Ur-Turn is your weekly opportunity to contribute to TTAC. Every Saturday we select a different piece submitted to our contact form, and publish it as a showcase for the diverse perspectives of TTAC’s readers. Today’s contribution comes from TTAC commenter Rob Finfrock, and it tells the story of how one car-buying decision might have made the difference in his battle with cancer.
I’d planned to buy a new car on August 26, 2006. A loaded Mazda6S Grand Touring with the 6-speed manual, Dark Cherry Red over beige leather, with in-dash CD changer and moonroof. I justified the extravagance as a reward to myself for getting through the last seven months following a health scare. Diagnosed with testicular cancer that January, I had been extremely fortunate in the time since the initial surgery. Monthly observation scans had shown no additional tumors, which meant no radiation or chemo.
The deal wasn’t done that Saturday, though. The dealer’s numbers were still a bit too high for my tastes, so I left that day in my Grand Am. I wasn’t too worried, as I expected the dealer to come around in a day or two. The plan changed two days later, during the monthly consult with my oncologist.
I was still a nervous patient, and sweated each CT, X-ray, blood test, and follow-up. Dr. Bhogaraju was extremely understanding of that fear, and it was his custom to greet me with the statement ”you’re OK.” He didn’t say it that day.
My latest CT revealed an 8 mm growth on my left lung, and inflamed lymph nodes nearby. ”We need to run some more tests,” said Dr. B. ”It’s rare for TC to spread to the lungs, but it’s possible. I’m recommending a PET scan, which will show us how ’hot’ the inflammations are. We’ll take it from there.”
In the middle of all this was that red Mazda. Sure enough, the dealer did call that afternoon to say essentially, ”you win.” But now I was in no condition at all to buy a new car. In a daze, I told the salesman it looked like my cancer had come back.
Days without action turned into weeks, as my insurance company was reluctant to approve the expensive PET scan. I was a nervous wreck. A second CT was approved, and it showed the lung nodule had grown to 10 mm. My oncologist pushed for a surgical biopsy, and starting talking about the likelihood of chemotherapy.
”But this could still be nothing,” he told me more than once. I didn’t believe him. I felt I had already used up my positive karma for the year.
Coming from an extremely close family, my mother planned to come to Dallas to stay with me during the surgery, and for however long after. This posed a problem; she couldn’t drive my 5-speed, and I certainly didn’t want her renting a car for what could be a months-long stay. So, in mid-September I called the Mazda dealership again, and asked about an automatic-equipped 6.
As it happened, there were several loaded models available with automatics. The dealer was even willing to ’split the difference’ for the additional cost of the auto. Fear about my medical situation, however, instilled a newfound frugality. I told my salesman I wanted only a base V6 with an automatic.
I drove off the dealership the evening of September 16 with a Pebble Ash Metallic 6S, and a sense of resignation. I looked back sadly at my still-pristine Grand Am as I left. It had been the first car I’d purchased with the exact equipment I wanted, versus the compromise I now owned.
But this story isn’t really about that.
My new license plates arrived at the dealership September 26. By that time, Blue Cross had finally approved the PET scan, for the first week in October. As I waited on the showroom floor for my car, one of the sales managers walked up to me.
”Hey, got a second?” We walked over to one of the sales booths.
”I went through what you’re now going through about 10 years ago,” he said. It took me a second to understand what he was talking about. ”TC. I had it, and had my last round of chemo right before my 35th birthday.”
He told me about his experience. How he discovered he had it, and how it affected him. ”And here it is 10 years later — I got testicular cancer before Lance Armstrong, before it was ’cool’ — and I’m doing fine. It’s never come back.” He gave me his number, ”call if you need to talk to someone who understands.”
He didn’t have to say anything; it’s not a story a lot of men would feel comfortable sharing with a stranger. Instead he chose to share his story, because he felt it would help me. And it did. I drove off the dealership lot that day more confident — more heartened — than I had felt since August 28.
All because I bought a car… three weeks later than I’d planned to. And from that day onward, things started looking up. The PET showed changes in the growths; they had either stayed the same, or shrunk. A surgical biopsy October 11 confirmed it wasn’t cancer; this was all due to a comparatively minor respiratory infection. Antibiotics cleared it up.
”I told you it was probably nothing,” Dr. B said, grinning, at my next consultation. ”By the way, did you ever get that car?”
My ’Karma Kar’ just turned 40,000 miles last week. I don’t plan on getting rid of it any time soon. And, so far, I’m still cancer-free today.