The surgeon uses a blue sharpie to write the word “yes” on the right side of my chest. She is indicating where to operate. Yes, I whisper to myself, an affirmation.
Yes. The days of diagnostics are coming to an end. The treatment, the recovery, begins today. Today is surgery day. In a few minutes, the surgeon will take her stainless steel scalpel, and cut into my skin just below where she has written “yes.”
As i drift off under the effects of general anesthesia, Dr. Kristi Funk leans over me. She takes my hand. “You’re going to do great. We are going to get this thing out of you.”
Five hours later I am home, the lumpectomy is complete.
My battle to a complete recovery is just beginning.
Suddenly, I look and feel like a cancer patient.
The effects of the anesthesia stomp on me like a bad case of the flu. I suffer through the night with nausea, chills and body ache. I feel like Barry Bonds whacked a Louisville slugger across my upper body.
“Geez, mom – it looks like you have two black eyes,” my 10 year old tells me.
At this moment, I don’t care what I look like. I only know that the marble sized tumor is gone.
“It’s a couch potato,” my doctor told me a few days ago.
“I’ve never seen such a lazy tumor.”
Oncologists rank tumors on a scale of 1 to 100.
100 is the most aggressive.
“I’ve never seen anything below a two,” Dr. Funk explains. “Until today.”
She smiles. “Your tumor is a one. It’s just sitting there doing nothing. For such a busy lady, you have the laziest tumor I’ve ever seen.”
“Lazy is good,” says my husband in the chair next to me.
Yes, hubby I think. Lazy is very, very good.
It has been two weeks since my diagnosis. In that time I have endured a follow up mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, pet scan, full body scan, bone scan, blood test and an EKG. The results–all good news–appear as text messages from my doctor on a daily basis.
“Pet, ct all clear!”
“Bone scan normal!”
“Bart is negative too!”
Each text is only three or four words. Those words have the same impact as if she were writing a beautiful novel of my life…how I will survive to share another bottle of chardonnay with my handsome husband on our next anniversary, how I will be there when my daughter prances across the stage in tiny heels (“Big girl shoes mom!”) for her sixth grade graduation…and when she floats down the aisle for her wedding. There will be more margaritas and raunchy jokes with my girlfriends, and the west coast road trip with my sisters? It’s going to happen!
I celebrate and I grieve.
Grieve for the more than 39 thousand women every year who do not get good news. Instead, their doctor will steady their voice, try to comfort and say “I’m sorry, we’ve done everything we can.”
I will say it again. A mammogram–early detection saved my life.
I know that fighting cancer will be a part of me forever. I also know that there will be tough days ahead. I am still waiting for test results and consultations with chemotherapy and radiation doctors who will advise me on the next phase of my treatment.
For now, I’m going back to work. While others are wiggling their toes in the warm sand of California beaches or gathering with friends for a backyard barbeque, I will be happy to be laboring on Labor day. Look for me on the KCAL9 and CBS2 anchor desk.
I”ll be the one wearing pink!