“Here’s the part you are going to hate me for,” the oncologist was standing in front of us in a typical treatment room, the kind we’d been spending way too much time in, writing on a small whiteboard like a professor lecturing to a very small class. He was a good looking young man, thin and in shape, scruffy beard, probably 40, with sunken eyes that gave him away. The eyes said this guy has told way too many people way too much bad news, the eyes said he was a warrior who’d won and lost his share of battles. His eyes said he was tired.
“Yes, your hair is going to fall out. But I hope the other benefit of this process is that you will get better.” We didn’t hate him. I laughingly said “You bastard” and we all shared the mandatory tension releasing laugh, it wasn’t the worst news we’d had from a doctor lately and we kind of expected it; seeing other patients leaving the hospital with scarfs on their heads was a dead give away.
A week earlier, a caring, loving breast surgeon had looked at Teresa and after pointing at charts and explaining her diagnosis, held her hand, looked her in the eyes and said, “This isn’t a death sentence.” Holy shit! Who said anything about death? She did. Hey guys, it turns out when you get to go to a place called a “breast center” it isn’t as much fun as it might initially sound. Teresa has breast cancer, my wife has it! Cancer isn’t just something represented by those ubiquitous pink ribbons, its here. It lives here in our house. Uninvited and unwelcomed. It picked the wrong house.
We are in for a siege, a foreign army has surrounded our city walls and will try to invade. It won’t. We have kick ass drugs, time, faith, love, and some pretty cool wigs. The battle is on. The good news is that the decease is contained to one area, and there are drugs, thanks to the billions of dollars raised for breast cancer research, designed to kill the specific protein in this specific form of breast cancer. (A decade ago, this wasn’t the case, this was a “bad” cancer then.)
So, what do you do when you have cancer in your home? You decide that nothing is off limits for discussion, while we don’t want to dwell on or be defined by breast cancer, we aren’t going to avoid the conversation. There is a battle on, one we didn’t ask for, but one we plan to fight with all our forces. We are in for at least 18 weeks of chemo, a year of another drug and then some form of surgery. You come to appreciate doctors who can give you news straight up, who explain what is going on and let you decide how to feel about it. You come to have sympathy for others who have been through the process and a remarkable understanding of those who change the subject and don’t want to hear about it. We didn’t either.
While this blog won’t become a “cancer” blog, I’ve always written most effectively when I have written from my heart and I intend to occasionally let you know how the siege is going. There is power in prayer, in shared good intentions and thoughts and, right now, we could use all of those.