Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The C word

I hardly know where to begin. I usually like to be funny in my blogs. Or try. But this isn't really funny. Humor plays a part, but it's not the primary emotion or characteristic. I'd say the main elements are,,,,, COPE and HOPE.

So, Dan, my husband of not quite a year, went in for his colonoscopy the night before our first anniversary (what is it with cancer and newlyweds? huh Susan? huh Jan?). I sat in the waiting room, for what seemed like days. Traces of worry threaded their way through my consciousness, but I didn't really allow them in. But as more and more people came out, and they weren't Dan, I was starting to wonder. Finally they asked me to go in.

I saw Dan standing up, looking a bit clammy. I don't know how you can look clammy, but he did. We were asked to go into a little room. I think the cope mechanism started there, Aug. 14. It hasn't abated since. They showed us a picture of his colon. It didn't look pretty. And you'd be surprised, a healthy colon can look pretty decent. I was listening, trying not to look worried, or scared, just strong and ready. The C word was darting all around the outside edges of my brain, but I figured I wasn't going to be the first to say it. Dan looked pretty shocked. And no one had even said cancer yet. They were talking about a growth, a separate polyp, biopsies, surgery, results, but no one said cancer. Since I didn't want to be there all day, I finally asked the doctor the actual question. I remember he gave me the weirdest answer. He said it was most certainly cancer, but he didn't know yet if it was benign or malignant. What? I didn't think cancer could be benign, but still, I hung onto whatever glimmer of hope I thought that statement might have suggested. Dan was pretty much still in shock. We both asked some more questions, and then staggered out into the glaring light of day bewildered.

I did what I always do in situations like this. I called my own personal physician. Daddy. He confirmed my confusion. If it's cancer, that's it, it's cancer. What the doctor should have said was growth, or tumor. Those could be benign. I was hoping that the Kaiser doctor's language deficit was to blame. We would just have to wait for the biopsy results. Two weeks to wait.

Regardless of the biopsy result, he'd have to have the "growth" removed. So, we started to prepare for that. Dan and I talked, and he was beautifully forthcoming about his concerns, his reactions, his feelings, his fears. But I won't reveal those. Those are for his blog if he ever had one, which he doesn't and won't. Suffice to say, I don't think it's my right to communicate his innermost thoughts and feelings.

Vacations were cancelled, life put on hold while we waited for the results. It's so odd to reflect back, but I held out my optimism until the last possible second. I realized that if he was to get a diagnosis of cancer, it would come in it's own good time. I wasn't going to quake in my boots while waiting. And if the diagnosis ended up coming, I'd do what countless other spouses, loved ones, significant others do in the same situation; whatever was necessary to support, comfort, accommodate and cherish my loved one.

I finally got the call. Cancer. Shit. (no fucking pun intended.) I was driving when he told me. It was still a shock, even though it was one of only two possible outcomes. Had I thought I could positive think it otherwise? I was then so concerned for how he would take it. I think I only allowed myself about a minute to wallow in anything before I just decided that from here on, it was all about getting it taken care of. Being supportive and all the other stereotypic cancer patient's wife's stuff.

Now, it's 5 months in. Surgery, went well. Healing from surgery, went well. Chemo started. That's grinding, then some relief and then grinding again. We have 2.5 more months of that to go.

But the good thing is that now we can really consider him to not have cancer anymore. Just having the treatment to ensure he doesn't get it again. At least that's our position.

Do I love him more than before? No, I always loved him at the top of the scale.
Do I value life more? No, I think my life choices reveal that I appreciate what I have, the people I love and the life I lead.
Do I have more compassion for people and their struggles? Probably. You see a lot in hospitals.
Do I have a new opinion of Kaiser? Oh yeah. They have been really great caregivers.
Am I wiser for the experience? I wish, but I'm the same old whack job I've always been.

It's just another fork in our road. Just a few cells that went amuck and gave us a different experience. Profound as it was, it was just another element of life to be lived. Of course things are learned from every life threatening crisis.

Probably the biggest, deepest and most wonderful outcome has been the onslaught of support and concern and action from all of our friends and family. They have been so affirming and heartwarming. Maybe that alone was worth the price of admission. But then too, we know, both of us deep in our hearts, that all that love and support has always been there. Regardless, it felt good to be enveloped by it. (I could blog endlessly on that subject, and most likely I will)

And somewhere in my spiritual soul, (and I do have one) I thank god that we caught the cancer in time and feel confident that we'll hit our second anniversary and our third, and our fourth,,,,,, and our 50th. We were lucky. Thanks everyone!! Love you.

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