Start. Stop. Slow down. Speed up. Wait. Proceed with caution. The traffic signs of the Big C trip. We’re forced to walk when all we really want to do is run. For our lives. Things take time. There’s a process. Procedures to follow. We get it. But we’re also scared out of our minds. The Big C clock is ticking. And we don’t know if we’re running out of time. The meticulous orderly pace is excruciating. Never fast enough. At least not for me.
When we returned from our weekend getaway, things moved swiftly at first. We arrived home late Monday night and by Wednesday afternoon we had the results of the PET scan. The cancer was localized. Just below the tongue. Our greatest fears, that E was riddled with cancer from head to toe, were banished. We were grateful and did the happy dance. High fives all around. Big sighs of relief could be felt from coast to coast.
Three weeks later E met with the Surgeon, who examined his mouth and discussed his role in the upcoming surgery. Because this would be a 2-surgeon job, eight days later E met with the Plastic Surgeon. At this point, it was exactly one month since receiving the results of the PET scan. To a cancer patient and his family this is an eternity. With each passing day I grew more anxious. My mind went to its dark place, that cavernous dwelling filled with irrational horrors. All the ‘what ifs’ were examined. I snooped under every rock and coaxed all the scary monsters out. My thoughts Teased and taunted. It was crazy-making at its finest.
I think E was scared too. In between surgeon appointments he was baptized. This was something he had been contemplating for a few years but he became obsessed with the notion after the diagnosis. He wanted to come right with God. Get things sorted out between the two of them. The surgeons could heal his body but only God could repair his brokeness. This would be his first step towards spiritual healing. Truth is, it was more of a first dunk then a step. I can only describe it as a full backwards drop into the watery depths, John the Baptist style. E emerged gasping for air. Regenerated. Renewed. Reborn.
The triad of Divine Es – elation, euphoria and exaltation – wouldn’t last long.
The meeting with the Plastic Surgeon brought E to his knees. Shaken. Shattered. Scared out of his wits. Later that evening, he described the procedure. He shuttered and shook his head as relayed the gruesome details. I thought I was going to throw up. The surgery wasn’t going to be pretty. Lot’s of cutting skin and veins here, and moving them there, and then there, and there. Visions of Roger Ebert danced through my head. Enough said.
The day after the meeting with the Plastic Surgeon, E’s Mama died. He got the news at 7:00pm on the Thursday and was on a plane to Nova Scotia the next morning at 8:00. He spent a week with his family and friends, buried his mother and was back on the Westcoast by Good Friday. The next evening his band performed at a Bluegrass Fundraising event.
It was the last time he would sing.
E’s surgery was booked for May 6, which seemed like light years away. Everything was moving in slow motion. To us, the medical world was dragging its collective feet. Our anxiety eclipsed their tempo. We felt like lab rats scurrying through a maze of white coats and mysterious technology. Humming machines. Little cogs caught in the big wheel. Dancing on peanut butter. Plenty of action but really going nowhere.
E was diagnosed the first week of December, met with the Radiation Oncologist the end of January, had the PET scan in the middle of February, met with Surgeons in the middle of March and would have the operation on May 6. When someone you love gets the Big C diagnosis you just want the “evil” extricated from their body. We all wanted it out. Like Lady Macbeth, I cried, “Out, damned spot. Out. I say!”
Yes, I’ll admit, a bit dramatic. But still.