Monday, December 21, 2009

Death Reaches Out...

I was a blogger several years ago, and then I wasn't for a few years, and now I'm blogging again. During all that time, the only blog I couldn't stop reading was Switched at Birth. For me, the best writer in the blogosphere is Beth Westmark, and her post about how the news of her brother's cancer affected her is the most recent example.

Her article made me remember the anxiety I felt 13 years ago when Kathleen was having a lump removed. It was an early mid-September evening, and I sat in the waiting room at the outpatient center of Miami’s Baptist Hospital.

Four other families were there, too. The children were restless and irritable, and the adults appeared somber and distracted as they tried to control them. I picked up a magazine but I couldn't read it. I couldn't think, either. My reasoning, memory and imagination wouldn't engage. Not knowing when the procedure would be finished, there was nowhere for me to go and nothing for me to do except to wait for the doctor’s repo

Shortly after the time I expected to see the doctor, I noticed that the other families had left. Now alone in the silent room, I began to feel agitated. This was not good. It was not good that the doctor still had not come, and it was not good that I was feeling upset. I thought: if there’s a reason to be upset, I won’t know what it is until the doctor gives me his report. So I put my emotions on hold and sat motionless in my chair, as if I were in a state of suspended animation.

About an hour later, the surgeon came through the door and walked towards me. It was the first time I had met him. He seemed too young to be a surgeon. I shook his hand. He looked me in the eye and got right to the point. "I removed the lump and had it tested. It's malignant. We’ll need to schedule another procedure to take more of her breast to be sure we got all of the cancer and to take some lymph nodes to check for metastasis.”

He was frank, but gentle. “I'm sorry. From my office examination and the ultrasound, I expected it to be benign. In eighty percent of cases like this, it’s not cancer. On the positive side, the lump was small and easy to remove, which is a good sign."

I thanked him and shook his hand again.

After he left, I felt disoriented. I had the feeling I was somewhere else. The walls glowed, as if they were alive. I was still standing and the room was silent, but my brain was filled with background noise. I was alone, but it felt as if some kind of presence was in the room with me, something large and threatening that filled the room behind me. I sensed that I couldn't reason with it, and I was afraid to turn around to confront it. It seemed so close to me that I could feel its breath on the back of my neck. It was communicating something to me, without words. My body went rigid.

A few moments later, I recognized the familiar pale green walls of the waiting room. I looked around at the empty chairs. There was no “presence.” But in my bones I knew something important that I didn’t know before: Kathleen’s life was in danger.

In place of fear, I felt a calm clarity, like the “just-take-care-of-business” attitude I remember having in combat in Vietnam. This was not the time for emotion. There would be time for that later. Now was the time for action. Effective action.

I found a public telephone and called her mom and dad. Borrowing some of the doctor’s matter-of-fact demeanor, I explained what I knew. They thanked me for taking care of their daughter. They said they would pray for us.

This was the first step of the strange journey of Kathleen’s treatment and recovery. We were going into battle to save my sweetheart’s life. It was time for personal strength. We would do what we had to do. Everything else was bullshit.


Kathleen Scott said...

And I don't know what I would have done without your constant support.

shareandi said...

Personal stories like this can be strengthening.

There's hardly a link by Denny Coates I don't visit for inspiration.

Thanks for taking the time.


Reviewd said...

Don't know what to say after that, but i'd like to share your story more with others.

Love if you'd add your blog to my site. It might get you more exposure (as well as increase your Google ranking!)