From the monthly archives:

February 2010

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Dr. Guru calls me at work with the pathology report.  “I just got it,” he stresses.

(So he did read my  blistering email after my first surgery. Then I complained about him not sharing the pathology results until two weeks after he himself received them.)

“Everything completely clear, just as we knew it would be. Margin a bit larger than 2 mm.”

“Good job then, “I say.

Dr. Guru asks if I have decided to fore go chemo and when I say yes, he tells me it would have been of  little or no benefit in my case.

“Why add all those toxins to your body?” .

“Why did you not say so right away? I ask. “You knew I was terrified.”

“I wanted you to make up your own mind,” he says. “Some people will agree to chemo for a one percent better chance of survival.”

This is nonsense. How can a patient, a lay person,  “make up her own mind?” Even someone like me, someone who has cruised the interned “ad nauseam” cannot really decide. A lay person will often misread statistics and project wishful thinking into her readings. This is natural. This is why a doctor will see another doctor when she is sick. A lawyer will not represent himself. You need a professional, someone with experience and perspective.  Preferably a professional with no skin in the game.

But I say nothing

Dr. Guru tells me I may start radiation “any time.” “Your choice of hospital is fine,” he assures me. “Alpha is excellent. Many of my patients go to him.”

(Suddenly, he no longer refers to Dr. Alpha as “that radiation oncologist.”

Dr. Guru sounds upbeat. And I am amused. Now that the icy patches between us have been salted and sanded, everything is on the up and up.

That night, I go to bed relaxed and content.  For the first time since I received my breast cancer diagnosis,  I do not wake up in the middle of the night. Not even briefly.

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Second time in OR, I feel like a pro, familiar with the routines of the ambulatory surgery unit.  The prep-nurse and I exchange recipes and talk adult children. While we chat,  Dr. Guru flies by the open drapery, grins,  and gives me a half baked wave. He looks a bit like the cat who ate the canary. Suddenly, I feel silly. I  been prepared for both of us to be haughty and stand-offish, still irritated with each other. Unlike me, he obviously has many more important things to stew about than our mini-battle.

Minutes later Dr Guru is back. He slumps in the visitor’s chair opposite my gurney, legs stretched out across the floor. He is in his comfort zone. I, on the other hand, am not, covered only by my thin, ill-fitting cotton gown.

“So tell me about this business with that radiologist,” he says.

Naturally, he wants  to talk about how the re-excision reared its ugly head.  All I want to talk about is my post-operative treatments.  I drone on about Tamoxifen versus Arimidex. I tell him I liked the professor who said no to chemo therapy.

“See,  if you shop for doctors long enough, you get exactly want you want,” Dr. Guru says. Before I can protest and reach the pillow behind me to throw at him, he is on his feet and gone. The curtain sways behind him.

Just as well. Why pick a fight with the guy who will wield the knife while you’re in twilight?

In OR, I jump up on the cot, stretch my arms on the cross. The OR is emptier and quieter than the first time. A re-excision obviously does not hold enough drama for the student body.

I wake up with a blue tent still over my head. I  hear people talk and laugh, instruments rattle, water is running. I scoot over to the gurney on my own. Actually, I could just have walked out of there, but they insist on wheeling me out.

That afternoon, my oldest daughter comes over with wild flowers from Gloria’s garden and a Get Well balloon. My son comes around around three with a nice bottle of red wine. My friend Cecilia shows up with a bunch of gossip magazines, a couple of Valrona cupcakes, and a bouquet of dark red roses.

In a letter, my youngest daughter writes:

“Difficult events don’t build character, they reveal character. This same thing can be said for you in this terrible scare – your spirit remains bright and strong.”

My husband runs to the store and comes back to prepare deviled turkey and a cheese platter for the visitors. They have wine. I have water. Everyone relaxes in the living room reading, chatting, and now and then looking up to grab a snack. Like after my lumpectomy, it feels like Boxing Day. Around 7 PM, my sister-in-law and my niece come over with chicken and green beans to make dinner for us.  Afterward, as after lumpectomy, we all play cards, Spite & Malice. My niece wins.  A perfectly pleasant end to a procedure I had wondered about, fought and waited for so long.

As soon as I am heeled, I will be off to radiation.

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