Saturday, December 10, 2011

7 Years Later: In Theory

"We used to joke in medical school that if we have to have any cancer, then we would want to have thyroid cancer."  Hm.  Funny joke.

I say that with sarcasm, and a huge dose of understanding though.  I mean.  Everything is easy to talk about in theory and hypotheticals.   Who you want to marry, how many kids you want, where you want to live, how you would act if this or that happened, what kind of cancer you would have... But the reality is always so much.  Hm.  Different.

The stats on thyroid cancer are great.  Especially for a young female.  Like 99% curable.  Sha-BAM!!

But I have to tell you, truly, that my reality sucked.  After the physical trauma of the surgery and anesthesia, my body was a neurological circus on steroids; Cirque Du Soleil on acid style.  And lets not forget that my head had just been cut off.  (Smirk).

Prognosis really is only as good as you feel.  I totally get people going on an African safari after a terminal illness diagnosis when they still feel great.  Because, hell!, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  (This is the material for many a movie).

Yet, and, still, I would not advocate for that alone.  Wisdom, it seems comes from living in between theory and your experience.  Believing that life comes when not denying either.


My therapist called me a few days after the surgery, "So was it cancer?"  "Yes."  "Shit.  I'm sorry."  "That's okay!  Really.  I'm happy.  There is something actually wrong with me that has a name.  And there are tests to prove it."

7 Years Later: Waiting Room

The family and friend's journey parallels that of the patient, but rarely do their experiences intersect.  It is a strange and careful distance, a precious and dear closeness. 

I am told this is what happened in the waiting room while I was in surgery.  I am told that my family took up most of the waiting room.  I am told that my parents, grandparents, aunt etc..., and church friends huddled around; my cousin learned to knit at some point in there.

I am told that when the doctor came in to tell of the surgery, of the thyroid cancer, that the whole waiting room went silent.  That my mom and dad heard the news first only due to the laws of physics; you know, sound waves and all; but really, they all heard at the same time.

I am told my mom cried, my dad was shocked, and my grandfather said, "Not her.  It can be me, but not her."

This is a sacred story to me.  One that is passed on by oral tradition.  The details maybe sketchy, but the heart of it is huge: I am loved.  While I was oblivious, hearing German, and emotionally dulled with pain meds, these others bore my story.

7 Years Later: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

I swear there were two people speaking German next to me in the recovery room.  The patient was male, the visitor (translator?) female.  "Would you like to sit up some?," the lady said.  I envisioned her with short blond hair, rosy checks, and a full, broad body.  I could only hear them.  'The surgery is done...that was fast,' I thought to myself.  German, blurred vision, cotton mouth, woozy head, i have cancer?, the voice said faintly.  I fell back to sleep.

Oriented again, my thoughts a little clearer, 'Do I have cancer?...'  'Open your eyes.'  Blurrrrrrry vision.  I closed my eyes.  'Do I have cancer?'  I opened my eyes, I moved my head a little.

"Do you want your glasses?"  'She is talking to you.'  "Lizzy, would you like your glasses?"

"Yes."  I could hear her stooping down to my bag of things.
"Do I have cancer?"  "Just rest now."  "I know but do you know?"  "The doctor will talk to you when you get back to your room."  "Okay, just tell me did they take the whole thing out?"  "The whole thing?"  "Yes, did they take the whole thyroid out?"  "Yes they did."  "Then I have cancer."  "Okay, just rest."

I felt the metal touch my temples, on the right, now left.   A flash of clarity and I nodded off again.