Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happy Anniversary, D-Day

The phone rings on a Friday afternoon.  For once it's within reach and there's a free hand to pick it up.  Ramlet (about six weeks old) sleeps on the futon next to me--nursed, diapered, and worn out from the stimulation of looking at the pictures on the wall behind us.  Last night his little hands found each other and clasped for the first time.

Since I don't recognize the number on the screen, I know this is the call.  I hesitate a few more seconds to savor the serenity of pre-diagnosis, then flip open the phone to face my future.  My pulminologist greets me.

Dr. H says my surgeon is on vacation so he's calling so I can know the biopsy results before waiting the weekend.  He's very sorry.  My biopsy is positive for Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Motherhood, plus cancer.

Slow, deep breath.  Slowly is the only way I can take a breath these days.  Any attempt to inhale quickly brings on coughing fits.  Exhale, slowly.  In a few more doctors visits, I learn my tumor burden is obstructing my bronchial tubes.

I ask Dr. H what my next step is--he gives me the names of oncologists and stresses, as he did with scheduling the biopsy, to get an appointment immediately.  I push aside my breastfeeding chart sitting on the coffee table and scribble down the information in my "everything notebook"--where I write down anything my sleep-deprived mind might need to remember.

Hodgkin's is quite treatable, Dr. H assures me. Again he tells me he's very, very sorry before disconnecting.  Later people will refer to my cancer as the "good cancer" because of the high cure rate.  They're mistaken--no cancer is the good cancer.

I dial a round of phone calls.  Husband, father, brother, mother.  Oncologist.  The soonest appointment's almost two weeks away.  Slow, deep breath.  Book the appointment.  Exhale, slowly.  Fast forward a few cycles of chemo, I my inhale/exhale rates bounce back to normal and my total lung capacity increases by 30% .

My eyes leak a few tears, but I stop myself before I'm actually crying.  For the last ten months crying precedes coughing which turns into violent coughing spells often ended by vomiting.  A few months from now, I'll curl into a little ball hysterically sobbing on the bathroom floor because the Christmas tree lights wouldn't work right for my son's first Christmas, because I'd actually lived long enough to see this day, because another round of chemo starts two days after Christmas.  But I won't be coughing.

D-Day.  Diagnosis Day.  I eat a snack since breastfeeding (and cancer) crave calories.  Ramlet will wake up soon and need to nurse.  Husband will be home from work in a few hours to hold my hand.  Keep breathing, albeit slowly.

Biopsy scar about a year later (at base of neck by fingertips).

1 comment:

  1. I am so very glad you are still here, and I'm grateful to hear your story.