly written and circled in red. “Let me get the attending”. He scurried out and brought in the attending, “The Doctor”. He laid me down on the bench and shone a light on my lip, “so where is this thing? that thing there? or is it there?”. Fuck, I’m thinking I have another lesion. Turns out he’s having trouble finding what I’m talking about, “oh that thing in the middle there… well it’s not cancer I can tell you that right now”. The rest of what he said doesn’t really matter, other than I need to keep an eye on my lip for the rest of my life (FYI the spot has no disappeared after 3.5 months or so).
The majority of my 100 days was spent worrying about this lesion. It appeared just a week or so after I quit, and stayed throughout my 100 days. I lost sleep over this lesion. I even cried at the prospect of having cancer. I was terrified. I pictured Jim (not his real name), a 34 year old who I was taking care of at the other hospital. Jim was 31 when he first presented to the hospital with a painful white lesion on his tongue. 3 years and multiple disfiguring surgeries later, he’s drinking pureed meals out of a straw and talking with a voice box. I saw my future in Jim: losing my job, being single forever, most likely dying young. I wished to god I had never started dipping. I had dipped for 2 years and it’s not something I can take back. I knew what I was doing, and I knowingly increased my risk of getting that type of cancer. Thank god for KTC and the KTC community.
I owe my life, and very likely my (handsome?) face to KTC. I would have dipped forever if this resource hadn’t been available. The veterans in particular, especially in those first days and weeks where the physical withdrawl symptoms are so bad. I never would have made it through without them. If I could get through that, I thought I would be quit forever no problem. Now, 100 days later, I still get significant cravings. I dream about it, the feel of it in my lip, the head rush, the satisfying spitting sensation. All things that are disgusting and vile, and no doubt contributed to me being alone the 2 years I dipped, and yet I trick myself into this romanticized vew of dip. Like it’s something I should miss. That’s how I know I’m an addict. It’s so much more than just the physical symptoms, it’s knowing that if I let my guard down I’ll start dipping again. Despite all the sleep lost and the terrifying trip to the doctor’s. Despite Jim and his missing jaw and voice box. It’s amazing how this substance has such control over me. Thank you KTC, to December, to my battle buddy, and to the veterans who helped me through these 100 days, and who I know I can count on in the future to help keep me quit for as long as I care to choose to stay quit. For now, I’m still taking it ODAAT, like the rest of us here on KTC. One day at a time guys, I’m proud to be quit with all of you today.