Or, as Cancer might say “Après moi le déluge”
We’ve been through all of this before. And while there’s never been anything quite like anything in the universe – nothing is truly a copy, the same way that no idea is truly unique (and you can comment about that in some other philosophical blog, because this one’s called “crabby cancer wife” not “whiny philosophy”) – we kind of know what to expect.
Here’s what I mean.
Back in December ’10, CrabbyCancerMan noticed a bump on his neck. It came out of nowhere, and looked like a bump that would happen if you bumped your head and got a bruise, minus the black and blue part. We thought “infection.” We thought “bug bite.” We thought “slept funny.” Two rounds of antibiotics later, and the doctor wanted us to go see a guy. We’ll call that guy “Dr. Hero,” but if you ever need a head and neck person in Northern Virginia, you can learn more about him here. On February 15, he took one look at this monster, and said “Well, it could be anything, a lymphoma, a melanoma…” and then the blood started rushing into my ears and I all really heard was “cancercancercancer.” Dr. Hero made some calls, and the next thing we knew (literally, next, as in left one doctor’s office to go to another, which would rapidly become the story of our lives), CrabbyCancerMan was having a fine needle aspiration of his lump. Quicker than you can get your bread basket at the cheesecake factory, the diagnosis was given. Squamous Cell Carcinoma. As the Pathology Doc said, “Well, that’s a kick in the teeth.” Of course, there was shock. There were tears. And we didn’t even know what we were in for, yet.
We came home. I don’t remember what we did next, but I do remember thinking “Shit just got real.” At that point, the only information we had received had been the diagnosis. We didn’t know that once the diagnosis happens, your lives are OWNED BY CANCER. It really feels like cancer is now your warden, boss, and dominatrix all at once. Wanna go out for dinner? Check with cancer first. Wanna go to the movies? Cancer says no. Plan on finishing that project at work? Cancer has other plans for you, my friend.
The rest of that day was quiet. We told our bosses, thinking that this might possibly impact our schedules in the immediate future, and they should know (hahahahahaha – “might possibly”). The next morning, we should have known something was up, because CrabbyCancerMan’s phone started ringing at 8:30am exactly. He had three calls at once, and three more calls right after that – the phone didn’t leave his ear for a full half hour. Through these phone calls, we learned that he’d have an open mass biopsy, scheduled for Friday, February 18th. This is good – we wanted it as soon as possible, right? Because the more we know, the sooner we can get cancer to pack up and go home. After that flurry of phone calls, we both went into work. Normal, normal, normal. That was the last normal day at work either of us has had.
The next morning, the phone started ringing again, this time requesting tests in preparation for the next day’s procedure, which all needed to be done immediately. Each call required another test, appointment, meeting, session, or action, and we didn’t find ourselves finished until 3:30. Well, that work day was shot. We decided “well, if cancer is going to own our lives, at least we should start telling people so that they know why we’re totally blowing them off.” Calls made to parents, letters sent to friends, Facebook updated – check.
Friday the 18th came around. Open mass biopsy became 7 hour procedure to move the tumor, which was dramatic, ugly, and not our friend. CrabbyCancerMan spent two nights in the hospital, and then was finally allowed to come home to heal. Dr. Hero told us to come back to his office 10 days later to get the staples removed, and made some recommendations as to what other doctors we should be contacting in the meantime.
Yes, all of you other crazy cancer cats out there, we know that this isn’t the way it usually goes. It’s just the way it usually goes for us.
With one thing and another, we found ourselves with about a week of nothing. As the patient had just had surgery, he had to heal and couldn’t go into work. No appointments had been scheduled yet, and we didn’t know what things to come would look like, so it didn’t occur to us to use the time wisely. Friends came over with meals, movies, and in a way, it was almost like a stay-cation, except for the pain that the patient was experiencing.
Starting about two weeks after surgery, there wasn’t a day that went by that didn’t have an appointment with a doctor, technician, nurse or consultant of some kind for the next three months. And then life started slowly approaching normal. There were fewer appointments each week, I had started going back to work on a regular schedule, and there was hope that CrabbyCancerMan might do the same. We even got out-of-town for a few days to visit Lucy the Elephant.
On June 29, I noticed a new bump on CrabbyCancerMan’s chest. He had noticed it before, but didn’t say anything. On July 8th, there was another kick in the teeth. Apparently, we’re going through this again. Rush, rush, rush, appointment, appointment, appointment. Outpatient procedure becomes two nights in the hospital, and now we’re once again in the lull before the tidal wave of back to back doctor’s appointments in about two weeks.
So what did we do this time? Well, there has been sleeping. There have been visits from friends. And we finally made it out to see the last installment of “Harry Potter.” From the outside looking in, it would almost look like a stay-cation, except for the dramatic scar across CrabbyCancerMan’s chest. This time we know more about what to say, what to ask for, and what boundaries to set up. This time when we cried, it was because we knew exactly what we were in for.