Sometimes I just want to start over. Tear out the page. Crumple it up. Toss it into the nearest garbage can. Press delete. Delete. Delete. Begin again. Change everything. Rewrite the story.
Never have I wanted to do this more than with this story about E.
After the holidays, we settled back into our old familiar routine. The one we enjoyed before the thunderclap of cancer struck. It was as if all that crazy-making stuff never happened. Monday to Friday focused around our work. Weekends were filled with errands, chores, family meals, music and church. Smack dab in the middle of January we celebrated E’s birthday with joy and profound gratitude. After the roller coaster ride of December this mundane life of ours felt good. Humdrum was welcome. The unremarkable everydayness had lulled us into believing that things were back to normal. It was life as usual.
Truth was, E’s appointment with the Radiation Oncologist was scheduled for the end of January. There was no denying, nor getting around that. This was “the meeting” where we would get the lowdown on this scary disease that had invaded E’s body. The results of the CatScan and the biopsy would be explained to us. This was where rubber would hit the road.
The Cancer Agency sent E a package of information to prepare him for this meeting. He filled out the forms, read the brochures, watched the DVDs and composed a list of questions. I borrowed a snazzy digital recorder from one of my colleagues to tape the session. We were prepared. At least so we thought.
I met E at the Cancer Centre on the afternoon of his appointment. It was a mad rush from work to the Centre with five minutes to spare. I flopped down in the seat next to him expecting a long wait. My plan was to scarf down a sandwich before meeting with the Oncologist. Two bites into my cheese and lettuce and we were called. I quickly stuffed the sandwich back into my bag and followed E and the intake nurse into “the room.”
We exchanged pleasantries with the nurse while she took E’s temperature and checked his blood pressure. A few minutes later the Oncologist appeared. It was one of those jaw dropping moments. She was nothing like what I was expecting. I was thinking someone more like Einstein or the original Dr. Who. Someone who looked like they could cure cancer. Not pose for the cover of Vogue. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Tall, slim, perfect skin and hair. Beautiful smile. Stylishly dressed from head to toe. And by toe, I mean kick-ass high black leather boots. She was lovely in every way and immediately put E and I at ease.
I switched on the recorder. She began with a round of standard questions to determine E’s overall health. What other things besides the mess in his mouth were causing him grief. E rhymed off the litany of ailments that had been hurting, aching, paining, irritating and gnawing at him over the past two years. It reminded me of the Skeleton Song we all sang when we were kids. With the toe bone connected to the foot bone. Was there anything that didn’t hurt I wondered?
After the inquisition, the Oncologist probed and prodded his neck and throat checking for lumps and bumps. Looking for signs. Was the cancer on the move? Spreading like wildfire to the rest of his body or behaving itself and staying contained in the front of his mouth?
Modern medicine is full of wonders to behold. Technological marvels that are mind-blowing. Like the probe that allowed us to see inside E’s nose and throat. More like science fiction than science seeing this strange interior world so close-up and personal. Beyond the uvula. It reminded me of the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale.
After the examination the doctor discussed “the next steps.” This took both of us by surprise. We thought we’d be leaving with a surgery date and a pep talk on how this would soon be behind us. A little inconsequential blip in our lives that would be over with a quick snip and a stitch. Not next steps.
What we quickly learned was that the results from the CatScan and biopsy weren’t one hundred percent definitive. Inconclusive. They didn’t know the full extent of the disease. Whether it had spread to other parts of his body. So this uncertainty meant more testing. Big Kahuna examinations. MRI and PET Scan.
The drive across town to home was dismal. Again I was alone in the truck. A Gloomy Gus. Consumed with worst case scenarios. The wind had just been kicked out of our sails. We had just spent the month believing that things were going to be okay. E was back to normal. He was feeling great. Healthier than he had in a long time. This wasn’t such a big deal, we thought. Certainly not deadly. Nothing to worry about. A piece of cake. Walk in the park.
For two smart people, we were seriously naive when it came to the Big C.
Back at the house, E and I spoke briefly about the appointment. I asked him how he thought it went.
“Not good,” he said.
Then I knew we were in big trouble.