If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest of all blessings.”
So here I am again waiting in the 3rd floor waiting room of the UCSF Mt. Zion cancer clinic as my wife goes into surgery for the third time in 6 months. It is a very familiar place although it has memories that I’d rather forget. Yes it is a bit easier and the procedure (that is what we call it for children so as not to alarm them) is less serious than the first two. When my wife was first diagnosed with cancer almost 8 months ago I never imagined the path we’d take and where we are today while better than possibly imagined is not one of the many scenarios that ever ran through my head. We’ve learned to appreciate what life has given us and to that we can’t control everything.
The venue and many of the faces are still the same here at the hospital although some things have changed or at least the first two times I was too distracted to worry about. Over in one corner of the waiting room is a wife (I think) who is trying to hold back her tears. She looks as if she is in her 70s or so and is elegantly dressed with a hat ( this should be definitely designated as a chapeau). She has a lot of makeup on and you can tell she was raised in an era and with parents who told her that if she were to go out, she always needed to dress to impress. Everyone else is sitting in here talking on cell phones and updating their loved ones, reading outdated magazines or sleeping upright waiting for their name to be called. Of note is that Lance Armstrong and His Ride for Hope took a serious spill today as he broke his collar bone in a fall. Also, the television overhead in the waiting room is showing photos of Liam Neeson and his two teenage sons at the funeral of their wife and mother, actress Natasha Richardson. The grief and sorrow are the images I had imagined for myself 6 months ago. As I said, you just don’t know what direction life is going to point you. You just have to take it as it comes sometimes.
As we walked into the hospital a couple hours ago I noticed we both had a bit of a smile on our faces. We even joked a little with the admissions staff. But what made it even more noticeable was that we ran into one of the other mom’s from our kid’s school who was just coming down from her pre-op appointment before her breast cancer surgery tomorrow. The two mom’s hugged and I shook the husband’s hand. Very quiet and private people (he’s a physician himself) we could see their worry and concern on their faces. We kept the conversation brief and wished each other luck as we needed to stay on time. My wife even had a moment to discuss a play date for our two sons in the next week while she rested. How odd is that? My wife and I got up to the room and talked about the chance meeting. “That was us 6 months ago”. The other couple noted that this was our third time through and mentioned how they hope this would be their only surgery. We only hope that we showed a positive attitude and a good outlook in the face of surgery.
That is what it is about, isn’t it? A positive outlook? Last night my wife even asked for a hall pass to get out and have a drink and chat with a girlfriend. I said of course. I mean how many other women go out and do that the night before their surgery. The first two times my wife needed Ativan to calm her nerves and get to sleep. This time she was ready and not worried. I almost forgot she was having surgery when I woke up this morning.
Speaking of positive outlooks we were talking about the short term memory of our own son. He had a bad offensive game the day before with the “hat trick” (three strikeouts) in his first little league game this season. Although just 9 he is playing with 11 year olds twice his size and at least held his own defensively. Other kids out there were crying when they missed a ball and we were worried that our own son was going to be deflated. After the game I asked how he felt. “Hungry”, was his response. And after another pause he smiled, “Don’t worry dad, I’m not going to strike out everytime.” I laughed and he smiled back. Here I was worried about him and he was telling me not to worry. I can’t wait til he’s 30 and able to take care of me and tell me not to worry.
Has it been 6 months? Yep. The timeline:
Breast Cancer Diagnosis: 7/27/08
Bilateral Skin Sparing Mastectomy: 9/9/08
Beginning of clinical Trial: 12/1/08
Exchange Surgery: 12/12/08
Revision Surgery: 3/23/09
It seems like it has been a long time but 6 months really have just vanished from our lives. At the same time our love has grown enormously and so has the maturity of our children. Even moreso as a couple, our respect for life and the people we meet in life’s journey has grown. We can only hope to enrich our lives by challenging it, embracing it and finding joy whenever it is presented to us.
Thanks to modern medicine we’ll be able to continue this journey in a couple days. I think it is amazing that within 24 hours after I get my wife home, she should be back to normal. She’ll be stiff with limited mobility, but most importantly she’ll be here for our children, for me and for her friends.