Thursday, September 6, 2012

Phasing In

Last spring, Teddy and I got talking about something to do with science. I asked him, “Do you think maybe you’ll be a scientist one day?”

“My teacher told me I already am a scientist,” he replied, with that “Duh, Mom,” look on his face. “Right, of course you are,” I backtracked.

Teddy goes to a small Montessori school that I could only describe as beyond exceptional, mainly because his teachers (some of the most dedicated and wonderful ones I’ve ever met) have convinced him that he really is a scientist, an author, an artist, a cartographer, you name it. Granted, I often find myself unloading crumpled drawings from his school bag and flipping them around in all directions as I try to discern what I’m looking at, but he knows exactly what it is and he’s proud of it, so obviously, I am too.

Yesterday was Annabel’s first day at “Teddy’s school” (as we’ve been calling it to convince her it’s great). (Teddy first learned it as, “Uncle Sean’s school,” since Sean went there when he was Teddy’s age…they even had the same teachers!). It was emotional for me, as somehow everything is these days. But it was awesome. As part of the phase in process, it was a very short day -- the parents stayed for a half hour in the classroom as the kids began to explore their new environment at their own pace. In that half hour, I watched Annabel transform from clinging to my lap in tears, refusing to even look at another human being, to yelling, “Bye-bye Mama,” as I pretended I was leaving in my failed effort to try to persuade her to ditch the structure she was climbing on and come with me. (Sorry Dr. Montessori, in the end, I had to scoop up my flailing and screaming daughter to get her out of there.) This Monday will be Annabel's first full day at school, and I’m not convinced the ultimate transition will be that easy, but I feel enormous relief that she will be in the best hands, and right next door to Teddy, while I begin my recovery.

Then, of course, I had another doctor’s appointment. This was with my primary care physician. It was a pre-operative screening appointment, which seemed kind of strange to me. I’d sure be shit up the creek without a paddle if I turned out to be too unhealthy for a surgery to remove my cancer, now wouldn’t I?  So no surprise, I was terrified for this appointment. My most imaginative mind had created swollen glands, under-arm tumors, and, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, even M.S. (yes, when I watched Ann Romney talk about her breast cancer and M.S., I decided my sore back was due to M.S.). (This is why when Dr. Funt asked me if my Ativan was working I paused and laughed. “Well, I went on the Ativan when I found out I had cancer, so we’ve got a big variable to account for, don’t we?” I replied. Blank stare. Silence. You know the bit.)

Shaking and freezing cold on the white-papered patient table, I somehow found the courage to ask my doctor about my biggest fear of all – why my tumor feels different since I first felt it. I have only touched the lump three times since I was diagnosed, but each time I did, my heart sunk because it felt different – harder, stronger. Was it gaining on me as I waited helplessly to attack it? And as I’ve written before, I’ve felt pain in that area. In my dark moments, these facts have haunted me. Which is why it would have been helpful to know that the hardness I was feeling was scar tissue. My doctor explained that it’s normal after a biopsy (especially since the radiologist took so many slices of the tumor) to have scarring and discomfort there. Ah ha. That makes sense. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Anyways, as it turns out, according to the stethoscope, the blood pressure machine, a light shone in my eyes, ears, and mouth, some tapping on my back, and some feeling all over my back and neck, I’m healthy, except for that pesky cancer, of course. My doctor talked to me about going on an anti-depressant as I continue through my treatment (apparently Ativan is more of a temporary thing). She suggested Zoloft and I asked her a lot of questions about it. Would it affect my personality? Would I be tired? What are the side effects? Ultimately, she sent a prescription into CVS for me, and although I will pick it up, I think I’ll hold off on taking it for now. It’s just another part of the transition, I guess. Before cancer, if I had a headache, I’d drink a glass of water instead of taking Tylenol. But I think those days are past me and if I’ve got chemo cocktails running through my veins, I should probably just buck up on the Zoloft. We’ll see.

The sun is now rising and my countdown continues. Today, after Annabel’s short morning at school, my new workday begins again. My Mom and I will commute in to Faulkner to meet with the anesthesiologists and then with the nurse practitioner for what the clinicians keep calling my “teach appointments.” I think they’re going to teach me about what I’m in for next week. Fun times. Brian, who is so desperate to join, will stay with his students, as I hoped he would, to get them settled and comfortable so that he can take time with me next week.

As I sign off, it hits me – this time next week, I will wake up at Faulkner Hospital without my breasts, minus some lymph nodes, and free of my cancerous tumor. Sure, some cancer cells may linger, but I trust that the chemo, the Herceptin, and whatever else they need to throw at me will catch all that. And I’ll begin my road to recovery. From a disease that will forever be so mysterious to me, because I never even felt sick.


P.S.  For those of you who haven't signed up for A Word A Day, today's word is "winner's circle" and Mr. Garg's Thought for Today is:  "We should tackle reality in a slightly jokey way, otherwise we miss its point." -- Lawrence Durrell, novelist, poet, and playwright (1912-1990).



  1. You will love the 'team' at the Faulkner! Tell them you're Amy's friend - the one who writes letters to the President of the Hospital after every surgery, thanking each and every one of them! And I always said the same thing and felt the same way you did...'I'm very healthy other than this pesky cancer thing!'

  2. Another inspiring post! I am so happy I got to see you the other night, keep strong you are doing a Wonderful job!