Surgeons are awesome

Published by pam on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 6:25pm


If radiologists are sirens beckoning their patients towards a dangerous shore, surgeons are saviors - eagles that soar from the sky to whisk the newly diagnosed away from danger.  They see patients after the diagnosis but before the toxins take their toll.  They deliver good news.  Tumors suddenly seem tidy, removable, survivable. For the first time in a week, I think I can beat thing.  Breasts or no breasts, hair or no hair, maybe I can beat this thing.  


The surgeon is pregnant.  She is glowing and full of life.  She is a harbinger of hope - perky, positive, powerful.  She represents everything we are desperate to hold on to.  We talk about kids, siblings, Book of Mormon - things that make us wonder if we'd met at a park or school fundraiser would we have been friends?  Would she and her family have come to dinner?  Would we take the time to stop andto chat on the street?  But it isn't like that.  Truth is, she will come in an out of our lives.  She will deliver us from one danger into another.  She will wish us well and we will speak kindly of her.  We will tell people we are grateful for her skill, her humor.  We will remember her as a bright spot in a dark place.  But after she is gone, the hard part will start.  The part that changes a person from the inside.  


The surgeon walks us through most likely treatment.  Removal of the tumor, mastectomy most likely.  One breast or two is up to me.  She talks about reconstruction and implants and ways of saving skin.  She talks about chemo and radiation and the timetable ahead. 


The list of fears I have is long.  Some are big ( can my heart handle this?).  Some are petty (will I gain a lot of weight? It seems so unfair that chemo is more likely to make you gain weight than lose it.)  Will I be stupid after all those chemicals have their way with my brain?  I'm far more attached to my brain than my breasts.  Will I still feel like me at the end of it all?


Even if I I survive, will I be a functioning member of my family?  I was supposed to go back to work.  I was supposed to find way to make enough money to help send my kids to college.  Marc has been counting on me to find a way to ease the financial burden that is about to hit and now I'm part of the problem.  I've been in serious avoidance about restarting some sort of lucrative career and it dawns on me that maybe I was so terrified of going back to work, that my mind created this tumor so I wouldn't have to.   In the end, will they all be afraid to confess the awful secret they've been keeping - that mom isn't really mom anymore and sometimes they wonder if the struggle was worth it?


How much harder will the future be for everyone if I'm fat, bald, breast-less, and stupid.  Maybe Marc will find himself thinking about what life would be like with someone young and healthy?  Is he thinking about it already?  I doubt  he's shallow enough to worry much about the boobs.  But the other stuff - the physical limitations, the financial limitations, the mental limitations, those are big.  They could be impossibly difficult for him.  It's really too big to get my head around, so I choose to focus on what I can control.  Most likely, it will be a sucky year.  A sucky year for all of us.  No more, no less.  And that sucky year will presumably be followed by a series of less sucky years. And the next year of my life, more than any year before it, will show me what I'm made of.  I decide I will do what I can to be an example for myself, for my family.  I will try to find the grace to handle what is coming my way with humor and dignity.  Sure, there will ups and downs, but there will be a future.   And for now, Marc is with me.  The surgeon had given us hope and that has brought us together.  Right now is good.  Right now feels strong.  Right now feels hopeful.  Right now we have to get ready to go to dinner with friends.  Friends who know nothing about what is about to happen to us.  



Hi! We have all been thinking of you and we have decided that that this is natures way of reminding us how lucky we are to be touched by a wonderful person sucha as yourself and your beutiful family. Thank you for always being so kind. We know that this reresents a challenge to you and the Family but it only will make you stronger. It will also remind you of how much you are loved! Let us know when we can be of assistance to you. We Love you very much!
 The Smith's

Hey Smith family,
Just knowing you are out there makes the world a more wonderful place.  Hope that Russian stove (which I so envy) is keeping your family warm inside and out.  Ryann is desperately trying to find a way to come visit for her birthday.  I'll keep you posted.  Until then, know that I am a grateful friend and am a better person for having the privilege of sharing tune with your family.

I was a little late hearing about this and wish i were with you to give you a big hug.  I mean a really big hug.  
About those fears.  I do have a thought or two.,  
They don't make a chemical powerful enough to shrink that big brain of yours. you are the smartest person I know and one of the things i miss most about not seeing you guys is watching that big brain work.  i have loved our conversations fueled by that big and rigorus  brain of yours,  and am looking forward to our next convesations.  I'm  looking forward to them a lot: to hear of the changes that this experience has brought..  
Not a doubt in my mind that that big brain and the big heart of yours that beats through Marc and your family will see you through this with all the grace and humor (yes that cackle laugh that could wake up a dead man) and dignity that you admire. No fear there, girlfirend.  
Now about those breasts.  i thought the old ones were pretty good,,,maybe not perfect but pretty good.  i happen to know something about breasts and when its time to buy some new ones (unless you already have and i'm kind of in the dark about when that might happen--maybe it already has)  So if you haven't bought new ones then just consider me a consultant.  And on the off chance that you have new ones then you should use me as a judge of what kind of deal you got.   (If my humor misses the mark here and I am offensive just consider the source and know that i mean well.)
I pobably know a little more about fear than I let on; i know enough about fear and I know enough about you to know that you will face it couragesouly and with dignity and will teaching us your friends all the way through.  

First of all, thank you for the kind words.  I look back on dinner club as a rare and wonderful experience.  And it saddens me that we have all drifted so far apart.  I think of you as I make my way through the Pike Place Market or past the Virgina Inn and I wonder if I'll bump into you.  Not sure how recognizable I'll be here shortly, but you get my point.  Anyhow, I can't tell you how helpful it is to hear such encouragement.  Even though I'm afraid boob shopping will fall on Miller and Ryann.  They have made it very clear that they want to be I charge of that part of my future.  And really, the fear is all about the future.  First, making sure there is one.  Second, making sure that I recognize myself in it.  Slowly  I am gaining more confidence in both, but I can't tell you how helpful it is to know that there are people out there pulling for me.
I am sorry its taken me so long to respond.  I was so touched by your sincerity and openness that I wanted to make sure that I said exactly the right thing in response. But there is no exact right thing to say, except maybe thank you.  
So, keep an eye out as you are walking though the market.  I'll be the woman in the scarf.  Or maybe a wig of my own hair.  I haven't decided yet.  But I look forward to catching up.  And talking abut something other than cancer.

Your words reach across and connect our shared humanity, Pam. I marvel at your ability to express and share during this time of turmoil and anxiety. You are both in our thoughts and I am truly honored to share this amazing life journey with you.