Today, at 7 AM, we were back to one day surgery. That nice Elaine was there again, and since we were not her patient, she was surprised to see me again. She said that I was absolutely right, I was a much more agreeable person after coffee. I told her that I hated to say it, but really, I had told her so. By 8, Tim was gone to the OR, and the minister and I went to the dining room for coffee.
I'm touched that he's there. His family's had a rough time. His daughter in law, had a brain mass removed the Friday before I'd had my own surgery. She was originally given the all clear. We'd all stood in my little room and praised God for that news the morning of my surgery. I had been surprised to see him that day as well. I thought he was still down in Pittsburgh. By the time that I'd received my own good news on Friday, shared that news in church on Sunday, received a more cautious assessment on Monday, by the time I told Karen, our church secretary about the questions on Tuesday, the minister's family had also received a new diagnosis. Karen said, "I know this is going to be hard to hear, but about the pastor's family....and she went on to share that not only did the daughter in law have cancer after all, but they used two other words. 'Inoperable' and 'terminal' and ended it all with the phrase '3-7 years'. She was right. It was hard to hear. It shocked me speechless...the preacher's son is a preacher as well, looking for his first appointment, the couple planning to start their family soon. I cried for them as soon as I got off the phone, and I cried also about the fact that there it was: proof positive that good news can be revoked without notice.
The pastor and I talked about his family, we talked about the uncertainty of my own situation. We talked about Tim and gall bladders and children and parenting in the easy way that people do. It was a pleasant visit, and he was there when Dr. O, the nice surgeon came out to tell us that Tim was fine. I should have asked for a family discount, but did not think to. The pastor left, and I went to wait for Tim to be returned from recovery. He came back, dopey, and sleepy. He tried to talk, I told him to sleep, and he did. I read quietly.
Tim's never sick. One of our family tales is the time that an intestinal flu went through our house. It was wicked stuff, knocking us down, one at a time for a full 24 hours. And Tim kept saying, "It can't be that bad..." Not the kind of stuff you want to hear while your head's in the commode. So finally, it had gotten all of us. The last child had shakily made it to supper, and for the first time in a week, we all ate together. Tim suddenly pushed away from the table and said, "I don't feel so well," and everyone sympathetically said, "now you'll see..." and Tim staggered to the couch, dropped like a stone, and fell sound asleep. He slept for 45 minutes, woke up completely restored, and went off to the garage to work on a car while the rest of the family said, "You know, if he ever dies, his body needs to be donated for medical research, because his immune system is not like ours."
Tim woke up. No pain. But he was shakey, and sick, and wobbley. I hated to leave him, but I had my own appointment at the cancer center across the street, this time with the Radiology Doctor. The nurse assured me that they'd take good care of them while I was gone. Moreover, Elaine suggested that maybe I could use the fact that I had a post-op husband as leverage to get in and out of the cancer center in short order. (I love Elaine. She's the best.)
This doctor begins his talk. He's recommending 6 weeks of radiation, daily, five days a week. He says it will commence right after chemo finishes. We talk a little about the upcoming week, and he mentions the MRI of my spine the following day. "For my spine? The bone scan was last week. I thought the MRI was to take a look at the lump in my other breast," and he says, "Another lump? Why wasn't that biopsied?" and as he's flipping through my charts for the surgeon's report, I explain that the surgeon said that cancer would never appear in the same place in the other breast (even though the explanation had ceased to comfort me several days past). This doctor looked at me and said, "But it does happen. It happens so frequently that it has a name. We call it mirror image cancer." I stare. He pauses. "Not to scare you or anything, but really, that lump needs to be looked at." He seems even a little more surprised when I say that he won't be able to feel it, because it is under my medport, and he finishes my sentence for me, the one that I've been saying right along. He says, "so if the thing is growing or changing in any way, you can't tell anymore." And I say, "Yes. That's what I'm afraid of." The chemo doctor had said she needed to talk to the surgeon to hear his line of reasoning. She was very careful in her wording. She does not disagree with his decision, not to me. This doctor is a little different. He says, "I wonder why he didn't just take it out when he put in the medport. I mean, he was right there." and I said, "Listen, I'm not trying to be a big baby here, but I'm uncomfortable leaving the lump there, and I've been saying this since October 6th before I went to surgery." The doctor reads the surgeon's notes out loud. "The unfortunate woman also has a 2 cm mass in her right breast." Nothing else. Unfortunate woman? This doctor is very matter of fact. He will speak with the doctor at chemo the following day. A third doctor will be brought in. He also says that if the surgeon has a problem taking the second lump out, it will be time to get another surgeon. He assures me that I should never feel bad about sticking to my own instincts. He also tells me that I shouldn't hold my questions until I have an appointment, that I can call them directly, whenever.
I walk back over to the hospital at a half jog. I'm anxious about Tim. I'm also relieved beyond words that I politely stuck to my guns, and that furthermore, the doctor had agreed with my concerns. I feel as if, (in Hal's words) 'I've lost a hundred pounds.'
Tim is sick. He doesn't get released until 4. I load him up and take him home. He gets carsick but does not throw up in the car. He wobbles to the house, almost faints before he gets to the sofa. I ease off his boots, and he's asleep before I get the afghan over him. He sleeps for an hour and has a bowl of homemade chicken/wild rice soup that I made yesterday afternoon. He gradually loses the unflattering 'fish belly white' pallor.
At the end of today, both Tim and I feel better.