This is an unedited chapter from my original manuscript that was not included in the final draft. Chronologically, it takes place after the last blog post, "Return of the Blob."
A week later, I was still oak strong that this cancer thing was just going to be another bump in the road. My confidence did not waver even after the surgeon called me to set up my suture removal and ominously told me “we had to talk about the scan results.”
I’m surprised that no one has developed a sound effect button for physicians’ telephones. I guarantee it would be a big seller.
He was going to hit me with the scan results. He thought I was gong to crumble. No, no, not I, I thought to myself. For as long as I know how to love I know I will survive.
Calling Dr. Gloria Gaynor. Please report to oncology...
I sat in his exam room a few days later, bubbling over with confidence. I chastised myself for showing weakness the last time I had seen him, when he had blind sided me with the photo of the tumor lurking inside me like the creature from “Alien.”
Not this time, I told myself. You’re going to be strong. No tears. No fears. You got this. I was psyching myself up like an NFL coach at the Super Bowl half.
He’s going to come in and tell me about the scan, I thought. He thinks he’s going to shock me, but I already know the results. Three masses. Next stop chemo. You got this.
I was more than confident sitting in that beige drab exam room; I was downright cocky. I took a cell phone photo of the empty stool he was about to occupy to try and rock my world. I was going to post it on Facebook, with a laugh at his expense!
By the time the surgeon finally came in the room, with a boy-surgeon intern in tow, I was ready to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. He sat in the same stool I had just photographed and asked how I was doing.
“Better than the last time I saw you,” I said.
“You talked to Dr. R?” he said, getting me ready for the big reveal.
“And you know the results of the scans?”
“Yes.” I answered with a pre-planned smile.
He was surprised at my positive demeanor. He was just lining up for the field goal, in sudden death overtime.
“So you know about the tumors in the abdomen.”
“Yes.” A clear, confident answer.
Then he kicked the ball, right through the goalposts.
“And you know about the tumors in the kidneys, liver, lungs, and bone?”
I was stunned. Stunned. Dr R had distinctly told me there were three masses in the abdomen. Three. He didn’t even hint at anything else, and certainly never told me the killer cells were already in the lungs and bone. That defined my cancer as stage four, potentially terminal.
Stage four meant that the cancer had crossed the diaphragm and had spread throughout the body. Stage four was as bad as it could get. If I reached stage five, the pain would stop and I would no longer need chemo, but I would be the newest contralto in the choir invisible. In my profession my situation would prompt me to have a serious talk with the client about the pet’s quality of life, and reach for the purple juice with the funny name.
My bravado marched off the field, crushed. The tears I promised myself would not come couldn’t help themselves. He had blind sided me once again.
Well played, Dr. H, well played.
“It’s all about the chemo now,” he continued. “It’s everywhere.”
I could barely speak. I feebly assured him that Dr. R had already made the necessary arrangements.
“Good,” he said. “Go home and get your affairs in order.”
He had been pleasant, kind, and compassionate, or rather, as pleasant, kind, and compassionate as one could be while hitting someone over the head with a blunt instrument. He led me out of the room with an apologetic smile.
I was reeling. I was free-falling to earth with no parachute, and somehow, someway, I had to muster enough strength to walk to the waiting room where Steve innocently sat playing a drag racing game on my I-pad. I had to slap a smile on my face so he wouldn’t know the truth until we were at a better time and place for me to drive a stake through his heart.
Fortunately, Steve was absorbed right then in his own medical drama, and did not notice the bruises and wounds on my game face. He himself was nursing the single worst disease in the world. More debilitating than Lou Gehrig’s disease, more lethal than Ebola, this disease had claimed more victims than the Black Plague.
He had a man-cold.
The man-cold, or rhinitits horriblis masculinis as it has been known since the middle ages, is even more dangerous than the man-paper-cut or the dreaded man-hangnail. It was the Kryptonite of masculinity. This powerful virus turned robust males into shivering, quivering, teddy-bear clutching, bowls of Jell-O with size 12 work boots, that were unable to go to work, make a cup of soup, or open the needed anti-sera, a Coors Light, without help from their never-sympathetic-enough spouses.
Like all women, I fortunately was immune to the man-cold. Women get colds, all right, but just the usual kind, not the devil’s own man-cold. Our colds just give us a stuffy noses and runny eyes, but we still have enough energy to report to all three of our jobs, feed the children, do the
laundry, go shopping, and fix the TV when the cable goes on the fritz in the middle of the big game.
Steve had this stage 4 man-cold for seven days now, and he barely could walk back to the car. Subsequently, even though I was free-falling and searching for a way I could hide my fear from him, I didn’t have to worry. His focus was on his man-cold.
“Why did it take so long?” he asked, obliviously. “My head hurts. I think I have a fever. Feel my forehead...”
He didn’t even realize anything was wrong until we were nearly home and my dad called me. I couldn’t pretend any longer, and tearfully gave my dad the news.
Steve pulled his truck over and listened to my conversation.
“Don’t tell anyone,” I told my dad. “Promise me.”
I didn’t want my mother and siblings to know just how bad things really were. I had caused them enough grief already.
“I won’t tell,” my dad said. He was crying, too. He kept his promise to me, and my family never knew how extensive my cancer was until I had finished my chemo. Some of them perhaps not until they read this chapter.