My hubby and I were told 17 hours apart, the ugly words, YOU HAVE CANCER.
During Christmas season, starting in early December, my guy and I both had “routine” medical procedures done. Mine was a follow up to some abnormal cells that came back from a pap smear in August, and his was a routine “hey you’re 50…You need a colonoscopy” procedure.
On December 6, I attended my follow up, which is called a colposcopy, where they take out samples to biopsy of the irregular/abnormal cells that were found in the pap. It hurt like a bugger, it sucked for a week or two after, but I did it. Then we went on a vacation to Cuba, returning on the 23rd of December. It was a much needed escape from the stress and the remnant healing of the poking and video imagery of the inside of my lady parts.
Upon our return, my significant other, received confirmation that his colonoscopy was scheduled for December 28. Not a great way to spend a couple days during the holiday season, but what can you do? He drank the Colyte, did the liquid diet for 48 hours and I drove him to his appointment.
After an hour, the doctor came to the waiting room, and asked me to come and talk to him, as he had a quick diagnosis of what was found. There was a large sized polyp in my hubby’s colon. The doctor showed us where it was on a very clear and vivid set of photographs that resulted from the procedure. He pointed to it, and said the he didn’t want to remove it, as there was some “ominous” looking material around the polyp. He explained that he took some tissue from it, as a biopsy and was sending it away. On the drive home, my groggy man told me that he watched the entire procedure, as I did, on a video screen beside his head. He said it was both amazing and disturbing to see the “inside of his butt”.
We went home, and relaxed during an extremely cold stretch of winter weather, and enjoyed the rest of our holiday time off.
On January 2, both of us went back to work, and both of us were too busy to even think of our procedures or results. We both have very demanding jobs that require disciplined focus, and we are both workaholics.
JANUARY 2nd was also the day THAT EVERYTHING CHANGED.
At 2:00 pm I was sitting at my desk, looking through papers and emails, trying to play catch up from being off for two weeks, and my phone rang. I recognized the number immediately and answered it hesitantly. It was the colposcopy clinic.
The lady on the other end of the phone asked my name and birth date, sounding chipper as can be, and then in a voice that sounded almost too happy, she said “Ok, we have good news and we have bad news”. That’s when I really should have been listening and should have been able to put my “focus face” on, but all I heard was “Stage 1 cancer” and you need to be here for surgery on January 25 at 1:20 pm. THAT’S LITERALLY ALL I HEARD. So I asked her a bunch of questions, I am sure she had already answered, and she confirmed it. I HAVE CANCER.
I called my love, and through tears and a shaky voice, told him what I knew. As I spoke, I thought of my 24 year old daughter and that I will make sure I check if this is hereditary, and what she would think of my situation. Then I just stopped thinking. I went back to my desk, and stared into space until it was almost time to go home. I found my boss, and calmly told her “I need January 25th and 26th off please”. She asked me what was up, as she knows me very well. I looked at her, then looked at the floor and said “I have to have surgery”. She asked if I was OK, and then the tears started again. DAMN IT! I didn’t want tears. I wanted to be professional. I wanted to not have to say it out loud to her. And I didn’t want pity.
The next thing I knew, I was telling her what I was told, and what the results were. She hugged me tightly and reminded me “Your health comes first, you have the ability to take the time off to take care of yourself. Take all the time you need.” Once this exchange was over, I went back to my desk and stared off into space again, until it was time to drive home.
The drive home, to mine and my guy’s home, was a blur. Traffic pissed me off, I was somewhere between exhausted and angry, and sad and wound up, and drained and worried. I know its only Stage 1. I know its treatable with lasers and day surgery, but it is such an ugly, disgusting word, I felt dirty and cheated. I felt pissed at myself and pissed at the world. I just wanted to go home to bed.
I got home and he met me at the door, with a huge hug, and reminded me that he would always be here, and that he loves me and we will get through it together. His eyes welled up as he looked at me, searching in my face to see how I was and what I was feeling. Sadly, he was about to find out.
Wednesday morning at 6 am, my honey drove to his office downtown to start another work day. His day starts at 7 am, but he likes to grab his morning tea and breakfast sandwich before he starts his 10 hour shift. He sat down at his desk just a little before 7 am, and HIS LIFE CHANGED in a split second. An email from the colonoscopy centre. The SUBJECT LINE of the email was : Cancer found in Colon; Contact clinic. Then the email spewed a bunch of medical jargon and the fact that there was a large polyp, that was not removed, due to concerning dark matter.
THAT is what our world has become! You’re given life changing medical diagnosis, as serious as cancer, in a quick upbeat phone call, and in the subject line of an email?? When did this happen? It used to be, that they would NEVER tell you information over the phone, and demanded that you drop everything and come into the doctor’s office to be told face to face what these kinds of results are. You would look at your family doctor, who was compassionate enough to look in your eyes and tell you the diagnosis and possible prognosis. I don’t know whether to be upset, angry, relieved or disgusted with the way that people no longer need to “show compassion” in these kinds of situations. Just write an email, or give you a quick phone call?
When he read the email to himself about 10 time, he called me. I was just getting into my workout clothes, standing naked in my closet, trying to find some shorts. I answered my phone, seeing his number pop up, and I know I sounded rushed and slightly annoyed. “What are you doing?” was all he said.
“Just trying to do my workout”, I replied, trying my best to not sound like this was a bad time. His next words are words I won’t soon forget
“It is cancer”. That’s all he said, and at first I was confused, as I thought he was talking about ME.
“I know, hunny. Its Stage 1”, I was so confused
“No, babe. Me. My colonoscopy. It IS cancer. “, and he proceeded to read me his email.
I sat with the phone next to my face, not knowing what to say, and trying not to cry. I told him, “we will get through this together and it looked localized on the photos, so let’s hope that all he needs is surgery to remove it”. He sounded a little better and told me to have a good day, reminding me that he loves me, before hanging up the phone.
There I was. Naked. Wanting to do my workout to get my head out of this misery. All I could do was sit, perched on the side edge of our bed, and stare off into space. What a horrible word. Why does our world have such a scary and self defeating word? Why does Cancer creep into our bodies, and our souls, like a black sadness? Why Us?
17 hours. 17 HOURS! We were both given the same diagnosis, albeit different body parts, but the same disgusting, awful disease. We are starting the New Year -2018- with CANCER. BOTH OF US HAVE CANCER!
I am 48 and he turned 50 last year. We are both generally healthy, and love to travel. We both love our jobs and we love our life. We work hard, play hard and we are in love. How is this fair? How can this be?
So….what now? Now we go step by step, day by day. We wait to go to appointments for more information. We wait for more procedures to be done, and we wait to be cancer survivors. We need each other more than ever now, and we will get through it.